The iPad: Great Type Hope?

The much-hyped iPad was supposed to be one of several new devices that would save print publications (or at least slow their decline), as well as take the online video experience to the next level by offering a platform capable of transforming how people consume Web content.

But to some, the absence of print and Flash compatibility at Steve Jobs’ iPad unveiling last week called into question just how well traditional media will function on the new device, which looks like a portable flat-screen TV. “The iPad is DOA from a video perspective,” said Chris Allen, vp, director of video innovation, Starcom USA. That’s because Flash, the ubiquitous Web software that powers much of the Web’s video and ad placements, doesn’t work on the device. That means no Hulu, no video on major news sites and lots of Web ads that don’t get served; all serious hurdles for buyers.

But Lincoln Bjorkman, evp, executive creative director, Digitas, said Apple is sure to bend on this issue. “They are going to get over themselves and make Flash work,” he said. “Apple likes to get to market fast. Then they catch up, partner [and] listen.”

As for print, “[Jobs’] goal was not to sell magazines; he was thinking about exciting the consumer,” said Audrey Siegel, co-founder, president and director of client services of TargetCast tcm.

“There are a lot of questions in terms of consumer acceptance,” noted Scott Kruse, managing partner, director of print, GroupM. “I think, initially, it’ll be small. And then, how many people download publications?”

Jim Spanfeller, past president/CEO of Forbes Digital and now a consultant, had doubts that publications would translate to the iPad. “It’s a big jump of faith to think users are going to give up Web surfing or augment it by paying several subscription fees.”

Either way, there are plenty of  questions awaiting publishers that plan to create digital versions of their titles for the iPad, including how should magazines be priced to the consumer? Pricing models will depend in part on whether iPad users want to be tied to the print publishing schedule or get that content on demand by surfing the Web. One worry is that publishers, to encourage trialing, will price tablet editions low and cheapen the value, as happened with print subscriptions.

In preparation for future tablets, some publishers including Condé Nast and Hearst developed replicas of their titles for the iPhone. But how much of those learnings apply to the larger tablet screen? Toggling between the vertical and horizontal views will be much different on the iPad, pointed out Sarah Chubb, president, Condé Nast Digital. “It’s not a little thing in your hand,” she said. “When you’re designing something like this, you really have to think about how people are going to use it.”

How ads are priced is another big question. Publishers hope to charge a premium, based on the early adopter audience and ability to offer rich-media, customizable ads, but they’ll likely face push back from buyers.

“It remains to be seen if [a premium for iPad ads] will be accepted by the industry,” said Starcom’s Allen.“They are going to have to prove the effectiveness merits it.”

Targetcast’s Siegel said measurement is going to be key. “If you try to price gouge early on, you’re going to shut down the conversation. I think [publishers] should be a little more burdened. I’m not saying free, but there should be measurement metrics that are experimented with.”

Michael Silberman, online general manager for New York Media, said the use of early Web video suggests otherwise. “We saw lots of advertisers being interested in being on any video there was and paying very high rates,” said Silberman, who’s working on developing an iPhone version for NY Media’s New York. “So if it turns out like that, the interest will be there, and they’ll be willing to pay.”