Why news media should not wait to develop iPad apps

The iPad, a touchscreen tablet device developed by Apple, has some observers predicting it will revolutionize journalism. While the revolution is yet to be seen, the iPad could present the viable distribution model that news media are looking for.

The iPad can present text, video, audio, and more in an interactive and mobile environment that makes the device tailor-made for traditional news media. The Associated Press, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Condé Nast, whose publications include Wired Magazine, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, have all expressed an interest in iPad apps and have been working to create content for the medium to debut within a few months of its release. You can view an example of how Wired Magazine plans to develop content for the iPad in the video below.

While it would seem like the iPad, which will be released in early April, is an untested medium, it is actually not. The iPhone and similar smartphones have proved that audiences are willing to pay for content that they can access on their mobile devices. Many news media have focused their iPhone apps on unique interactive content or news headlines, but the iPad provides a space and a better viewing experience for feature-length stories and long-form video, content that many newsrooms are already creating.

Unlike traditional print publications, there are no printing costs associated with the iPad, only the cost of producing quality content and a team of developers and designers to develop the content for the tablet.

The paperless platform means the iPad is also a great medium for startups and independent newsrooms who want to provide content to a measurable audience. The iPad can potentially liberate these organizations from the short-form blogging model that many have followed (usually based on their resources) and create long form stories, video content, and interactive content, the cost of which is supported by readers. And because the audience is paying for the content, they are much more likely to be invested in the stories produced by the organization, whether it is a traditional or non-traditional news outlet.

In addition to the revenue from paid subscriptions, news media can also include advertising in their iPad publications. The experience is, however, much more interactive and immersive than anything currently being done on the web or in print. Advertisements can be interactive, as shown in the video, allowing the user to experience the ad in a less intrusive way. The user can also select the ad and be directed to a web page where they can purchase the product immediately.

Designing and creating a publication for the iPad requires specialized programming skills that are usually beyond the talents of the average journalist, but the potential revenue is worth the investment of hiring a knowledgeable team of programmers familiar with the Apple SDK (Software Development Kit). You can start developing your iPad app by downloading the SDK.

News media waited to develop content for the web and missed the boat. News media waited to develop iPhone apps and are now struggling to push their content through an already crowded marketplace. Traditional media are not known for their desire to experiment, but publications should seize the distribution and revenue opportunities now instead of scrambling to catch up later…again.

Thanks to Priya Ganapati of Wired, on whose presentation this post is based

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