Tag Archives: tablets

‘The tipping point is now’: BBC and Future outline mobile strategies at Publishing Expo

Engage with your readers, use your existing skills, keep doing what you do well – these were the messages coming from the big digital keynote debate at Publishing Expo. It was standing room only at a session which saw Rebekah Billingsley, BBC Worldwide mobile devices publisher, and Mark Wood, boss of Future UK, among those explaining how they were getting to grips with digital, multiplatform reality.

Billingsley opened by underlining the importance of mobile, saying “the tipping point is now” as she quoted research that showed access to material via mobile devices is set to outstrip access via desktop by 2013. BBC Worldwide publishes Focus and Good Food in tablet form and, said Billingsley, those titles have racked up 70,000 downloads. Her tips were;

1) Choose a technology which makes sense. “Several off-the-shelf publishing solutions bolt onto InDesign,” she said. That means you can use existing staff’s existing skills and minimise cost.

2) Experiment and innovate. “Analyse your feedback and use that to try things out, to experiment,” she said. It was another recurring theme of the day – Billingsley was not the first speaker to urge publishers to use the audience data they so often fail to gather or analyse properly.

3) Utilise your existing assets. “If you have brand, audience and talent you have an advantage,” she said.

“Analyse, test, improve – that’s the cycle we work to,” she concluded.

Future’s Mark Wood took the theme further, talking about how his company is using all available platforms “to engage with our readers who are passionate about the areas we cover”. This can involve breaking down traditional ways of thinking, and Wood used an anecdote to illustrate the point.

On the way to the event he’d popped into the Apple store. He spoke to a sales assistant about what he did, and the sales assistant said he was a big fan of Guitarist magazine. Wood asked if he would buy it on iPad. The assistant said no, he liked the physical magazine. “But,” he told Wood, “stop putting those CDs on the cover – I want that online.”

Wood said: “Digital means we can see what our consumers want so we can sell them things without wasting their time. And being able to target audiences means we can get into new geographical areas more easily.” In short, he said, “With digital, the economics are different to print; but the content and skills are the same.”

Nikolay Malyarov from Newspaper Direct agreed that “if publishers focus on content that will bring readers”, but also expressed reservations about relying on one device. Apple’s new terms hung over the discussion. Malyarov reckons the coming proliferation of mobile devices means Apple will be challenged commercially and the rigidity of its App terms will soften. But asked if he saw Apple as a constricting influence, Wood simply said “If they want 30 per cent, we don’t mind”.

Future has the scale to publish on all platforms, it knows it needs to be on them, so Apple’s conditions are an acceptable cost.

TechCrunch: All eyes on the Daily, but watch out for News.me

Last year we wrote about a personalised tablet news service being developed by Betaworks, the technology development company behind online services such as Tweetdeck and Bit.ly, and the New York Times.

TechCrunch’s Erick Schoenfield has been playing with an early version of the new app, called News.me, and has a preview up on the site.

Schoenfield is billing News.me as the NYT’s answer to the Daily, but it seems much more like social aggregation apps such as Flipboard, using Twitter and URL-shortener Bit.ly to pull in content.

When you first launch News.me, you see the welcome screen below with a few tutorial hints: Tap on the people along the top dock to see what stories are appearing in their Twitter streams, tap on a story headline or excerpt to read it full screen, or you can stretch a story open inside the stream with a reverse-pinch. This reverse-pinch is one of my favorite parts of the experience. You flick to scroll through the stream, and when you find something you like, you can open it up and read it without loading a new page.

Full post on TechCrunch at this link.

Explained: iPad’s role in the media ecosystem

This is an edited version of a post that first appeared on Kristine Lowe’s blog, Notes on the Changing Media Landscape.

Since its launch earlier this year, the media industry has been abuzz with talk of how the iPad will change the industry. As a media journalist I’ve already attended quite a few talks and read an extraordinary number of articles on the subject, but INMAs Tablet summit in Oxford this week gave me new insights into what kind of role the iPad might come to play in the media ecosystem.

Convenience or uniqueness?

