iPad holds promise for print titles
It's shiny, slim and elegant, weighs no more than an A4 notebook and accords the user more status than the iPhone. It's also been credited with the fact that it will change the way we consume media forever. But you know what, the iPad doesn't fit into my handbag and I'm not sure where it will fit into my life...
A week after release
I was one of the lucky few to hold an iPad a week after it was released in the States (no release date has yet been announced for South Africa). This was thanks to Immedia's Anice Hassim, who stood in line in New York to be one of the first in the world to purchase an iPad and his generosity in lending his personal unit out for review to a few of us media scribes. [I get my eager little paws on it later this week - managing ed]
It's important to mention upfront that I'm not a techno whizz. I'm not going to discuss the technical merits - go read a product review for that, not this column. I'm a journalist, who started on typewriters (the non-electric kind) 24 years ago on a daily newspaper and, despite working in online media for the best part of the last decade and being a social media convert and member of the twitterati, I still believe in print. I love books, the smell of them, the promise of escapism, the way they give an understated nudge to the personality of my home, the way magazines weigh down my coffee tables, the way a fat newspaper can be the entrée to a lazy Sunday afternoon...
I've mocked the Kindle converts (my books are my friends; I'm not going to forsake them for a slimmer, younger e-reader that you can't read in the bath or take to the beach!) and wondered at the fuss over e-readers/slates. But, like anyone who wants to be part of the ‘cool kids crowd' I was excited to be one of the first to review the iPad.
All about the app
And it is beautiful, bewitching and, depending on what apps you have loaded, supremely entertaining. But is it any more than a bigger version of the iPhone? No, not really. You see, it's all about the app, essentially. It's not an e-reader, it's a multi-platform entertainment system. I can see how it would work for the student or the long-distance traveller (all games, music, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, email, etc, with 12 hours or so of battery life, loaded onto one slim-line device - enticing!). I think its functionality for scholars and students is mind-blowing. The ease of use, touch screen and access to a world of information, email, games and 3D imagery has phenomenal application for kids.
So do I want one? No, not personally. Between my iPod, smartphone, tiny travel netbook and ergonomic computer set up at my desk, I don't see the iPad fitting in with my lifestyle just yet. I also don't want to read on a normal computer screen; my eyes get tired enough (the Kindle has a special e-ink which the iPad doesn't, to make reading books onscreen easier on the eye). Although it has to be said that the quality of the iPad screen blows your mind with the colour, crispness of the images and ‘depth' of the imagery.
However, as an editor and someone who believes in content and wants to see excellent, independent journalism grow through digital integration, not be dumbed down, I see incredible opportunities for publishers of both newspapers and magazines in the future - coupled with massive prospects for marketers and advertisers. The Time magazine app, loaded especially onto the launch iPad release, demonstrates how seamlessly the reader can interact with content, including videos, background links, zooming in on key images, playing videos in ads, etc.
I've never believed that publishers will get away with charging for general news and content for very long, despite the sabre-rattling that has gone on from the older media generation. You can't change a culture of free once it's begun.
The way for publishers, in my opinion, lies in the integration of their brands with devices such as the iPad (which is the first of many, no doubt). Not overnight. But as an added distribution/subscription model initially, followed by a new revenue stream through an extended broadcast platform for advertisers. The newspapers and magazines look SO GOOD on the iPad screen. The iPad actually makes the content more desirable through its presentation and interaction and ability to add interactive 3D graphics and video. How much better to accompany a book review with a clip of an author interview, or a movie review with the trailer, a new album release with a clip of a song?
While magazines and newspapers will still exist in print, I believe, for many decades yet, especially in developing countries, it is an opportunity that can be explored to increase distribution to a global audience in tandem with our clients. And that is why I will invest in an iPad.
In my opinion it's not the publishers of books or newspapers or magazines that should be worried here, but the television execs.
About Louise Marsland
Louise Marsland is currently Africa Editor: Bizcommunity.com; a Content Strategist and Trainer; and Trend Curator for Bizcommunity.com and her own TRENDAFRiCA.co.za. She has been writing about the media, marketing and advertising communications industry in South Africa for over 20 years, notably, as the previous Editor of Bizcommunity.com Media & Marketing; Editor-in-Chief AdVantage magazine; Editor Marketing Mix magazine; Editor Progressive Retailing magazine; Editor Business Brief magazine and Editor FMCG Files ezine.