iPad strategies for publishers

This is a white paper based on and expanded from my earlier post on the same topic, prepared for the Digital Publishing Alliance meeting at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri on March 7-9, 2010

iPad is not a linear, incremental development. It’s not a simple next step after everything that has preceded it (even iPhone); it’s a new direction that will have unpredictable impacts on digital behavior. One potential impact:

iPad will bring a huge increase in mobile shopping (assuming we consider iPad to be a “mobile” device). There was only $396 million in U.S. mobile shopping in 2008; only $1.2 billion in 2009. Before Apple’s introduction of iPad, predictions for mobile shopping were for growth to $119 billion by 2015.

But iPad has the potential to greatly accelerate this trend, because iPad will showcase merchandise and services far better than smartphones, and iPad will claim more leisure time than deskbound computers or smartphones. Consumers with iPads will be connected to the Web in far more places, with far more engagement (relative to smartphones), presenting far more opportunities for direct marketing and sales than any previous interface.

Direct mailers are already nervous, asking “Will the iPad be the nemesis of direct mail?” “Robert Wong, chief executive of Catalogue Central [Australia], which digitises traditional print catalogues for some of the nation’s biggest retailers, says the iPad, and an expected flood of copy-cat rivals, will find a place residing on the coffee tables of consumers in a way traditional laptops have failed to do. And he predicts that within five years iPad devices will have proliferated so much that many retailers will eschew letterbox delivery of catalogues for digital.”

Similarly, newspaper preprint revenue is in jeopardy. Preprinted inserts (which amount to half of all retail advertising) are the last newspaper ad category where publishers still have some semblance of monopolistic pricing power, because the supermarkets and big box stores have not found a more efficient way to push their weekly promotions. But the category, already vulnerable because of printing cost, distribution complexity, falling household reach, and even “green” issues, will now be further challenged by mobile digital alternatives.

In considering their strategies for iPad, publishers should assume:

  1. Mobile will be everywhere. Upward of 70 percent of adults will be connected to the Web on mobile platforms virtually all of their waking hours.
  2. All forms of media consumption will increasingly shift to mobile devices, especially to iPad and other tablets.
  3. Marketing budgets will increasingly shift to mobile platforms and out of printed newspapers, magazines and direct mail. (It is hard to imagine many marketers looking for ways to increase their print spending these days, but clearly they’re looking for ways to do more online and especially in mobile.)
  4. Consumers will respond strongly to mobile pitches in the form of ads, video, social recommendations, online catalogues, deals-of-the-day and channels yet to be invented. Spurred also by new options for digital payments, both the ability and the inclination to make mobile purchases goods and services will explode.
  5. The genie will not go back in the bottle. The Web has atomized content; consumers have learned to surf and explore; new tools will connect them with more content from more sources than ever before. Therefore, selling content in packaged, dated “issues” that emulate the old print product won’t work. Consumers want a hyperpersonalized stream assembled from atomized content.
  6. We’re only at the beginning of understanding what’s possible on iPad et al. Early concepts like the Sports Illustrated demo are heavily rooted in print, lacking hyperlinks or social functionality. At some point, we should expect a new kind browser created especially for tablets, significantly different from standard browsers, that enables easy touch navigation to let people move around not only from page to page as they have been for 15 years, but more easily from topic to topic, person to person, place to place, idea to idea.

To succeed in this radically changing digital landscape, publishers must adopt a number of new strategies:

  1. Embrace the mobile Web and the iPad. As Ken Doctor wrote about Next Issue Media, the tablet publishing consortium, publishers still have a chance to get this one right (“a digital do-over,” Doctor called it), after having misread signals and failed for the last two decades to catch the online waves consumers were riding. The opportunity for publishers here is to lead their audience, rather than belatedly to follow it.
  2. Reinvent content for the mobile Web and iPad. As Doctor also notes, this is easier for magazines, with their stronger visual orientation and design resources, than it will be for newspapers, which will need to invest in new, innovative design capabilities.
  3. Challenge journalists to develop new streams of content, in new formats and with new kinds of interactivity and connectivity that will attract new readers and built new relationships of trust with them.
  4. Work with Apple and other mobile platform entities to enable content and advertising personalization. This means pushing Apple for a more open platform and for access to at least some of their customer data. If publishers are to be players in the mobile marketing game, they must be able to deliver individually targeted marketing messages, and that means having some ability to identify readers and to respond (with their permission) to their profiles and preferences.
  5. Work with marketers to invent new ways to interact with customers: to facilitate conversations, to blend news, social media and brand messages, to actually sell stuff and facilitate transaction — in short, to leverage those new relationships of trust into brand new streams of revenue.
  6. Be ready to shift gears often. The job is not just to create a presence on iPad, but to adapt to the new mobile landscape as it develops and changes. Like the saying about the weather in various localities, if you think you have your iPad strategy figured out, wait five minutes.

