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.”

Baba Shetty, chief media officer at Hill, Holliday
“Apple flaunts the fact that iPad doesn’t run Flash (missing plug-in icon readily apparent during the demo), the iPad is single-mindedly about content consumption (no camera, less-than-ideal keyboard setup) and Apple just bought mobile ad company Quattro Wireless. Apple wants to create and then own the world’s best mobile marketing platform.”

Barry Lowenthal, president, The Media Kitchen
“It almost seems too good to be true. I’m dying to touch one. I love the way Jobs is talking about Apple as a mobile device company. It’s true and it’s brilliant positioning. It certainly delivers on my expectations. It’s going to give publishers another important distribution channel. I’m very curious to learn how Apple is going to charge for content.”

Jeanniey Mullen, global CMO, Zinio
“The iPad is a fantastic device that, much like the iPhone and iPod Touch, offers significant opportunities for magazine publishers to expand their use occasions and optimize the reading experience for people on the go. One thing is for sure: this new device drives enthusiasm and excitement for continued collaboration with magazine and book publishers for optimizing the reading experience.”

Sarah Chubb, president of Condé Nast Digital

“We have great respect for Apple’s product innovation, and believe that the iPad will speak to our customer base.  We have an early group of magazines we hope to make available for the platform as close to Apple’s product launch as possible. We are at the start of a company-wide initiative: we see all of our magazines available on this kind of platform eventually.”

Peer Schneider, senior vp of content publishing at IGN Entertainment

“It is difficult to tell how big a gaming device this will be, but the fact that you can play iPhone games is a big plus. You are not starting from scratch. We are really excited about the potential for games developed specifically for the device. The larger touch screen makes things possible that you can’t do on an iPhone. As a publisher we are absolutely thinking about how to approach it.”

Scott R. Singer, managing director, of the investment bank Bank Street
“I don’t think it surprises me [that print was left out]. Time Inc. is working in a consortium on an [e-reading] device. Others are working on other devices. They know full well that they need to make it easier for subscriptions to be made and renewed. Apple likely reached out to some publishers and got interest and feedback from a few…while print may have been absent, it’s not a sector they would want to ignore.”

The Internet was almost shut to a standstill. That is a compelling statement. Every major news site reporting on this was slow. That’s not just from the business community. That’s consumers. This is the difference that Apple has successfully achieved…the consumers of their products are advocates and salespeople.

“Those people could revitalize the print industry. They already did it with music and video.”