Monday, August 16, 2010

Newsday goes tablet; yet another "iPad won't save magazines" story, this one from the WSJ

Newsday has released its initial iPad app and to be honest it's not half bad. Now I know that is a hell of a way to start a look at a news app, but I will admit that after Newsday's rather deficit attempt at a paywall online I was not looking for Newsday to impress me with a decent tablet app. They have.
Newsday is not reinventing the tablet newspaper, but they have made subtle changes to their iPhone app that makes it work well on the iPad. The app allows for both portrait and landscape reading and integrates video very well. The story you see here -- why this is their lead story is another question -- has a little arrow that indicates that there is video content to accompany their story (maybe that is why they chose it, though if so it was a silly choice).
The navigation is good and the scrolling makes sense.

The app itself is free to download, but it is clear that Newsday will eventually charge for access to the content writing that "Access to subscriber-only content available to all for a limited time only." There is an asterisk on that last sentence, but it doesn't refer to anything below -- a possible error.

The app comes with weather and traffic cams, as well as article sharing through social networking sites. The promise of up-to-the-minute sport scores is nice, especially for high school sports.
The mention of traffic cams got me thinking about Newsday's iPhone app, because this feature is not mentioned in the iTunes description of the app. But the iPhone come with the feature which is much more useful on a smartphone anyway. The survey I mentioned this morning in this post, shows that -- at least in the UK -- most iPad owners keep their tablets around the house rather using them as a mobile device. The iPad, therefore, is a mobile device mostly because it uses an OS designed for mobile devices rather than because this is actually how it is used.

In any case, the iPhone app also says that it will offer content for free for a limited time. The app was released July 15th.

Finally,both the new iPad app and the iPhone app ask if they can push breaking news notices to the user, an acceptable use of the notifications capabilities of the devices, though I would probably decine it for the iPad app, and approve it for my iPhone.

I must have had Newsweek on my mind as I worked on this post about Newsday. I even named the photo files "Newsweek" bu mistake. Then I went into iTunes to check on something and again made the same mistake, typing in Newsweek.

That brought me to the Newsweek iPad app, so I checked to see how iPad owners have responded to it. Oh my. I think the new owners of the news weekly may want to use this ownership transfer as an opportunity to start over. Ouch.

Make it stop!

Yet another article starts with the question "Will tablets save the magazine business?" (there are even more that ask "will tablets save the newspaper business?), and answers the same way -- no.

This one is from Peter Kafka of the WSJ and is just as ridiculous as the others. The reason is simple: the only ones asking the question are the same ones posing it. Kafka asks the silly question as a way of starting out a post that looks at Next Issue Media's report Hulu for Magazines (link to PDF).

Will radio save records sales? will tv save radio? Will reporters ever get it? (OK, that last one is a good question.)

Here is an excerpt:

"iPad magazines and similar stuff will generate $3 billion in advertising and circulation revenue in 2014, assuming that the market expands beyond Apple (AAPL) to include Google and other competitors. But after you account for print dollars the digital versions will cannibalize, that nets out to $1.3 billion in incremental revenue," writes Kafka.

Kafka then points out that Time Inc. generated $900 million in "the last quarter alone", presumably proving some kind of point about the tablet and print publishing. Of course, GM's revenue was $33.2 billion last quarter, I guess that means everyone should abandon magazines and start building cars.

Never mind that the survey itself comes to the complete opposite conclusion and is far more comprehensive: "To realize the revenue potential, publishers will need to create new interactive products; offer a large library of cross-sold interactive titles; develop innovative subscription packages; find mutually beneficial partnerships with leading OEMs; carefully define future advertising standards and metrics; and fundamentally rethink internal workflows, capabilities and organization," a press release relates.

“The landscape for digitally distributing magazines and newspapers is about to rapidly change,” Martin Kon, partner and head of the global media and entertainment practice at Oliver Wyman, is quoted. “Our Future Marketplace Simulation shows significant consumer enthusiasm for interactive periodicals that offer enhanced features, personalization, multimedia content and optimized layout and navigation.”

Nonetheless, while I love the research now being done on mobile and tablet usage, it is way too premature to evaluate acceptance of the devices for media. The equivalent would be asking 1800 people in 1440 about the future of printing.

Here's the bottom line, though: the question has never been, will never be, if the iPad will save some old medium, it is whether tablets will create a new one worth investing in.