18 Comments

  1. cpetersia said:

    Thanks Martin. I agree with your perspective on the iPad. We can’t even imagine what the developers are going to do with this tool.

    So, as a local media company, we are diligently focused on creating information differently in the first instance, as heavily tagged “elements” that can flow into multiple applications to provide relevant information, in context, on such a mobile tool.

    March 8, 2010
  2. Andrew said:

    Newspapers aren’t necessarily at a disadvantage when compared with glossy magazines. If newspapers focus on building in more video, social networking and rich, interactive multimedia, they’ll look just as sharp on the iPad as Wired.

    March 9, 2010
  3. Anonymous said:

    The thing is, the Wired example is a proof of concept. Lots of hubbub about nothing. All if these publishers are trotting out these new tablet examples because they haven’t figured out how to make money off their actual web sites. And you know what’s going to look awesome in the browser built into the ipad? A website.

    I can see purchasing an app for a small screen mobile device like an iPhone, blackberry, or android device. On the bigger screen, not so sure. Even if a magazine stopped coming out in print format, there are plenty of free ad-supported sites to prevent me from purchasing.

    This was posted via the safari web browser, on my iPhone.

    March 9, 2010
  4. Phogg said:

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    iPad is not a linear, incremental development. LOL.

    There is nothing new in iPad. Other tablets with just as good specs have been on the market for some time. The only thing new Apple is bringing is that it says “Apple” on the box.

    March 9, 2010
  5. Simone said:

    It’s human nature to perceive the new in terms of the old. We had the iron horse, the flying machine, the horseless carriage, etc. Each time, few had the vision to immediately grasp the implications of the new technology.

    As a developer, I see the iPad as something new because I’m able to imagine apps for it that I would not dream of creating for any device that currently exists. To create the optimal iPad experience the media must understand why the iPad is new. A good start would be to jettison the assumptions and conventions that have informed their decisions in the past.

    March 9, 2010
  6. Inkling said:

    The iPad is merely the hardware, likely to be followed by similar products from others. That’s not enough for a revolution. What’s still needed is an ebook standard that’d allow ebooks to look as good as an iPad or a high-quality color print book are capable of displaying. It must include new features that printed books can’t have, such as links and pop-up notes. It also must be able to do what print books can already do–allow highlighting and on-page note taking, particularly for textbooks. Finally, we need a distribution system that means that when you buy a book, it’s yours for life without a lot of hassle moving it between devices and platforms.

    Except for PDF, which can’t adapt well to different screen sizes, current ebook standards are as wimpy as HTML was in the early 1990s. They are good enough for novels, but woefully inadequate for anything else. And for that, blame the entire industry, which is too obsessed with proprietary solutions (Amazon and Sony) and too stuck on DRM (everyone in the industry) to think straight about what is needed.

    Adobe, which might actually be doing something useful, is too eager to please a clueless industry to lead like they did with PDF. Apple might be able to do something, expanding the ePub standard, keeping it open, and creating software to create books in that new standard. But I see no evidence they are interested in doing that.

    Along with a powerful ebook format, we need applications that make creating high-quality ebooks at least as easy as with InDesign. No coding with XML or CSS required. No kludgy workarounds and restrictions like creating ePub with the current version of InDesign. Real tools that really work for ordinary people.

    Until that happens, the ebook market is likely to be dominated by here-today-gone-tomorrow thrillers and cheap romance novels.

    March 9, 2010
  7. Per Helge Seglsten said:

    I really don’t understand this overwhelming embracing of the ipad as the device to save post print media . I’d understand it if you were talking about the pad as a class of devices, but the Apple ipad is most of all bad for publishers. They take control over our customers, and the customer’s data and they expect to get paid quite a lot. As if that isn’t enough it really has some bad limitations as a handheld computer. For instance: How can you surf the internet properly without flash? What kind of frustrations isn’t going to emerge when you can’t run more than one program at a time, when you can’t print from it, when you don’t find any usb port. And the list goes on and on.

    The e-reader/pad revolution we are experiencing at the moment is a revolution mostly in terms of evoluting the personal computer. The desktop and the laptop are going to disappear, and all personal computers will be slates and plates and pads with colourful video fast epaper screens – and everything you would expect on a pc today. And of course the devices will be open. Apple caved in with the Mac, and they will cave in with the ipad and the apps and all other whatnots.

