Notes on iPad

It’s not as if I haven’t had a point of view on all of this tablet computing device stuff that’s been lighting up the Internets for the past several months, but for professional reasons, I’ve had to keep mum. Suffice it to say, I’m really excited about Apple’s iPad, announced today, and I’m even more excited about what can be done with it.

However. I’m pretty sure that I’m in the camp that believes that this is not the salvation that most publishing companies have been looking for. Not that the device falls short in some way, but rather because nothing can save publishing as it’s been operating for the past several decades. The iPad does nothing to change the brutal mandate that has been pushing publishers to change for these many years; if anything it compounds the imperative.


As a general principle, there’s no way around evolution, and in this specific instance the reality is that there is no direct translation of the print experience to digital media. That is, the content can be translated, but it’s not likely to be as literal as many might expect or even hope. Those looking to the iPad to return us to some semblance of a print-like reading experience are basically wrong, I believe. In fact, lots of really smart people will continue to get this wrong going forward. We’re all still figuring out. That’s the definition of an opportunity.

  1. I agree that the format alone will have little effect on the future of the news industry, but I do think the iPad could have a profound effect. If there is a way to view articles in a beautiful format and have a way to easily distribute and charge for the content, people will buy it.

    If my iPad downloaded the paper when it was available each morning for a reasonable fee, I don’t know why I wouldn’t switch from the print edition. It’s a clear upgrade in terms of experience and portability. If you like the experience of paper, you can always use it as your iPad case.

  2. On the first day, response to the iPad is mixed for many reasons, as is the response to most Apple product announcements. The expectations are high and everyone has their own pet use case they want satisfied by the product.

    Overall, I’m encouraged by the iPad device that holds the promise to connect to live content 24/7. I hope that professional news organizations like the NYTimes can make money on digital content delivery to electronic devices, but I think they there’s going to be A LOT of experimentation needed to get it right (if at all). Paper is a great medium for communication, but as we know it’s very expensive and a dying breed.

    Good luck iPad! There are many other companies pursuing the same path, but I believe Apple is positioned best to move this forward in this space, even if it’s not completely correct as a solution now. Link

  3. It’s a fascinating subject.
    Print to New media and the opportunities that arise to bridge the gaps.
    I can’t help feel that the iPad has missed an opportunity not allowing flash usage. (or is this a clever way of rolling out version 2 for the $’s down the line?)
    I had hoped to use it on my travels to one work and two digest things like this but can’t as it’s completely wrapped in flash.
    Big disappointment for me and many many more I’m sure.

  4. I’m just wondering Khoi, in the presentation today, there was a moment at the beginning where Steve jobs was showing the NYT (website, not the app), and there was a big blank there because of the unrendered Flash box. Isn’t it kind of embarrassing to have seen that. What is the NYT going to do to resolve this issue. It is very clear that Flash will never be on the iPhone/iPad. Isn’t it time there was an alternative offered by/for the paper of record? I think that the NYT must take the lead on this.
    That said, I think you are selling yourself short on the effect that your beautiful design will have on the app for the iPad and the ability to read like a paper. I haven’t even seen it live yet and I’m very interested in experiencing it. It could be a game changer for me. I would much prefer to carry the NYT around on an iPad rather than 3lbs of paper while sipping my morning coffee. I think I might pay for that.

  5. Oh, and one other thing. I like the idea of the iBookstore. Where is the iNewstand with the NYT centre stage?

  6. To Rik’s point, I think Apple is hoping HTML5 usurps the rich media crown that has been seemingly stapled to Flash’s head (yea Adobe!). As a web designer and developer, I would LOVE to see this happen.

    Maybe this is an appropriate time to whip out Sports Illustrated’s Tablet concept again: link

    It seems like the iPad is perfect for that idea, which may not be the salvation of which Khoi speaks. In my opinion, though, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

  7. I can’t help but feel while something new might happen for reading not a lot will change with reading habits. Perhaps because I am set in my ways but a book is a very different experience to reading a screen. Same for a newspaper on a commuter’s train. This is not to say a younger person might be more flexible and read say Wuthering Heights on an ipad. I think it would be a different experience but the ‘pleasure’ of a book might be lost on the young. Not that I am that old. The romance of sail doesn’t stop me from flying by jet.

  8. A single device can not save the publishing industry. If the iBookStore sold magazines and newspapers a digitized versions of the their respective print editions, it would only perpetuate the problems the print industry is suffering now.

    The success for the iPad will live and die with the apps designed specifically for this new format — Just like it did for the iPhone. The fact that publishers can create apps to create an app and create their own digital experience for their content makes for the best plan. The Sports Illustrated example posted above fails to examine how a user can engage with the content. If/when someone creates an app to function similar to Bonnier and Berg’s ‘Mag+’ concept ( then that will lead a new digital revolution.

  9. Ditto. Mag+ was awesome, it looks like there are good elements to be taken from both Mag+ and the Sports Illustrated concept device. An exciting world we live in!

  10. That link should be seen by every mag publisher in the business.

    It will be about the apps for sure. I wouldn’t be surprised to see mags creating a subscription based app.

    I don’t think the iPad (terrible name) is there yet but it will be down the line. If it only could multitask.

  11. Customized Newspapers + Online Community = Evolved Old Media. That’s why blogs and web sites with active community commentary are so popular–people feel a part of something intangible, and that’s better than cutting down trees for nostalgia.

  12. Amen, Khoi. Amen in spades. I’ve been tremendously discouraged by how many otherwise whip-smart colleagues of mine have thought that—somehow by virtue of form factor alone—this (and the Kindle before it) would somehow magically, “save the industry.” They do nothing to shift the business models, where the fundamental problem is.

  13. “As a general principle, there’s no way around evolution, and in this specific instance the reality is that there is no direct translation of the print experience to digital media.”

    You’ve hit my sentiments about the iPad on the head. What strains me the most is the degree to which this highly technological device strives to mimic our experience of printed material and other “real-world” experiences. Newspapers, magazines, and books are the way they are largely because of the limitations of the medium and the delivery framework.

    Just seems that the gains made in the past several years in adopting a new of content design, delivery, and consuming experience online are being dialed back in order to match the experience of an entirely different medium.

  14. It’s my observation that the iPad is probably non-multitasking by design. This, along with the elimination of the otherwise-ubiquitous Adobe Flash Player, is an attempt to focus your attention on the single app which is to the forefront. You may have very fine-grained control over that app in many ways, scrolling, bookmarking, browsing, reading, whatever, but you will be forced to view advertising and, unlike the browser experience where you can turn flash off, you may not be so easily able to customize your viewing.

    The design has its strong points, and I’m sure it will be a commercial success, but I do not think it is a step forward. A lot of developers I know do not plan to buy an iPad; it’s a tool for consuming, for owning your attention, not for making things, and, for the most part that is what developers do: they create.

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