The Print and iPad Revolution

Geoffrey Precourt
Warc

Conventions - much like magazines - have a considerable lead time. And the problem with both enterprises is that stuff can happen between sign off and public presentation.

When the planners for the 2010 Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) put their program to bed, a Wednesday-morning session carried the header "The E-volution of New Print". The related body copy promised "An online experience must evoke an emotion and create an addiction. iPads and other e-readers have propelled 'print' into the 21st century with exciting new ways to surprise and delight readers."

The "stuff" that happened between the end of the programming committee's meeting and the assembly of 600-plus ARF attendees was that the iPad blew through all sales expectations. In slightly more than 100 days since the product became available for pre-order, Apple sold more than 3 million units - a 200,000 per week pace that would project to 8.5 million by the end of 2010.

The idea of an "E-volution" thus suddenly seemed quaint … and antiquated. The iPad's success, in effect, had initiated a revolution in the way readers consumed content - particularly what has been called "the printed word" ever since ink hit paper.

Betsy Frank, the Time Inc. chief research and insights officer who had fought so valiantly to find a primetime spot for magazines on the ARF Audience Measurement agenda, took to the Millennium Hotel Hudson Theater stage and announced, "It's about the iPad."

And it was the impact of Apple's tablet that was the topic of discussion for a panel of leading industry figures. It included agency people such as David Link, co-founder/creative director, The Wonderfactory, and Jackie Seligman, svp/director of print services, Universal McCann.

They were joined by print media thought leaders and innovators such as Stella Beaumont, director, international and business development, of the UK's Guardian News & Media, and Mark Golin, editor, People.com. This group was completed by a marketing researcher whose firm had had the temerity to annoy Apple's ceo Steve Jobs, in the form of Greg Yardley, vp/products, Flurry Analytics.

Frank specifically challenged the panelists with the query, "Is the iPad the evolution of the digital landscape and the smart phone or the next stage in the magazine business?"

David Link, co-founder/creative director, The Wonderfactory

Link described his agency as "primarily interactive" with a concentration on mobile. "In the past year, 60 percent of our work has been on app development," he added. In late 2009, the Wonderfactory caught the attention of the larger print media world when it developed a tablet prototype for Sports Illustrated that offered one of the first fully rendered digital executions of the potential of the iPad concept.

One aspect of the future of digital magazines, Lapp told the ARF, is "a mix of live web content as well as the weekly (or monthly) monthly content and something brand new. Whatever it is, it won't be a replacement for paper. But we'll have to figure out the right mix of content."

For advertisers, the iPad also offers a chance to "get rid of banners." This is an opportunity marketers should welcome, Lapp suggested, in a digital universe where "less than a 1-percent clickthrough is a success." With the new flexibility in format, however, comes the challenge of "how to become more of a service and what to offer with your marketing message."

From a design and creative perspective, Link continued, "the iPad could be a revolution. Websites today have so much in common with each other. And there's been less innovation, simply because it's become hard to improve over [the progress of] the last 15 years. Big companies have been afraid to try something different. The iPad offers a different landscape."

Some of the "big" properties that the Wonderfactory is working on at present include tablet editions of People, Time and a new iteration for Sports Illustrated. And that experience has given him an idea of what the next generation of magazine factories will look like: "Working with a series of ten screens, just like a stockbroker."

But with the data that publishers and editors will have on those screens "you won't have to wait for research groups to comment every week or every month. You'll have the creative tools right there to change out advertisements instantly and to refine content."

One "problem" for publishers is that advertisers seem to be so anxious to participate in iPad publishing experiences that "they'd had to create extra [content] pages to allow for the extra advertising" - a maneuver Link said he did not support. "They should keep the content curated as they'd planned it and charge the advertisers more," he said.

Jackie Seligman, svp/director of print services, Universal McCann

"Print is not dead. And the iPad is not going to replace magazines. It's going to enhance them," Seligman announced. To do its job well, he added, tablets "have to bring to them a different experience. It can't just be a digital replica of a magazine ad." But, if that effort succeeds, the iPad "could grow the audiences of magazines … Readers will feel compelled to go there, but they'll also want to read the magazine."

Stella Beaumont, director/international and business development, Guardian News & Media

The "Guardian Eyewitness" was the equivalent of an early adopter of the iPad app and one of the first media-related properties made available on the device.

The program steers away from the print legacy of the Guardian and, instead, focuses on another of the paper's strengths: its photography. Bright, bold images reflect the news as it changes daily. And app partner Canon offers readers a pull-down box explaining the details - the camera settings, the lens speed, and other data - that contributed to the excellence of these images.

"We understood the idea of the app but we knew little about it," said Beaumont. "But we did know that it had to be visually impressive. And, because it wasn't a text-based app, but rather an app about the photo element of the Guardian, it played to the visual strengths of the [iPad] medium."

Should other media properties rush to find their own iPad niche? "It's okay to wait," Beaumont advised. "In fact, it's probably a good idea … [until we find out] what the intrinsic benefits of this medium are."

