IIcan’t recall the last time there was this much excitement among newspaper publishers about, well, much of anything. Yet the announced launch of the new Apple e-reader – with its promises of colour, video, audio, iPhone-like interface, and more – has publishers positively giddy.

Yet as Obama might say, there is a “learning moment” at this Apple launch that can’t be ignored.

Market value for content providers is generated by the clever integration of audience, content, and platform.

Not all audiences are the same.

Not all content is the same.

Not all platforms are the same.

Slicing across all three and finding the synergies is where money can be made.

The value of the Apple e-reader, at launch, will not be the same value in a year.

Start with the audience and work your way backward. This will be a tech-savvy audience with loads of disposable income, information-hungry, and gadget-starved. Probably dominated by men at first. The device’s high price tag guarantees a tiny audience. It’s not clear whether the platform is a mobile device on steroids or a shrunken laptop, so it’s not yet clear whether this is a device for long narratives or some new multi-media hybrid. Yet marketers and researchers need to figure this out quickly. Not all content at the newspaper’s disposal should be dumped into the e-reader format. Segment and target, segment and target.

Then, watch the audience morph in the next 12 months as device prices drop, second-generation devices and updates are introduced, a better understanding of how the device is used emerges, new device uses are invented, and more. Newspapers will tweak the content for the device. We’ll experiment with ways to generate direct revenue, encourage transactions via the device, or create a sticky experience for advertisers.

Value equals audience plus content plus platform. Remember this as the Apple story unfolds.