Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can iPad save media? Skeptics weigh in.

Not everyone is buying into the iPad hoopla. A quick sampling of media thought leaders determined that many are skeptical, at least to some degree, about its potential as a high-tech elixir for all that ails their business. Here are their cautionary comments (edited in some cases for length):

Richard Gingras, CEO of Salon Media, an Apple veteran and an early pioneer in portable computing:

Since the device is effectively a tablet laptop with full support for standard web-browsing, unlike the Kindle, I fail to see how this changes the game for publishers.

I'm sure publishers were hoping for a closed environment that forced the consumer to engage with publishers on their terms. But I don't see how it changes content economics at all. I didn't expect it to and I wasn't disappointed.

The New York Times app for the iPad has some nice enhancements but they all would make just as much sense on my laptop. Either way, these modest experiential changes don’t alter the marketplace economics for current-events info.

Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada at Reno and former corporate vice president for news at Knigh Ridder:

The iPad does nothing to change the basic question: Will consumers pay for news? The answer is the same: Probably not. On the other hand, it’s cool and I want one.

Alan Jacobson, CEO of Brass Tacks Design, who is a former newspaper editor and founder of TweenTribune, a blogging platform for middle-school pupils.

Media company offerings aren’t unique and compelling enough to gain broad and intense use, regardless of platform. Newspapers haven't faced this issue. Once again, it’s the content, stupid, and newspaper content doesn’t cut it.

Users will not pay for content, so there will be no money there. Newspapers could profit from transactions – taking a small piece of the action whenever someone buys something like a concert ticket off a link from a newspaper site. But newspapers don’t understand this kind of commerce, so they won’t do it.

The tablet will not be the wunderkind everyone thinks it will be, because it’s too big to be small and too small to be big.

Rick Edmonds, the media-business analyst at the Poynter Institute, which is the leading think tank for the newspaper industry.

The iPad has excellent potential as an added revenue stream but a lot would need to fall into place for it to be a savior of the industry or the dominant mode for people to get what newspaper organizations have to offer.

The Sports Illustrated demo sold me on the potential for an enhanced magazine experience. An enhanced newspaper-reading experience is possible but less obvious. However, the current and more primitive e-readers have been more popular than I would have thought.

How all this will work for advertisers is a big question not addressed today.

John Arthur, former executive editor of the Los Angeles Times:

Stepping back from the hype, there's no real reason iPad will “save print.” Print has to save print. I can already read tons of stuff on my Blackberry (or another smart phone). Why would I want a bigger, more expensive device?

Peter Zollman, CEO and founder of the Advanced Interactive Media Group and internationally recognized advertising consultant:

It’s not a question of the iPad. It’s a question of whether people will pay to receive valued content on whichever devices they use.

Many people already are paying for some content on mobile devices, and others are paying for specialty online content – whether it’s online greeting cards, unbiased consumer ratings, financial news or pornography.

The iPad presumably will make it easier for people to buy specific tidbits or feeds of information they want, and will lead to another generation of users who may be able to overcome the “information has to be free” mindset. We’ll see.

John Temple, the former editor of the Rocky Mountain News and the newly appointed editor of Peer News, a for-profit, Honolulu-based online news start-up.

I do think it can live up to its hype. I can see it doing well in the education market and with current Kindle users. But the question will be whether a big enough group of people is ready to pay for a third device, after their iPhone and their laptop.

Howard Owens, the founder and publisher of The Batavian, a local online news site and former digital media chief at GateHouse Media.

I’m more excited about the iPad as a journalism tool than a publishing platform. Reporters should drool over what seems to be a bit a Swiss army knife of digital-reporting tools.

The idea that publishers can profitably charge for content on a device connected to the open network is a lost cause. The best hope for paid content in the digital world is a closed device, and I just don’t see consumers going for a device that is connected to the network. The network provides a world of infinite choices, which makes charging for content exceptionally challenging.

It’s unlikely that any one device is going achieve a high enough market penetration to put publishers back in the mass-market game. Short of mass market, profitable paid content will be hard to achieve.

On the other hand, for publishers who keep development costs down for content-related apps, there may be some level of supplemental income from these apps. The more devices — iPad, iPod, Droid-powered devices — that support apps, the more opportunities to sell such apps. Paid-content over time may evolve into something more substantial, but I’d warn publishers against wishing for a quick fix.

