iPad Observation #2 Content and Reading – Reinventing the Paper

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April 5, 2010

in ipad, Mobility, Strategic Foresight

I’m typing this post on my iPad using my “mac” bluetooth keyboard. I’ve done very little typing on it otherwise. Why? Well I was told it was for consumption and so I’ve been “consuming”. The thing is I’m consuming video – catching up on TV like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. (Yep I like it. I hope he succeeds and I’m currently doing my own little food revolution – diet). And every one in the family has logged in and watched one movie via Netflix. In fact it probably took Netflix only a couple of hours to realize the mistake of never offering to stream recent videos to iPhone account or former account holders. I opted in again after a 3+ year absence at $8.99 about the lowest cost plan there is. (This hits family use of the AppleTV and renting via iTunes).

So that initial WOW! It wasn’t the Kindle WOW I expected. I read plenty on my iPhone already. And over the weekend I wasn’t ready for a book. Although I brought some back from my archives. It was video! Everyone was impressed with the screen and picture – unless in a very bright room or there is a lot of sunshine and glare around. The rain kept me from any outdoor tests. And the battery kept on going and going. (Note a full charge today on the supply charger while it was on took approximately 5 hours!).

So what does it all mean for content? Sometime over the weekend I read Suw Charman’s (Strange Attractor) post on just how stupid this content pricing is. Jeff Jarvis sleeping with an iPad and John Patrick on size pixels and more had good thoughts too. Key is… there’s a creative opportunity here that incumbents don’t begin to get. Examples WSJ at $17.99 per month (I can see it via the Safari browser for $1.99/week and for $2.69 get it with a paper) or Time Magazine for $4.99 which is not for all time. That is for ONE issue. When the WSJ was “free” I used to use it all the time on my iPhone. I also share a many links via Twitter off my iPhone. So I thought the NYTimes might actually be interesting. But their “editorial” iPad app is just a collection which can be emailed etc. It’s at best unfinished WIP. The 2X versions of iPhone apps particularly to read are unsatisfying. Eg the Guardian. Of the newspapers that managed to feel a little interesting only USA Today pulls off an iPad app which goes a little further and yet goes backwards at the same time. It’s not “flow” it’s more static than the iPhone’s. More on that later.

The Content Problem: Here’s the deal. We have newspapers thinking the iPad is an electronic newspaper. It isn’t and it doesn’t suit that format. Let’s deviate for a moment and talk about the iPhone. When all those first newsy apps reached the iPhone they were very much like the RSS readers we were used to. scroll and open… back and scroll. That model was easy to follow. Yet on the iPad there is so much more screen real-estate. By this morning I had bookmarked all the sites that Apple lists as HTML5 on my home screen. I’d added the NYT, Reuters, etc. That was a turning point. I run Thesis on my blog these days. I know what it could really do. In fact my sense is the best blogs are doing a better job than these traditional newspapers. My gut tells me the current crop of “newspaper” & “magazine” exports to iPad will fail. Just because you can whiz from page to page or is that article to article it doesn’t mean that is the best way to engage a sophisticated audience.

The Social Content Opportunity: I thought it was clear with the iPhone that sharing content / sharing links was cool! Tweet them, post to Facebook etc. Progress is too slow in this area. Location data. Where is it? Classifieds? Oh those are already gone? Adding in lots of video is not the answer. Make it easy for me to see who wrote it. Make it easy for comments. In fact make the “flow” faster and the “trust” more transparent. Make the location obvious. If the news is from another news organization… well share it. I’m on your new-platform for a reason I’ll stick to it if you help me find what I need. I also need things like notifications. I need things that make me smarter about my interests, work, life, etc. With this iPad I am going many more places guaranteed. Actually it is unreasonable to think they’d get all this in one or in time for the launch. Yet it’s been there on the web now waiting for years for them to pick it up.

The Weight Factor Sharing: I know many prefer the small Kindle to the KindleDX. At 1.5 pounds the iPad is close to the heavy weight class. It’s a maximum for this type of device. We’re still working out how to hold it or prop it. I was reading Food Rules last night. Now you can also read this common sense on an iPhone the difference is you cannot share it. It’s easy to read a Kindle book on the iPad and share or read it together. Just looking quickly at the pictures in Winnie the Pooh (free with the iBook app) it is immediately apparent that reading to another could be a nice thing to do. (That’s something that we never do with newspapers although sometimes do with a Magazine and often do with a book with a child.) This is another place where the “content” managers don’t seem to get it. We have desktop sharing and yet I don’t have “book-sharing / synchroinization”. I may be happy to share what I’m reading or seeing in real-time although perhaps not for later review (unless I bookmark it). I have enough power in this device – just don’t have the sharing opportunities around content. Eg the Digg factor with people I actually know or can get to know.

Kindle or iBook: It’s really very first impressions. I’m already Kindle centric via my iPhone. I don’t imagine I’m going to change that. In fact I’m pissed with Apple as they just helped put book prices back up. I liked the 9.99 model. I don’t get the iBook store. It doesn’t have my 10 years of reading history and purchases and doesn’t have all the neat recommendations. Apple may get there…. or could continue their old world new world forward by just buying Amazon.

IMHO the iPad makes the deficiencies inherent in old media even more apparent. Steve Jobs has done a masterful job of getting publishers on board and agreeing contracts. That gives him books, and media exposure. Unfortunately the iPad wants newspapers in a new format. Fact is magazines are something we hold, so are newspapers. Yet we don’t “touch” them much. We hold an iPad and we touch it a lot and the screen flash as fast as any page we turn. Peripheral vision exists on the iPad as part of a “touch-stroke”. Reading on the iPad is more lean forward in the newspaper mode. In fact that’s the table mode of reading the paper. The minds engaged.. a short period of time to drill to information that matters along with a lot of scanning, some mental notes and perhaps some rips or tear outs for someone else.

There are a couple of newsy items that did a better job yesterday. At least they show info in a new way. My first impression  NPR and iMDB was good they didn’t try the “old” thing. ABCVideo works. Yet some of these I prefer on the iPhone. Huffington post is faster on an iPhone than on the full Safari iPad browser. The iPads already set up for the “flow” and some Twitter clients suggest some insights although in the developer rush to get them out… they are unfinished and none in my opinion really work well.

Perhaps the single biggest opportunity for web design in a generation now exists. The “click screen” with mouse and trackpad brought us blogs. The RSS reader and small screen touch enable an understanding of the flow. I’m certain the gesture generation of web design will bring us something new. Maybe I will also have to explore some of these sketch programs.

Drawing to a conclusion on my first iPad WordPress blog I know I want an upgrade to the WordPress app. There’s much more it could do and needs to do to be effective. I also resorted to the iPhone Flickr app and then another edit on the laptop.

So… back to consuming and notating…

This is Part 2 of a series of my iPad Observations. The series so far:
Part 1: What the iPad means to your next iPhone purchase! Observation #1 Speed
Part 2: iPad Observation #2 Content and Reading – Reinventing the Paper

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