Thursday, October 14, 2010

The medium is the question

by Michael

I was very taken by this article I read on mocoNews.net yesterday. It features an interview with Scott McDonald, SVP of Market Research at Condé Nast, who talks about the results of the surveys of iPad users. Some of the results were a bit surprising: people spend more time with the iPad version of the magazine that a print one; most people leave their iPad at home, making it more of a personal computer than a mobile device; people didn’t understand what in the magazine was interactive or how to use it.

This interests me for several reasons. First, hearing that the device is not a mobile device for most people changes how developers and content providers should be thinking about their material. How you craft your material for someone on the go is very different from what you’d make for someone sitting at home. For instance, it seems that location-based apps or features aren’t as necessary on the iPad, whereas on mobile devices, they’re pretty much required. Travel publishers, it seems would be better off spending their time developing their material for the small screen than the big one. I think that’s actually pretty big news as we all consider what the future holds for “content providers.”

The other part that really stood out was that people didn’t know how to use the interactive features and ads, and they need to be taught how to interact with them. As publishers begin thinking about how to add value to e-books through doohickeys and gizmos, this is something they need to keep in mind. We know that e-book readers are not all techies and kids, and publishers should think very carefully about their audiences as they consider “enhancing” books. I know I’ll be thinking about it as we discuss new avenues for our authors.

4 comments:

  1. This is a very interesting point and well explained. Thanks, Michael! - Stasia

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  2. First, hearing that the device is not a mobile device for most people changes how developers and content providers should be thinking about their material.

    This doesn't actually surprise me that much: based on observing myself and others, I think that most people using laptops don't actually take them out that much. Most people, I suspect, mostly use them at home or at work. This is one reason I find laptops somewhat overrated relative to desktops.

    The second reason I suspect the device is not a really mobile one for most people is that, at $500, the iPad is still too expensive to be casually mobile: if I had and lost one, it would really hurt. Compare that to a standard book, which costs $5 – $20 or so: I don't want to lose it, obviously, but it wouldn't be catastrophic if I did.

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  3. There are plenty of technical people out there, but many of the people I know are searching for simplicity. So many other things in life are just too complicated, and the more complicated a thing becomes, the less likely they are to be attracted to it. It's easier to pick up a book and open it at the bookmark than it is to turn on a device, scroll through menus, adjust for glare, etc.

    Then again, I'm old school. I just got a cell phone this weekend. I didn't WANT one. It was foisted on me. I have a desktop with two monitors. I don't like laptops, no matter how many of my friends have turned in their PCs for a portable one. I doubt I will break down and get a gadget to read my books until a day comes where it's not possible to buy it from a shelf. So -basically- my opinion is pretty darn biased. :-)

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  4. Without conducting a qualitative research study with iPad owners, for me, this article poses more questions than it answer. I could use myself as a case study. Technical problems may be one explanation; I'm having trouble downloading issues from one magazine I take because the instructions for existing subscribers have been so inadequate. I don't know how many people have or will expand what publications they acquire. I did buy the first New Yorker for iPad, a magazine I don't take because it comes so frequently. I'd be happy to subscribe to the magazine if I could choose which issues to download. (I'd recommend buying as much storage capacity as you can afford as it fills up quickly.)

    Another issue regarding mobility is 3G or not 3G. I may have missed where the researchers stratified those with 3G and those without, which makes a big difference. I didn't buy the 3G version and access to WiFi at work has been an obstacle that I've only recently resolved, which caused me to stop taking the iPad to work since my access to WiFi was limited to a short trip on a train.

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