Thursday, May 13, 2010
Publishers become animated as the iPad arrives in London
Apple’s iPad might not officially launch in the UK until 28 May, but as anyone not living under a rock in the last month will be able to tell you; the iPad is here and already walks among us.
It’s hard to believe that pre-orders of the touch-screen, tablet-style computer only went on sale today.
Haymarket Brand Media’s new desk has had a steady stream of invites from newspaper and magazine publishers keen to demonstrate their apps for weeks.
The electronic handheld device also dominated proceedings at the PPA Magazine Conference last month. The annual event quite literally began and ended with talk of the iPad, padded out by the obligatory soul-searching.
Representatives from the country’s largest magazine publishers simply couldn’t get enough of it.
Pre-eminent business hack Juan Senor admitted carrying six iPads into the conference in his opening address, and called its arrival nothing less than “revolutionary”.
He went on to warn publishers that Apple’s entire business model depends entirely on the tech giant being able to leverage publishers’ content.
Andrew Walmsley, founder of the now defunct digital agency i-Level called it a “significant step” and believes over time the industry will witness “an erosion, or rather shift,” to new such platforms.
David Rowan, editor of Wired, gamely reminded us the iPad is “not going to save publishing”, but added the industry didn’t need saving anyway.
He preferred to view its arrival as yet another platform to reach more consumers on, and one that could help solve some distribution problem areas.
He also admitted to being excited by the multimedia aspect of the device, with its audio and visual and GPS opportunities that could offer new ways to interact with readers/audiences.
But a “magazine on steroids” approach was warned against by Senor, among others, who suggested consumers will respond best to titles that manage to recreate the magazine experience, and offer readers time and space in their digital digest. A far cry from the all-singing and all-dancing model Sports Illustrated is currently demonstrating in the US.
There was general agreement that the first generation iPad represented just the first step in what will become a very competitive market, but concern was raised over the power Apple would have if iTunes, or its equivalent, became the only distribution outlet for publishers.
More than 50 tablet-type devices are expected to launch this year, and most will not have the iPad’s purposefully inbuilt shortcomings, like not being able to use Flash, having no USB ports, or no camera.
Barry McIlheney, PPA’s new chief executive charged with reigniting both the trade body itself and a deflated industry, admitted he’d never known such a device cause so much excitement – and the former Smash Hits editor has been around the block more than once.
‘Expert advice’ came from the American contingent, after all they could boast almost a month’s real-life experience.
Joan Sola, president of Zinio International, ensured he had everyone’s attention when he reported that the digital magazine services provider had launched 2,500 magazines onto the iPad since 3 April. Sales of any UK content following the launch was reported to have doubled since the move.
A cynic might suggest the iPad’s ability to hijack the magazine conference so completely, smacks of desperation from an industry blighted by comprehensive slumps in copy sales and advertising revenues.
But who could blame them? John Zieser, chief development officer at American women’s powerhouse Meredith, reported how initial experience and research had found that far from taking away from print, iPad adoption had served to boost magazine pick-up.
It was also mooted that the arrival of the iPad could take the onus away from digital circulation figures, a development that would prove quite timely for News International as it prepares to erect its paywall.
One delegate pointed out that publishers had been working in close co-operation with the global paper/forest industry for years to ensure the healthy replenishment of resources.“Had anyone given any consideration to the environmental impact of the tablet?” she asked: Silence all round.
Regardless, the iPad is coming.
And with more than one million devices sold in the first month in the US; and with data compiled by Yahoo confirming that 10% of iPad traffic is currently coming from outside the US, despite not having launched anywhere else yet, it looks set to make a significant splash.