Media Execs Weigh in on iPad Launch: Where’s the Print?

Traditional media—particularly the embattled print industry—was conspicuously absent from Apple’s elaborate rollout of the iPad, its highly anticipated tablet computing device.

But publishers, advertisers and analysts remain optimistic that magazines and newspapers will ultimately receive a readership and business boost from the new device, which was unveiled during a press event in San Francisco Calif. on Wednesday (Jan. 27).

Expressing a desire to create a third category between laptop computers and smartphones, Apple CEO Steve Jobs finally revealed specifics on the iPad: it features a 9.7 inch display screen, weighs 1.5 pounds and is a half-inch thick. And despite rumors of prices in the thousand-dollar range, consumers can snag one for as low as $499.

Besides serving as a superior Web-surfing device, Jobs emphasized the iPad’s advanced gaming features, along with its ability to deliver high-definition movies, TV shows and YouTube clips. Plus, the iPad is designed as a tool for buying and reading books; the company has deals with publishers such as Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette.

However, magazines and newspapers did not receive much stage time during Apple’s event on Wednesday, and Apple did not even mention selling print subscriptions in its press release.

As a result, industry insiders expressed both excitement and reservations about the iPad.

CNET editor-in-chief Scott Ard
“I was surprised that there were not a lot of details on the print side side, especially given the speculation. I hope there is a device that can come out with a new revenue stream for publishers, but I don’t think this is that device. The pricing is a little high end. It’ a great device, and I’m sure it will sell, but I see this as more of a high-end fanboy device. One concern I have is the screen—what is it like to read on it for a prolonged period?”

Brenda White, senior vp, publishing activation director, Starcom USA
” It has met my expectations. I think publishers should embrace it and look at it as an opportunity to get content to consumers out there. This is a great opportunity for another revenue stream and engage more consumers into their content. It definitely has more bells and whistles and the experience is more robust than the Kindle and [like] generation e-readers. When I think about the magazine experience, there’s no question it’ll be replicated [here] with the beautiful pictures and resolution. I think magazines will translate well.”

Mark Jannot, editor, Popular Science
“Everything I saw today supports our expectations that this could be the bridge device that makes reading magazines digitally a truly satisfying, and thus commercially viable, experience. Only two things surprised me: First, the shape was a bit squarer than I expected, which makes the distinction between portrait and landscape orientation somewhat less meaningful. And second, Jobs didn’t feature a magazine in his demo, which I hope doesn’t paint our entire industry as media also-rans on this tablet.”

James McQuivey, Forrester analyst
“The iPad is a grownn up iPod Touch. Apple has taken the safe route of offering its existing customers an option that goes beyond today’s iPod Touch in size and capability, but it has not offered a new category of devices that tackles the five to six hours of media we each consume every day. With no integrated social media for sharing photos, recommending books and sharing home video, the iPad misses a big piece of what makes media so powerful. As it stands, a quick, well-structured response from Amazon in the next version of Kindle could easily be a contender here.”

Terry McDonell, editor, Sports Illustrated Group
“What Jobs showed was so close to what we imagined. That made me feel smart. These empowered engineers have empowered publishers. Now, it’s not about turning on the firehose, it’s about creating something that has value.”