I was one of the presenters at INMA’s conference on tablet PCs and their impact on the European media consumption.
Here are the five advices I gave to make sure you succeed with a media product on iPad.
1. Make sure you are in the content business, not the newspaper business
Most newspaper editors would love to say they are in the content business, but only the best of them really are. Instead many tend to be stuck by mental limitations arising from looking at what they do as primarily being in the newspaper business.
Am I too harsh? That may be so. But to succeed on new digital platforms you need a fresh outlook of your markets. And that requires realizing what business you are in. This is the cultural prerequisite of succeeding on tablets and other digital platforms.
If you think you are in the newspaper business, your products on iPad and similar platforms primarily will be copies of your print newspaper. It might be nice, but it certainly is not sufficient. However, if your change your thinking to being in the content business, numerous possibilities arise. And you will start creating your content differently.
2. Make sure you are in control of your information structure: Content without metadata has no value
At my employer Aftenposten we have worked hard during the last year to ensure a high-quality feed out of our print content management system, CCI. This proved to be a more difficult task than we anticipated. We found that many newspaper articles lacked sufficient metadata to be reused on a different platform. For instance we had no information about which articles that were related to each other.
I talked to the production director at one of the largest English newspaper recently and realized that they had exactly the same challenge. The same goes for most other newspaper companies I have talked to.
“Producing editorial content for iPad is like going back 15 years in time”, the production director said. He described how they had to do far too much work manually as a result of not having a good feed out of their production system.
Therefore: A well structured XML feed of your content is extremely important if you are to succeed with new digital platforms. Get started right away if you suspect that you do not have it readily available.
3. Make sure that you really offer unique value to your readers
Just offering an application for iPad will not ensure that readers will run out of their way to buy your product. Make sure that what you offer really has some unique value. I have previously written about how Unique Vallue can be either in terms of Unique Content, Unique Convenience, Unique Usefullness, Unique Packaging or Unique Experience.
4. Make sure that you design your iPad product to make full use of the possibilities on the platform
Just replicating your print product will not be sufficient on iPad. That is only the first generation media product on tablets. Users will expect much more. And Apple offers you a lot of exciting storytelling possibilities on their platform, like touching the news, unique navigation, video, graphics, slideshows, etc. Make full use of them to create a compelling experience for your users – worth paying for.
5. Make sure to create compelling and coordinated experiences across platforms and user situations
Many users will consume your content on more than one platform during the day. A user pattern might look like this: The user wake up at around 6:30 AM and quickly looks through the news on his mobile phone. At breakfast he will read his newspaper or use his iPad – while office hours are reserved for the news web site. Commuting home from work he will check the news on the mobile phone again. In the evening he will relax in the sofa enjoying great content on his iPad before checking the latest news on the mobil before going to sleep.
I think media companies will be smart not to only focus their attention on the separate platforms individually, but also how they can create a sticky relationship with the users across platforms. Try to give your paying users benefits in different users situations during the day, not only when they use their iPad, and there are bigger chances that they will stay loyal. One way of doing this could be to offer some kind of syncronization between the platforms. One example is how Amazon’s Kindle platform is syncronized between the Kindle e-reader and different apps for PC, iPhone, Android, Blackberry and iPad.
There is one important prerequisite to be able to do this: You must be in charge of the customer relationship yourself. In practical terms it means that you should have your users registered and logged in at your site to use the iPad app, like what for instance Wall Street Journal is doing.
There are many reasons why leaving all your customer data to Apple is not a good idea. This is one of them.