Content, the killer iPad app


INMA Tablet Summit in Oxford
INMA Tablet Summit in Oxford

I was at the recent INMA Tablet Summit in Oxford. It was a sell-out, an illustration of the buzz that the latest “must-have” device from Apple, the iPad, is generating in the news business.

First, step back a while. It is not the telephone that makes the iPhone so popular, it is the content — the abundance of low cost (or free) apps. The touch screen user interface is pretty sexy too, as is the consistency in the user experience. The same success is likely to occur with the iPad if these lessons are learned.

The iPad may end up being the device that does not have the best connectivity, nor be the lightest, or have the most battery power — but it will be the content and its design that is likely to set it apart.

At the conference, Juan Antonio Giner, founder and president of Innovation Media Consulting, described the iPad as a true integrator of all forms of media, and that this gave news organisations the ability to combine the audio of radio and the video of TV with the storytelling, comment and analysis of the newspaper. However many features it had, it would not be a tablet PC that would save the newspaper; it would be excellent journalism, he said.

And just like the iPhone, the iPad touch screen interface is very sexy.

In order to provide the consumer with the intuitive reading experience that will make them want to return time and again, designers have to exploit the power that the iPad (or other device) and their user interface provides — and already some great examples are available. Others are not so good, and just to prove that they are not sufficiently intuitive even provide instructions on how to use their app!

The iPad, and other tablet PCs coming on to the market are simply providing another form of content delivery, another way to reach audiences. But to successfully provide the consumer with the content they like — and will pay to consume — a publisher needs to understand intimately who it is that goes to make up its audience, for print or other device, and at what time of day they consume their content. Content can then be accurately targeted. However, targeting is no longer enough. Consumers need to feel a part of a community of like-minded people.

Dr. Monica Bulger, lecturer and Communications Center director at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and visiting scholar at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, agreed as she talked about the need to grab an audience's attention — and to do this there had to be an interaction. She is correct: the availability of interaction is why social media has grown the way it has.

Newspaper-generated content remains generated, and consumed, at a high daily volume. It is a major driver of traffic and views for all media types. It is not the size, weight or battery power that makes a device popular; it is the creative way in which this content is presented on it, and the ease with which the user can navigate through it.

The iPad is not a creating or computing platform, it is a consuming platform, just like paper, only multimedia. And a content consuming platform needs content!

The lessons learned? Whatever the means of consumption, content is still king. Dr. Bulger agreed when she closed by saying that the iPad will not be the saviour of newspapers, but that newspapers may be the saviour of the iPad. Now there's a thought!

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