That is not to say that there is a consensus about this role. For instance the Guardian’s Jonathan Moore said his newspaper saw the iPad more as convenience device, it’s iPad app offering pretty much the same content as you find on the Guardian’s news site, while the majority of the presenters saw it as the perfect device for offering unique content people were willing to pay for.

“This has to be a premium content. If you approach it as something free: let’s just turn off the light and go home. It has to be premium, paid for, from day one,” said Juan Senõr, Innovation in Newspapers UK director. He asserted that we can’t talk about tablets without talking about the rest of our platforms, pointing out that you have to have different content for different platforms.

“Tablet and paper will be premium, provide background etc, while we have to see online and mobile as mass media. You will have to charge perhaps five times more for print paper and for tablets,” he said, citing some of the products Innovation in Newspapers has remade, especially the successful Portuguese daily news magazine I, as perfect journalism to be transformed to the iPad.

Long form journalism and the ‘lean-back device’

Media consultant and commentator Frédéric Filloux said the iPad offers long-form journalism a new chance. In his view, it provides three major rehabilitations: 1) Re-bundling the news. Tablets and mobile can re-bundle content, 2) Visual 3) Length.

He also sees the device as being primarily about media consumption rather than production: “The iPad is the lean-back device: it’s a consumption device rather than a production device – it has nothing in common with a lean-forward device such as the PC.” Read more of his thoughts on this here.

Jon Einar Sandvand, digital strategist at Aftenposten, Norway’s newspaper of record, said iPad readership figures suggested it was most used in the evening, between six and eight.

Juan Antonio Giner, president and founder of Innovation in Newspapers, reiterates similar ideas to Filloux on media consumption: “Research suggests iPad will become the leading platform in terms of how much people spend consuming media on it. It is a media consumption device. If you are a mono-media operation producing second-hand stories you won’t win from iPad: garbage in, garbage out.”

Now, let me confess, I often find that big media conferences tend to focus too much on ideology and too little on how people are actually approaching a certain issue or innovation, but the Tablet Summit offered some excellent insight into how different news organisations are approaching the iPad.

Among those, the most useful was the very hands-on presentation by Saulo Ribas, creative director at Brazilian Editora Globo’s Epoca Magazine.

Useful iPad tips for publishers

His newspaper wanted to be first in the country with an iPad app, so they built a light version first, and will launch the full version in July. He offered five useful tips for newspapers wanting to develop iPad apps:

    1. It’s an app, not a magazine or newspaper. We have to make the best use of the interface Apple has provided.
    – Good apps are non-linear. You can access content from everywhere in the app.
    – Good apps don’t require users to learn how to use it, or at least not so much. If you need instructions on how to use the app it usually means it’s poorly designed.
    – Good apps have very simple information architecture. Simplify and eliminate the unnecessary
    – Good apps allow the users to leave and then come back to where he left. Try to produce the best reading experience possible
    2. Think about templates not pages. What is the role reserved for the editorial designer in the age of the tablets? If it looks awesome on the iPad it will look awesome on any other tablet.
    3. Personalise: the reader is really in control. Allow the reader to define the settings of the app, the more the better. It’s a big change for us because we’re very attached to our typography in our mags and papers. We have a search view. Can’t be static, people are used to search. We’ve tried to put the basic controls at the bottom of the page.
    4. Technology is content. Have programmers part of the newsroom
    5. Choose the right flow of information inside the iPad app

Who controls the data?

“I do believe Apple wants to become the world’s kiosk. We could end up like the music industry; we do need to be aware of what’s happening. They control pricing and they control customer data – and if you loose those, you loose out,” said Senõr. That Apple also controls the customer data was new to me, but it was also mentioned by one of the other presenters. If that is the case, it sounds very worrying indeed.

Repurposing vs. reinvention

Many industry experts have looked to the iPad as a potential saviour for the media industry. In essence, the sound bite I took away from the Tablet Summit which best answers this proposition was that yes, there is a future life for the news industry if we reinvent, not if we just repurpose.

While I made extensive notes during the summit, Marek Miller was doing such an excellent job of live blogging it that I thought I’d afford myself the luxury of taking some time to reflect a bit on the event before I started writing about it. I will return to a few other thoughts I took away from the event a bit later, but, if you want to read more about the individual presentations, do check Mareks excellent live blog from the event here.