Tim McGuire, professor of media economics at Arizona State University, fellow journalism blogger, and former editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Just from reading the early dispatches, it strikes me that iPad has it right. They are combining information capabilities with entertainment capabilities. That strikes me as the ticket. I had been holding off purchasing a Kindle type instrument. This may be what entices me to try such a device. That said, seldom do first-generation products live up to this kind of hype and this has been some kind of hype!

James Gold, the COO of Leap Media Partners and former chief marketing officer of the New York Times Regional Media Group:

The new Apple tablet makes it possible for digital media to present advertising as rich as the best of print and broadcast but combined in a single medium. But it is the consumer information, such as location, demographics and life-stage details – combined with rich video and text/graphics based messages – that offers the most potential for a new digital business model. Together, the tablet can offer precise targeting and compelling, one-to-one marketing.

Media companies that embrace both these capabilities on behalf of advertisers will gain competitive advantage that may drive growth. Traditional print and broadcast media have been slow to take advantage of basic CRM [customer relations management] principles and value creation based on customer asset management.

If all they do is transfer what they already offer (nice print ads, great commercials) to the new platform, they will still struggle for a means to monetize the new technology. The unlocked potential is unleashed when you integrate deep consumer insight and the ability to establish and manage relationships for advertisers in a medium that is compelling for consumers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am old enough to remember experiments in the 1980's of electronic delivery of newspapers. The idea then (as now) was to get rid of the back shop and save big bucks. One idea tossed around back then involved installing a printer in the homes of subscribers that would print out copies of the newspaper via telephone. The insurmountable problem involved the big sheets printing a newspaper would require. Today, it looks like we have machines that could work. Yet, reading these comments, we have this torrent of negativism from industry experts saying this won't work. I disagree and think it could. We have put all this effort into this idea, and I think we are almost there.

6:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a newspaper journalism student in the 1980s and like Anonymous I remember the electronic delivery experiments, too. Though not perfect, the iPad (and the other tablets sure to follow) finally give us the first delivery device that is practical, cost-effective and -- this where they differ from iPhones and netbooks -- does justice to the professionally produced, formatted and packaged content that defines a magazine or a newspaper experience. Bonus: We also get the interactivity and all the multi-media tools of the Web which even to an old print guy is exciting stuff (Did you see the Sports Illustrated demo? They've got the right idea without making it all too gimmicky). The technology is here. The question is: Will readers adopt it? If so, then the business models will sort themselves out.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Brian Cubbison said...

It's about the apps. Instead of Googling a topic on the entire world wide web and landing wherever, Apple wants you to go to your favorite app -- maybe The New York Times app -- and see what it has today. It's a much more traditional way to consume news from a branded source, rather than the Google-induced promiscuity. Will it work? Apple's done it before.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Steve Outing said...

Since you left out my musings on the iPad and the news industry, I'll point your readers to it, FWIW. 8^)

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan Jacobson says newspaper content is not unique and compelling enough. Call me more prehistoric than a newsosaur, but in most communities the bulk of actual news gathering is done only by the local newspaper (admittedly not so well as when they had more resources). Bloggers can fill some but not all this function. So what he is really saying is: the public just doesn't care anymore?

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Mike Donatello said...

@5:31 PM: No, what he's saying is that most of the content in most newspapers is mostly retread. Your statement that "the public just doesn't care anymore" may be true, but that doesn't flow logically from Jacobson's comments.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Byron Mathison Kerr said...

I see it basically as an iPod Touch with a larger screen. I use a laptop as my main computer, and I use a small iPod for music mostly while exercising.

The iPad might fit in between the two given its light weight and adequately large screen. I see using it for web browsing, book reading, and movie/TV show watching either in a easy chair, coffee shop, pub, airplane, etc.

I have not been interested in the iPhone due to the monthly charges and the small screen. Somehow I still prefer a dumb cell phone with a cheap calling plan.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Catherine said...

I wrote my own blog on this the afternoon of the iPad's launch. As a journalist myself, I'm still unsure as to the impact it will have on the news and publishing industries, but as was reflected in some of the reactions here, it seems like journalism desperately needs a new pay model that isn't completely attached to people paying for content.

I had a long, heated conversation with a former publisher-friend recently, and we both came to the conclusion that journalism, as we have known it for a while now, has to change. I hope that, if anything the iPad pushes more positive than negative switches. Fingers -and toes -crossed.

8:38 PM  

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