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It's reinvention time - 19th May 2010

Reinvention time

The i-pad might (and it’s a strong probability) provide the opportunity for the publishing industry to recover from the double hammer blow of the loss of ad revenue to the internet and the strategic mistake of giving away content for free online. This was the key message from a fascinating conference, Tablets, A Second Life for Newspapers & Magazines, organised by INMA and held in Oxford on May 18.

The key word here is 'reinvent'. This is about devising completely new ways to tell stories. The great USP of the media industry is its ability to mine information, tell stories well, and select the most important things out of the great information overload. But all of that will come to nothing if it does not create the kind of amazing reader experience the i-pad demands.

So, first thing’s first, media men and women. Make sure you have something really unique to offer. Is it scarce? If there is an abundance of similar information, then why should anyone pay for it? But if it is something people want and cannot get elsewhere, then you can charge for it.

And do make sure you get your pricing strategy sorted across all media platforms. The punters won’t want to pay for an i-pad app if they can get it for nothing on your website.

But charge you must, if you want your companies to survive.

Don't Do Shovelware

Once you have decided to go for an i-pad app route (charging for it and sharing in ad revenue with the mighty Apple), then be warned of one thing.

Do not, repeat do not, take the lazy route and shovel what you have on your website onto the app (referred to as shovelware) and do not provide a PDF-style replica of your magazine or newspaper.

You have to see how an i-pad words with its visual clarity to know why. The image is king in this world. Of course, words matter. But I am convinced that the reader (who is going to lean back with this device and savour the delights of the contents) does not want to be faced with slabs of text. I was even wondering whether the BBC’s app (which was applauded by the digerati at the INMA event) was too wordy. But it was still far less text-heavy than old media hacks would expect.

Alice in Wonderland

The best way to get the point across is to get hold of an i-pad now and download the Alice in Wonderland book (for online demo go to You Tube) and see the amazing colours, illustrations, some of which move around as you move the device. The whole experience is rich and I’d guess you have no more than 25 words on the page, if that. Any parent using an i-pad to read a story to his child better watch out his or her arm is not bitten off. It is just TOO good.

Experiment Now!

There are technical issues to sort out and new editorial sensibilities to develop which is why all media companies should be experimenting now. Forget about making money now, just understand it and develop the best apps you can for the near term boom that is about to hit.

Only the best stand a chance of winning an audience.


Now for costs. Speakers were shy on this point. But here’s some figures from my notes: BBC  - £70,000 to create four apps. Guardian Eyewitness app (photo display which even got the attention of the great man - Steve Jobs himself) - £9000 for about 4-5 weeks of a developer plus staff costs (sponsored by Canon for around £54,000).

The rest is up to you. Any publisher that does not give its people some time to work on this is completely bonkers. Waiting is not an option.

Over and out.

maurice mendoza

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