Flite's Guest Blogger series features the industry's top thought-leaders to share insights on display advertising, agile marketing, and innovation.
David Rozzi is the Director of Digital Projects at The New York Post.
With the advent of the iPad and the myriad new tablet devices that have come onto the market, publishers have flocked to the tablet platform.
They see tablets as a golden opportunity, an exploding new space to increase the footprint of their brands to both current and new readers.
From a content perspective, tablets allow publishers to provide relevance in new ways, through slideshows and video galleries, interactive graphs and photos, pop ups and hotspots, etc. From an advertising perspective, tablets provide advertisers with more attractive animated ads, the ability to collect metrics, and interact with customers via surveys, links, and shopper units.
Publishers are taking full advantage of marketing apps to attract new readers and the features of digital advertising. This is partly because third party vendors provide products that support these initiatives and partly because the marketing/advertising aspects provide obvious (and quantifiable) vehicles with which to increase revenue. With that said, however, the way publishers display content is still catching up in terms of fully utilizing the technology the tablets offer.
Of course, publishers are taking advantage of the technology in terms of content layout. If you ask anyone in the industry today, they’ll tell you about the new ways they are presenting content via slideshows, surfacing popular shared articles, providing hotspots, etc. They’ll provide reasons for having chosen native vs. HTML5 and which presents the best options, given their resources, workflow, deadlines and content management system to give their readers an optimal digital experience. There’s no doubt that they are, but there is still a ways to go.
A cursory look at all the newspapers being published today on tablets reveals highly templated formats that essentially look the same each day. One could argue that this is a good thing; stories are treated fairly evenly, with the exception of ordering and a few larger headlines and real estate. Also the tablet offers less real estate than the printed page (especially so for seven inch devices, which may become ubiquitous by the end of 2013) and so with stories in tiny boxes, a maximum number of stories can be placed on the “page” despite the smaller real estate. To be clear, I’m specifically referring to story and page layout -- not navigation, which publishers have figured out quite well.
There is no doubt that the tablet is a major platform for newspaper publishing going forward, if not the future itself, so publishers will need to provide more design-intense layouts as they go forward. Currently, comparing most newspapers to their tablet counterpart is, ironically, like looking into newspapers of the past, with stories simply lined up one after the other.
It isn’t quite like going from mp3 to LP, but there is certainly a loss of richness. Part of this is to be expected. Publishers are starting over in a sense, and they have to rethink the space, not to mention do it in conjunction with all the other features the platform affords.
One can argue that websites simply deliver the news and people are fine with that, but we know differently. All the design aspects of newspaper content provide an enriched experience that makes the difference between a subscriber and someone who is satisfied with occasionally dropping by. Part of the reason that these design elements grew over time in print was due to the print platform’s technological weaknesses, but that was only a part of it. In time publishers learned how to use these tools to great effect and to provide an enhanced reading experience. So to suggest that newspapers on tablets begin from a point that makes little use of hundreds of years of design solutions is like building a boat first and then rethinking the technology behind the rudder or the sail. Certain things work for a reason -- callouts, larger fonts, sidebars, illustrations, infographics -- and this is what publishers must continue to strive to do as they persist to move the tablet experience into the future.
Because the technology is so conducive to making content available -- by allowing publishers to flow existing digital feeds into the tablet templates -- publishers must force themselves to embrace its possibilities rather than cater to its current limitations. Normally it would be silly to suggest that innovators need to be prodded to use new technology, but in this case the irony is that it’s the very technology that makes for possibilities that also entices one to forgo using it. Fortunately publishers are forging ahead, and as such, this is going to be an exciting time to read newspapers (again).