With the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) set to begin on Monday, the tech media world is again abuzz with rumors – many center on the next version of the iPhone, but others would be far more important to publishers. The one that has me twitterpating involves the long awaiting opening up of the Apple TV to third party apps.
First, let's take a step back and let me rub it in a bit. When the iPad was first introduced in late January of 2010, I attempted to convey a sense of what this would mean for publishers. I reminded TNM readers that the real revolution of the iPhone, at least as far as publishers were concerned, did not occur until third party apps became possible. The iPad was launched already open to publishers. All a publisher had to do was become a serial launcher – that is, a developer of their own branded apps. I was then, and am today, completely convinced that publishers who can accomplish this task will be prepared for the radical changes to come.
The Apple TV, however, is another story. The original Apple TV was launched in January 2007 and was essentially a Mac mini without an optical drive. It contained storage for movies, but no way to burn those movies to disc. It was a bit of a dud.
But at a press conference in September 2010, Apple introduced the second generation Apple TV. The hockey puck-like device would contain no real storage and would run on Apple's iOS platform. Priced at $99, the new Apple TV became a bit more popular, used by iPhone and iPad owners to stream content to their TVs, as well as to rent and buy movies, watch baseball and other sports, to access their Netflix accounts.
But the real secret was that it had to be, had to be, the home for the next App Store. THAT is what the hot rumor is now: Apple will open up the Apple TV to third party developers.
If this is true then hold on to your hats, your world is about to shaken again.
To say that the newspaper and magazine publishing world is a tad conservative is like saying that Roger Ailes rarely votes Democratic. Publishers have been slow to develop for mobile and tablet devices, though they not rejected the move entirely. Most companies have entered the new era kicking and screaming and eventually getting on board through the easiest and cheapest ways possible, mostly through third party vendors.
On top of this, the basic way we think about story development has been shaken with the growth and expansion of the web. Many news and feature outlets have begun to give their reporters smartphone or video camera in order to begin to gather multimedia content, in addition to their text. Websites that have been able to integrate multimedia content on a regular basis have found the transition from print to web to mobile and tablets a bit more seamless.
Building a tablet edition, when there is already video or audio content on board, makes the decision to go "native", as opposed to "replica", all the more easy. In fact, editors with access to that kind of content are positively giddy over the idea that their editorial content can now come alive.
If the web, and especially tablets, let their print content come alive, what would the impact of seeing that content on a television mean?
|WSJ Live on the iPad|
The WSJ is one of the few print media outlets that has consciously attempted to take advantage of the Apple TV. It created an iOS and Android app "channel" that streams live content to mobile and tablet devices, and the Apple TV and other "smart" TVs, as well.
To do this, the WSJ took an old school approach: they basically set up a camera and started to broadcast. The content is often laughable, but it is a start.
This vision of what is possible on the big screen from a publisher is not very imaginative. I would equate it to the way TV broadcasters first created television content in the early fifties – they looked to radio as their model and created visual versions of radio programs. Legacy programs such as "Your Hit Parade" and "Amos 'n' Andy" dominated the early days of television before producers became more creative with programming.
The WSJ is not looking that far back, but is instead looking at CNBC and other cable financial news channels as their model.
For most publishers this is a bad example. Instead, I would argue, a better example is think digitally native – YouTube, Flicker and other websites also have moved to the TV and their apps give publishers another idea of what can be accomplished.
Imagine, if you will, a video version of The Guardian's Eyewitness app for the Apple TV. What about specialty channels? I'd download an Apple TV of the Minimalist, the NYT's food column by Mark Bittman who, besides the text column, produces videos, as well. Hell, I'd watch Bittman all day.
But isn't it possible to create a "Minimalist" channel now? Just launch a smartphone or tablet app that features Bittmann videos, right?
Exactly. Now you see what I mean when I said publishers should become serial launchers. If a publisher is able to create apps like this, the move to the TV is much easier.
Is Apple really going to open up the Apple TV just as they did the iPhone or iPad? I have absolutely no idea, but the rumors are out there.
On top of this, Apple has suddenly included the lowly Apple TV on its home page. Maybe this means something is coming, maybe not.
But if this rumor proves proves true look for an obligatory "I told you so" post here at TNM which includes a line that would have seemed absurd in the past: "if you are a print publisher, and you don't have your own television channel, you are a dinosaur."
Can't wait 'til Monday.