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I recently digested this assessment of news and publishing survey data concerning tablets and I think it’s a really good overview of where the industry is today and likely to be heading. I hope the newspaper industry is paying attention.

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Read the entire report (Where do tablets fit in your news organization’s future?) for a comprehensive look and this work.

Roger Fidler, author of the report, provides some excellent recommendations for news organizations to consider. This one is particularly thoughtful.

Newspaper publishers need to get media tablets in the hands of their editorial, advertising, circulation and marketing staffs as soon as possible. Media tablets are highly personal devices, so sharing a couple devices in the office won’t help much. Providing incentives for employees to purchase and use media tablets at home as well as at work could prove to be a good investment for publishers. Reporters and photographers could use them for research and to file stories and images from remote locations. The ad sales staff also could use media tablets on sales calls to preview ad campaigns and even place orders remotely.

I’ve been interviewed by some very successful news organizations where the writers must check out an iPad from a media center. DOH!!! Seriously? How can anyone truly understand iPad without allowing it to impact your work and personal life from every angle? Roger understands why it’s important for your organization to experience the iPad, not just use it.

Possibly a Bias in the Study

This conclusion is likely to be biased.

“In the 2010 RJI survey, more than nine out of 10 respondents said they were either very likely (72%) or somewhat likely (21%) to use a newspaper’s app for reading news and feature stories as opposed to using a Web browser to navigate the newspaper’s website.”

The conclusion probably has little to do with the browser and far more influenced by the UX (user experience). I’m confident that news consumers would be largely indifferent to browser versus apps if the user experience were approximately the same. By simply asking this question in the way the conclusions are stated, they have almost certainly influenced the outcome.

At the outset, websites are typically not sensitized to mobile contexts, nor are they supportive of touch interfaces. Furthermore, most people don’t want to read news on a website with a desktop computer. The study has stacked the deck against the idea of reading news on a website.

HTML5 and Content Publishing

Roger touches on the technical implementation strategy of using HTML5 for news and publishing apps. HTML5 is an important aspect concerning the future of content distribution and market reach in the coming decade and beyond. However, this topic deserves much deeper introspection and counseling.

Newspapers and news organizations need to monitor the development of new mobile websites based on HTML5 and other emerging online technologies. With HTML5, products that closely mimic tablet apps can be displayed on multiple platforms.

While somewhat self-serving, organizations should engage professionals that understand the nuances of app development strategies available and hire them to provide technical briefings from time-to-time. The pace of development and the richness of opportunities is so rapid that a week doesn’t pass by without a significant announcement concerning approaches to publishing news on tablets and mobile devices. The latest such gem to emerge to meet mobile publishing demands is iBuildApp, a content publishing platform that seems ideal for news organizations and certainly for developing early experience prototypes.

Should publishers consider making their content available to televisions? There are indications that they should; the convergence of entertainment with information is broadly understood and gaining momentum. If you believe this, Joshfire might be another platform worth looking into.

One last ding for Roger’s paper. He said:

“The best apps tend to start relatively simple and then continuously evolve.”

Not true. The best [mobile] apps start out as elegant, simple solutions, and remain elegant and simple. Apps that attempt to be everything to everyone, typically fail because consumers want simplicity and they understand that mobile processes and tasks are best achieved when the app focuses on getting one thing accomplished. This has launched Apple’s favorite tag line into pop-culture status.

There’s an App for That.

And by “that” they mean one idea; one task; designed to get the job done – no more, no less. The more it tries to do for you, the less likely it will be regarded as a great app. Historically, the term applications represents the monolithic view of desktop computing. Users don’t want monolithic-anything on their smart mobile devices – even iPads.

Apps are not applications. Just sayin’ …

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