And, for that to happen "we need data - impressions, time spent on a page, the currency to negotiate buy. The assumption is that [the metric will be] impression based. But we don't have data to make decisions. It's all still in R&D. Ultimately, we want to know how long they spend on a site - that it's not just about downloading an app, but that readers are involved in advertising, that they're clicking through."

And, she added, iPad adjustment is much the same as "how we approached the early days of the web. There was audience research you needed from the publisher's point of view."

One hint that suggested Apple had figured out how to tap into consumer interest came with a Guardian iPhone experiment. There were some 150,000 iPhone apps in circulation and, on one day, the Guardian invited each one of those users to participate in a survey. "As a piece of consumer insight, it was an astounding experience. Ten thousand people responded. It was amazing that they'd volunteered to take part in the research."

Beaumont said that the sample might have been skewed to likely participants - after all, iPhone app dowloaders were younger and more affluent than a wider audience. "But, we found that they really wanted to [work] with our publishers. And that was encouraging from the consumer-insight point of view."

Mark Golin, Editor, People.com

"The iPad is revolutionary, I really think it is," he said. And it was adoration at first sight: "I realize that size had been refined to offer something with a unified feel."

And that, he said, was appropriate: "It was one device that can do everything," unlike the iPhone, which had strong consumer equity "but was not the greatest device to read on. By contrast, the iPad is great deliver consumer media work on. It's light and easy to carry about."

Does the new technology "change everything? Will it save magazines?" Golin offered a rhetorical response that strongly hinted at "yes" as an answer to both questions: "What's a magazine? A collection of edited content. Whether it's on paper or on a screen is immaterial."

Lest any marketers become too enthused about the iPad revolution, Golin issued a warning. "I remember when the podcast phase [of digital media] flooded market. In the end, there were very few that did significantly well. And they'd sheepishly admit to only 3,000 or 4,000 people."

The lesson: "We make mistakes where we don't recognize the platform and tailor things to it. I'm not so sure if an exact reproduction of a magazine is what people want to consume." iPad content, he suggested, "has to be something different."

As an editor trained in the discipline of the newspaper, "I'm most curious about how we'll track pages - how will we know what people are looking at: And for how long? How will they use it? Will the experience describe a magazine experience?"

Some of the answers, he added, will come after exploration about format, about how much content readers will want. "Which bells and whistles will work with consumers? Which ones will they sort of tolerate? And which ones will overwhelm them and become less of a well executed experience and more of a death march?"

Greg Yardley, vp/products, Flurry Analytics, San Francisco

The message to iPhone applications developers sent out by Apple was simple: "The use of third-party software in Your Application to collect and send Device Data to a third party for processing or analysis is expressly prohibited."

It was an update in the contract Apple provides to its developers. Although the target initially wasn't identified, Steve Jobs soon went public with his wrath: "One day we read in the paper that a company called Flurry Analytics has detected that we have some new iPhone and other tablet devices that we're using on our campus. We thought 'What the hell?'"

Flurry had only done its homework late last year, collecting data that pointed to the existence of 50 new gadgets under development at Apple - a spate of activity that pointed to imminent, but as then unannounced, launch of the iPad.

The copy that so infuriated Jobs read as follows: "Using Flurry Analytics, [we have] identified approximately 50 devices that match the characteristics of Apple's rumored tablet device. Because Flurry could reliably 'place' these devices geographically on Apple's Cupertino campus, we have a fair level of confidence that we are observing a group of pre-release tablets in testing … Apple appears to be going through its cycle of testing and polish, which is expected from any hardware or software company as it nears launch."

Greg Yardley told the ARF Audience Measurement audience that he'd had a "very bad month" after Job's assault, but was feeling more optimistic after Apple and the iPad had overcome its opening-night jitters: "You reach a point where quantity switches to quality. In a couple of years, most desirable audiences will have one of these devices."

"In that sense, it truly is revolutionary." And the change as a business proposition becomes even more intriguing, he said, with the observation, "We've seen a propensity for people to pay for digital content in iPhone and on their iPad that we have not seen online."

And, he said, the success of the devices will lead Apple to soften its stance on analytics: "Audience measurement is not understood by platform developers." As Apple begins to discover more about success - about "why the iPad exists and what it is used for, I believe the audience-measurement tools will reappear … Privacy is a very big issue, but I'm confident the tools will be available."

Even though Flurry accurately predicted the arrival of the iPad, he was "gob smacked" by its popularity, "particularly by [reader] retention and the length of use as compared to smart phones.'" Five minutes of "garbage attention" paled in comparison to newspapers and magazines that were getting a half hour of usage on the iPad. "For smartphones, people are hard to get and hard to keep … the iPad will be a very good retention [vehicle for publishers] who cone to table with regularly updated content."

One difference Flurry has already spotted is in consumer behavior. iPad owners use their apps less often. But when they do, they tend to stay engaged for longer periods of time. But more specific data - "understanding audience demographics, gender, age groups, who's interacting with advertisers" - will come as the iPad analytical database grows deeper.