Game, Set and Match?

February 4, 2011

The Daily is a bold move in two ways.

First and foremost it’s price and the strategy behind it. Less than a dollar a week. Nobody expected this to happen. A dollar per issue was the general expectation. This price defines the game for tablet publishing and will be hard to ignore, because consumers will come to see it as the de facto standard. Mr. Murdoch just put another wall on his content, one might say.

The Daily is iPad only. My guess is that web access will dry up, at least after the two weeks of free trials. How this will play out, is hard to predict.

One can argue that this move is just one in a series of well planned and executed movements to work towards a model for paid content. Mr. Murdoch spoke many times on the unsustainable position of publishers when they keep giving away their product for free. And, at least in my humble opinion, right so. High Quality Content is difficult to produce and the makers of  creative works should be compensated.

But one can also argue that the web community will  find ways to hack the content anyway or that news is freely available on the web and therefore there is no need at all for paid dailies. And then there is the broad discussion on the nature of the web (open or closed) and even the predictions on the death of the web. Apps rule, so to speak.

We will see. The user will decide.

One very important rule in launching a new product or service, however comes to my mind. A client of mine always used to tell his people that a new thing has to be faster, better, easier and cheaper than the existing offerings. Seen from this perspective I think it will be Game, Set and Match.


Another Wake Up Call Today?

February 2, 2011

Well, it has been a little over a year that iPad was launched. Anticipated as the starting point for new and turbulent times, it certainly played out that way. The most optimistic forecast was it would sell some 3.000.000 units. It sold 5 times as much. Publishers of magazines and newspapers heralded the multi touch device in advance as the perfect moment for the introduction of paid content. Everyone rushed in, as always.

What observations did I make this year?

First of all, I would like to point out that iPad is only the first of many tablets. That’s a no brainer. There is no room for orders of microchips, screens or components  in the factories in Asia where these things are being made.  I expect many more multi millions of tablets rolling out of these factories the next few years.

The computer started to move away from the desk a while back with the laptop, the web book and the smartphone, but now it is definitely removed from it. The machine is in the living room, on the dining table, the couch and in the bedroom. On the lap, in your hands and even, I noticed, on the road. This has implications for usage, and therefore the design of information and content strategies. Most publishers and designers have not even started thinking about this shift. Let alone what it will mean.

After the initial hype, as always a central element in our industry, we, the people looked at the magazines produced for iPad and were not impressed. OK, you buy the first one, sure. But the second and third? Why should I pay for something new, that’s not new? It’s just a 1 – 1 copy of the paper thing!

The amount of apps sold is declining at enormous speed!

Advertisers pronto payed premium prices to reach the young, affluent and hip. But that’s over. Who is using this and how many exactly? Why pay more to these magazine companies?

Publishers discovered that producing content for iPad multiplied the cost of producing content or at least doubled the amount of time spent by their creative department. To ask for extra budgets in these still troubling economic times is not a very sound starting point for boardroom discussions.

And then there’s this small and often overlooked ‘problem’ of the middle man. The most stupifying thing of the last few months is the discovery and outcry by publishers that Apple wants to be compensated. I mean, think before you jump! Did you really expect this innovative company with this very clear vision on how to enter markets that have been sleeping and ignoring All Things Digital, to help you for nothing? Talk about myopia. Amazing.

Apple looked at markets, ready for innovation and full of sleeping  incumbents, before and took over in a split second. I mean, how could one make a dime in music with mp3, torrents, p2p, copycats? How could anyone think of entering the market for cellphones?

The key is probably that you have to be an outsider to come up with fresh thinking. Insiders look at this teutonic shift from their existing frames.

Apple knows that Content is King again. Look at what’s happening in social with al these people pointing towards and distributing remarkable content snippets! That’s why Apple named Flipboard as the most impressive app, I think.

Apple knows very well what is is doing. They have done it before. They will do it again. Someone like Mr. Murdoch understands this BTW. 

I must say I am eager to find out what his Harry Potter newspaper will do in the market. It is expected to launch today.