The iPad has the potential to save the magazine industry, may become an important marketing tool for photographers but is a complete waste of time (good for consumers, bad for work).
A lot of ink has been spilled over the anticipation, launch and criticism/joy over the iPad and now that the dust has settled I wanted to offer my own take on the device.
My first thought with the device out to the box was to use it as a way to get work done when not at my desk. I ran into two major problems with this. 1. It’s difficult to carry around because there’s no handle and it doesn’t fit in your grip so well. 2. It sucks to type on and if you spend all day typing emails like most people these days, you will add hours to your work day trying to type on this thing. So, basically it’s worthless for work. I can’t imagine a single photo editor using one and given the fact that most businesses are many years behind in even updating browsers it’s unlikely in a corporate setting it will be used for anything except testing.
Another big issue with using something like this for work is how bad the web surfing is. I don’t find it to be very quick online, the size of the screen compared to the real estate most sites are using causes lots of problems and lack of support for flash makes the online experience full of holes. Now, I really don’t want to debate the flash vs html in the comments here but I think there’s a lot of misinformation about the two. First of all flash is not going anywhere online. Here’s a couple articles that address this (Giz Explains: Why HTML5 Isn’t Going to Save the Internet, The Future of Web Content – HTML5, Flash & Mobile Apps) and most experts seem to agree (“I’m often asked “Will HTML5 replace Flash?” on the Web. The quick answer is no.” – TechCrunch story) that flash cannot be unseated as one of the
standards widely adopted languages on the web.
One point that seems to get everyone fired up is html vs. flash in building websites. I have my own reasons for choosing flash, but I’ve seen horrible and awesome in both so there’s really no point in debating it. Each has its benefits. I will say that flash changed the website viewing experience for photo editors which up until Livebooks started building sites was excruciatingly horrible. I’m on record saying how much I loved flash sites as a photo editor way before I got into building websites. I’ve seen some excellent html sites but the ease at which you can build a site in html leads to many, many more diy’ers creating junk and leading to an overall feeling among photo editors that html sites were low class. One thing worth noting from all the hubbub about the two languages: “few people realize is that while H.264 appears to be an open and free standard, in actuality it is not. It is a standard provided by the MPEG-LA consortsia, and is governed by commercial and IP restrictions, which will in 2014 impose a royalty and license requirement on all users of the technology.” So, there’s more trouble brewing for video down the road.
For Looking At Pictures
The iPad is awesome for thumbing through images. The guardian eyewitness app, which showcases some of the best news photography is an excellent example of this. You scroll through a selection of images with the flip of a finger and can turn the captions on with a single tap. Horizontal images seem to look the best and holding it in the orientation feels natural to me and seems easier to do the swipes and taps.
The big question on everyone’s mind seems to be how can a device that shows off photography this well be used to land jobs. Since I don’t think you will find many PE’s and AB’s using one it’s more likely that a photographer will have one at a meeting or in their kit on set to show additional work. And, I think for showing off multimedia this will become the de facto portfolio as it seems nearly perfect for that. Some people have suggested shipping them around like portfolios and I’m not sure that’s such a great idea. You’ve got to worry about the battery if the thing is accidentally turned on, you’ve got to prepare for people who are technologically inept and I don’t think there’s a way to take over the device and not allow other uses besides looking at the portfolio. The other problem with an iPad as a portfolio is how hard it is for people to change their ways. Someone who is used to great success finding the perfect photographer for a project by calling in books is not going to trust a new method immediately. Also, you’ve got a pretty small screen compared to most books as Zack Seckler over on The FStop points out:
I got in touch with four art buyers at top ad agencies and they all seem to agree that print still offers a superior viewing experience. A glowing screen just doesn’t compare to big beautifully printed images on luxurious paper. If a client is looking through books, deciding to whom to grant a big budget project, a 9″ screen won’t hold up well against rich detailed prints nearly twice it’s size.
Check Zack showing off the image and video capabilities:
For The Magazine Industry
I’m pretty optimistic on the iPad as a savior of sorts for magazines and newspapers. First off, it really is a consumer device. Horrible for work, but awesome for watching videos, looking at images and reading text. It doesn’t hurt that surfing the web is not so great too. In fact a closed environment like this is perfect for publishers (a closed system also prevents content from getting ripped off). And, here’s the thing, this is what magazine people do best, package content. The challenge is whether they can create a workflow and design template that allows them to create stories that flow from print to all the different devices that will soon be available. Dell is building a 5 inch tablet (here), Google has one (here) and European publishers are backing a WePad of sorts (here).
I checked out several magazines on the device and my favorite by a long shot was Time. The Popular Science app has been receiving the most buzz because they set out to redefine how a magazine behaves on the pad and take advantage of the technology but I found myself gravitating towards a traditional magazine experience only enhanced. Time nailed the navigation, you swipe sideways to advance through the issue you swipe up to read more of a story, you rotate the device to activate some of the advertising. The photography looks stunning and the packaging of content is perfect for something like this. The other magazines I checked out on the iPad: Dwell, Outside and the Zinio Reader magazines were a disappointment and amounted to not much more than scanned pages. I’m guessing everyone is cautious to see if the device actually gains traction.
Here’s an overview of the Art Direction by Brad Colbow:
The linchpin to the whole deal for magazines is reach of the device. All of the magazines have been roundly criticized for their pricing which is something I’ve touched on before. It’s sort of like magazine companies saying you have to install a $500 newsstand in your house and then pay them $5 an issue to deliver magazines. It seems absurd to me, but I wonder if someone will break ranks and show how many eyeballs you can attract with pricing. The WePad is looking to bundle with content so you essentially pay for subscriptions to major publishers and the pad comes free. This is the business model that will surely get these things in the hands of lots of people. Of course this all relies on advertisers responding to the traditional method of display advertising which will never be back to the levels it once was. I do think there’s more of an opportunity for consumers to be exposed to advertising in this situation and certainly this kind of advertising has the opportunity to be more interactive and interesting.
The iPad is perfect for those 15 minute to 1 hour interactions you love magazines for. If magazine publishers can figure out an efficient workflow, attractive pricing and the devices can reach critical mass we will have a savior on our hands.