The day that changed publishing

(Last Updated On: April 4, 2010)

Yesterday, Apple released to the world a computer tablet called the  iPad.

Fifteen years ago, publishers had a great opportunity to migrate to the World Wide Web. They blew it.

Publishers dismissed the value of the Web and set their prices accordingly. It was common practice for publishers to entice advertisers with publishing contracts in the print medium and offer Web placement at a low-cost or free.

Although traditional publishers didn’t take the Internet seriously, consumers did. As a result, traditional publishing was hit hard.

Today, publishers have a new opportunity. Over the years, they have streamlined and cut their product quality in the name of keeping their 30 percent profit or to stay afloat.  Rather than cut expenses, publishers can invest in delivering quality content. Tablet users want deep and exciting multi-media presentations. Today, if they choose to do so, publishers can once again become competitive with quality writing, imagery and design. All these things disappeared in the last 10 years while publishing operated in survival mode.

Why is this different?

The iPad is not a new, easier-to-use computer. It’s just easy.

The World Wide Web was a great innovation. Unfortunately there were some barriers. In order to get to the Web, you had to have access to a computer and the appropriate software. Windows alone was reason enough for some people — especially older folks — to avoid touching a computer.

Early Web pages, especially in the first years, were not well-designed. Internet navigational skills were not intuitive for most people. Over time, technological advances and design have improved computers and the Internet. Using a computer has become easier, but not easy.

The iPad is easy. All you do is push a button to begin. The tablets are icon-based, thereby providing a more intuitive experience. There is no barrier to the Internet. Simply press the browser icon to get in. Want to read a book, listen to music, watch a movie, or activate a cool application? Again, just push a button.  iPads open the door for those  who have not appreciated the full computer and online experience.

Does this functionality hold value to people? Can you say iPhone?

Sales of  iPhones and other touch-based smart phones prove there is interest in this platform and functionality.  Many of our computer activities have already migrated to our phones. Why? Smart phones are portable and accessible.  Our desktop computers are certainly not easy to carry. Laptops are convenient, but a phone fits in a pocket. The iPad doesn’t fit in a pocket, but it is slim, portable and extremely accessible.

User experiences with the iPad and tablets in general will determine their success. The iPad is better than advertised, based on reports I’ve read. This is good news.

If a $500 iPad has better portability than a standard laptop and all the functionality of the newest smart phone, why wouldn’t it be a hit?

Publishers appear to be thinking the same thing. This is their second chance. This time, they don’t want to miss the boat. Some have so much confidence in the new direction, they are raising their prices.  I believe people will pay for great content for their tablets, however, application prices still have to be reasonable.

The process of purchasing products and services on the Web is a barrier for some people. It can be complex and confusing.  If all purchases, no matter the price, can be made with the click of a button, they are no longer a hassle. The fewer times people have to type their credit card numbers onto a Web site, the less anxiety they will have about online purchases. This easy system will provide a subscription revenue stream for the most inventive and creative publishers.

Advertising will continue to have its place. Although visitor tracking is available on the Web, the perceived value of those ads is still low. The tablet platform is a clean slate. If a publisher can show advertisers that they active subscribers, in this new electronic media – a new high value opportunity for real advertising revenue is now available.

Advertisements in paid publications have higher value than the ones in free publications because the perception is people who pay for something pay attention to it.  Publishers have the analytics to prove it, too.

Plus, interactive advertising will offer increased engagement.

What about photographers?

Increased publishing opportunities will raise demand for high-quality imagery. Average point-and-shoot pictures will not be acceptable outside the community-related sections. Quality design and slick presentations are not served well by  poor or average media.

The oversupply of photography will not diminish. In order to have viable careers, most photographers will need multiple talents, including audio and video skills, in order to supply quality content. Likewise, video people will have to provide  high-quality stills to go with their assignments. Animation and 3-D presentations will continue to be in demand.

These opportunities are not for media publishing alone. They will include corporate publishing and marketing as well. Applications will be developed for business of all sizes. Companies will demand more material for their content-hungry consumers. These consumers  will not be impressed by average or boring presentations on the easy-to-use tablets.

The future

The iPad is not the final chapter in the story of media. It’s just the next step. Fifteen years ago a Web site was a new thing, viewed as a gimmick and not taken seriously by many businesses. Today, companies are not in business if they don’t have a Web site. In the coming years, a company will not be in business if it doesn’t have an application enabling the world to connect to it instantly.

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