Part 1 of 2010: The Year of the Publisher discussed how print publications are struggling to find a new role on the Internet. As the Internet evolves and new platforms are introduced, products such as e-readers and the iPhone are being leveraged by innovative publishers.
It’s been a few weeks since Apple’s overly hyped iPad announcement. The first reviews have been mixed and Apple has generally received widespread criticism (even amongst its loyal “fan boy” population) for the iPad’s lack of camera and multi-tasking ability.
But for all the naysayers, I’m reminded of a quote from the campy 2001 thriller, Antitrust: “It’s not in the box, it’s in the band.” That is to say, it’s not about the hardware, it is, and always has been, about the media.
Like the iPod and iPhone, the iPad proposes a paradigm shift for how we interact with and consume media. For the iPod it’s music, for the iPhone it’s the beloved App Store, and for the iPad, Apple is betting its reputation on books, magazines and content. Make no mistake about it, that sleek and shiny piece of hardware sitting in your lap with its ubiquitous once-bitten apple logo is a brilliantly crafted diversion for selling loads and loads of media in a closed ecosystem where Apple takes a bite of revenue from each download.
In order for publishers to succeed in this domain, and eventually win back their eroding readership, they’ll have to engage in a paradigm shift of their own. Newspaper and magazine publishers pay close attention – winning back your readership will require more inventive strategies than posting volume/issue copies of your publication to the Apple store at scheduled intervals.
In order for you to be successful, you’ll need to consider a revolutionary approach that leverages the best of your assets (brand, niche, content, marketing database) with those of the platform (social networking, multimedia, content taxonomy, personalization, search).
And while you’re at it, you’ll need to break free from the barriers that constrained your traditional media. Gone are the limitations of distribution, print deadlines, content depth, page count, etc.
The best and most inventive reintroduction of the publication is one that conceives of itself as an ever-evolving conversation or community. Imagine feature stories that expand over time, based on the flow of new information, multimedia, and community feedback. In this way, the notion of volumes and issues becomes archaic. Subscribers benefit from being part of a perpetually evolving conversation regarding sports, politics, health, home, auto, dog grooming, or whatever niche you may capture.
Perhaps the best proof of that concept to date has come from Time Magazine and The Wonderfactory. Their recent collaboration on the reinterpretation of Sports Illustrated for the tablet platform is a rich, intuitive and immersive achievement and may set the standard for the new wave of publications to come:
Make no mistake; traditional publishers will have a very small window of time to get this right. While Apple’s ecosystem will award visibility to those publishers with brand power, it will also offer a low barrier of entry to self-made publishers, who in their ability to move nimbly, may offer up better applications and more intuitive access to content then their larger counterparts. Apple’s ecosystem may be closed, but the competition inside it will likely spur the innovation that sets the standard for newspaper and magazine consumption in the years to come. And for those of you longing for the smell and feel of a printed publication…give it time…I’m sure they’ll be an “app for that” as well.