From tablet to tabloid, have we entered the Splinternet age? Newspaper readership down, even online, and 3 in 4 readers say they won’t pay the toll.
A week has passed since the Apple tablet hype-cycle hit full swing, we thought it would be a good time to catch our breath and take stock of what Steve Jobs’ latest product vision really is…could be….will be… and most importantly, won’t be when it’s officially available to consumers in March.
Let’s start with what the iPad won’t be. I won’t be a magic panacea to save the traditional media industry. Also, it won’t the single, indispensable, all-knowing electronic device that consumers carry around with them 24/7. And the iPad won’t be the amazing unifying technology that ties together all things Web.
“You ain’t strapping this thing to your shorts as you work out,” quipped David Pogue of the New York Times. “Will people really want to hold this device, other than on an airplane, while they watch TV and movies? However, the tablet might be the perfect breakfast table companion. You can control it with one hand and don’t have to fiddle with a keyboard.” Apple haters can also visit Gizmodo for an extensive look at “Things that Suck about the iPad”.
Is Apple’s tablet awesome? Wall Street Journal’s Walter Mossberg likened it to “holding the Internet in your hand,” and gave the tablet kudos for its affordability and generous battery life (see video for more). But, not everyone’s in love with the iPad, especially those whose business models must co-exist with it or fight against it in today’s era of co-opetition.
In a blog post late last week, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) head, Randall Rothenberg, declared the new Apple tablet a threat to advertising and called it the technology industry’s latest attempt to "semi-privatize" the Web. Forrester Research analyst, Josh Bernoff, observed that all forms of media could become “gated intranets -- with significant implications for marketers, media and agencies."
Naysayers like Rothenberg have a problem with the iPad’s lack of support for Adobe Flash, a key technology for online display advertising. Many marketers and ad executives also cited the iPad's lack of Flash as a drawback. But, they welcomed the device's larger screen size which many think will kick start the long awaited explosion of mobile marketing. In case you missed it, Online Media Daily’s Mark Walsh provided a useful lens on how the iPad’s introduction will impact marketers and ad agency honchos.
While IAB’s Rothenberg argues for a "supply chain détent" in which device makers join together to adopt consistent standards that allow the advertising and marketing to flourish. Walsh opines that the problem with the Internet been too much ad inventory, not too little. Amen to that.
Blogger, David Koretz finds it hypocritical that “the proposed solution to publishers invading consumers' privacy is to have those very same publishers advertise to them about how to protect it.” Koretz thinks it’s ridiculous for publishers – who profit by selling user attention and user information -- to be tasked with protecting the privacy of those very same users.”
Forrester Research’s Bernoff, thinks new technologies like the iPad are dividing, rather than unifying the web: “each new device has its own ad networks, format, and technology. Each new social site has its login and many hide content from search engines.”
Bernoff and other observers lament that what historically made the Web (and Web marketing) magic was the fact that everything was in a compatible format. Using Any browser, any computer, any connection, you see pretty much the same thing. As Bernoff notes: “Now with iPhones, Androids, Kindles, Tablets, and TVs connecting to the Web, that's not true. Your site may not work right on these devices, especially if it includes flash or assumes mouse-based navigation. Apps that work on the iPhone don't work on the Android. Widgets for FiOS TV don't work anywhere else. Meanwhile, more and more of the interesting stuff on the Web is hidden behind a login and password. Major newspapers want to put more and more of their content behind a pay (or registered user) wall and even Facebook applications will not work anywhere else and Google can't search it.”
Blogger, Steve Woodruff, observed that the time it takes to go from “thought to output to audience engagement is so short now with new media development tools, that it makes sense to create ‘splintered’ media that will more optimally work for different audiences and platforms.”
A recent post from Dan Millbank pointed out that having one venue or medium for content never made any sense. “Think about watching TV on one channel or having to use an AT&T telephone for all communication,” wrote Millbank. “That's pretty much the way it was only 20 years ago. Options are good, freedom of choice is good. It's hard on publishers, but hey, get off your butts and publish to the channels if you want to be seen.”
Technology marketers should take seriously consumers like “Christopher” who commented on Bernoff’s “Splinternet” piece that “the threat of consumers voting with their dollar for ‘splinternet’-type devices/platforms is real. The proprietary platforms will be left behind as the collective mind and manpower of the incredibly fruitful open-source community continue to make generational leaps in tech and UI improvement. I really want a Kindle, but will probably go for the Sony Daily Edition reader because it's more open and plays well with others. I have to keep in mind that my dollars are votes for what I believe in. I hope others out there do that, too.”
A respondent named Andre fired a warning shot at advertisers and media owners in the wake of the Apple tablet’s introduction: “If content producers and advertisers think that consumers are going to download and/or install whatever is required to view their content, please think again. It will not happen. And even if it did, it will only create an unstable computing environment for users when all these apps start conflicting with one another.”
“Standards are great, but they can't make a 3-inch iPhone behave like a 12-inch computer,” quipped Bernoff. “Marketers are going to be living in many different interactive worlds. Standards will help, but when Apple, Facebook, and Google own platforms, you have to live in their environments if you like the audiences that use those platforms.”
Daily newspaper reading down to two in five adults, even online
Just as more and more daily newspapers are poised to follow Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and the New York Times into the paid content arena, a new Adweek Media/Harris Poll found that just two in five U.S. adults (43%) say they read a daily newspaper, either online or in print almost every day. Just over seven in ten Americans (72%) say they read one at least once a week while 81 percent read a daily newspaper at least once a month. One in ten adults (10%) say they never read a daily newspaper. Scary stuff. Harris survey is based on responses of 2,136 U.S. adults surveyed online between December 14 and 16, 2009 by Harris Interactive
One reason for the dying of the daily newspaper, says the report, is the aging of the daily readership. Almost two-thirds of those aged 55 and older say they still read a daily newspaper almost every day. The younger one is, however, the less often they read newspapers. But less than one quarter of those aged 18-34 say they read a newspaper almost every day while 17% in this age group say they never read a daily newspaper.
Declining readership habits on top of a prolonged advertising slump has pushed many newspapers to explore charging readers for all or some of their articles online. This model probably won’t fly as 77 percent of online adults said they would not be willing to pay anything to read a newspaper's content online. While some are willing to pay, only five percent would pay more than $10 a month.
We’re clearly in a time-shifting, 4-screen media environment (TV, Web, Mobile and Tablet) in which the reader/consumer/gamer is engaging with your offering (and brand) on their terms -- not yours. If you’re good, relevant and deliver on what you promise, then you’ll continue to make money and retain customers regardless of the delivery platform. If not, you’ll be punished at high speed and on multiple fronts.