    So the print media should consentrate on developing some hot global standard software to make it easy for all kind of publishers – small as well as large – to present their stuff as beautiful, reader friendly and storytelling friendly on e-paper as they do on tree paper. And even more important, find a way to make e-paper magazines as tempting for advertisers as tree paper magazines and newspapers are today. Those are the real challenges for the print media in these wonderful, exciting times.

    March 9, 2010
  8. Per, I think we mostly agree. I didn’t say (or mean to imply) that iPad could “save post print media.” But certainly print as well as online publishers ignore it (and its kin) at their peril.

    Yes, it’s a device with shortcomings like no flash, no camera, etc. as a result of Apple compromises to get to the right price point (that’s my guess).

    But maybe this affords publishers a bit of time to do what you suggest as developing “hot global standard software” and what I envision as a touch browser for tablets.

    The Digital Publishing Alliance meeting in Columbia Mo. the last few days spent much time discussing the possibility of forming a consortium to do this kind of thing (or joining the existing magazine consortium called Next Issue Media, which would be smarter IMO).

    March 9, 2010
  9. Dmitri Smyslov said:

    “They take control over our customers, and the customer’s data and they expect to get paid quite a lot.”

    Is this not also describing Amazon and other online distributors? We shall soon see if no Flash, multitasking and other computer features doom iPad but maybe consumers will say again that features are not as important as experience. Kindle does not have Flash or multitasking and seems to be doing OK.

    March 9, 2010
  10. Kirby said:

    Wait. This is hilarious. Every print form known to man must be prepared to change and adapt (or die) to iPad. Next.

    March 9, 2010
  11. Per Helge said:

    Martin: Yes I too think we agree on the main parts. And I surely agree with you that these are times for alliances. For now we are in charge of content, but that might change. Device makers and internet providers are big enough to buy up media and content providers to get the content they need to hold on to their closed systems (device makers) or make their advertisment space even more attractive (internet providers). I think there is a danger that this might turn in to a race to take control over this new continent.
    The assosiation of norwegian print publishers has a e-reader platform developing project going on, and are in contact with Skiff, amongst others. New Issue Media should have the muscles to make something good on your side of the Atlantic, especially if even more participants join in.

    Dmitri: You are right about Kindle and e-books, of course. But the reason they are so very much in the lead is that Amazon were first out with a conveniant way to buy books for their device. But they will not be allowed to maintain such a leading role for very long. The law of markets and competition will soon make sure a bundle of e-book sellers have just as good and convenient e-media stores up and running. And then Kindle will face fierce competition from many other e-readers.

    March 9, 2010
  12. Per Helge Seglsten said:

    Kirby: A pad. Not iPad. Adopt.

    March 9, 2010
  13. Kirby said:

    Per Helge: That would be “adapt,” not “adopt.” And, no, I don’t envision, whatsoever, a subway full of pad readers on their way to work. They can already read their iPhones, and don’t do that (except texting). People who love books, love books.

    March 10, 2010
  14. Per Helge Seglsten said:

    No, Kirby. That would be adopt. Sorry you didn’t get it. You might be somewhat right about pads and phones on the subway. The books of today will be pads and the papers will be phones. Except there will be HTC, Motorola, Sony, Nokia and Samsung phones there along with the iPhones. But you are obviously not trying to promote the iPhone, so I’ll let the product monopoly naivity speech be. Almost:
    You say that people who love books will read books. Well, once they said that people who love horses, will ride horses And when Henry Ford came along a lot of people said that noone would drive anything but Fords. Well they were all pretty wrong, and I think I’ll be pretty right, even if it is annoying.

    March 10, 2010
  15. ianf said:

    Inkling> “we need applications to create high-quality ebooks at least as easy as with inDesign.”

    Make it platform-native tools, e.g. assembly of graphics-intensive richtext content for tablets right on the iPad (or another tablet).

    March 10, 2010
  16. Kirby said:

    People who own/love horses, still ride them and hold them dear. More importantly, they would NEVER trade them in for a mere Toyota. I’m a cyclist. If ebooks launch a new age of literacy, I’m all for it. But, according to all that is written here, that is not the aim. Epads are for consumers, not book lovers. There are far more gamers than readers. The only advantage I envision for readers is the boon this will create for small press.

    As for adopting, I choose paper over plastic.

    March 11, 2010
  17. Per Helge Seglsten said:

    Kirby: You choose paper. Fair enough. 99,999% of your fellow earthlings will choose different. And that is what this blog is all about, I think.

    March 11, 2010

Comments are closed.