Shifting Gears
Bill Miller Leaves Digium

The iPad Will Do For Publishing What The iPod Did For Music and Video

Before there was the iPod there were MP3 players. Before there was the iPhone there have been mobile phones. And before the iPad comes along people will say there was the Kindle and other eBook readers. And, just like the former, the latter will be thought of nicely, but not embraced the way the iPad will be by the industry that has the most to gain, but will first look at it and say "we have the most to lose." That industry is the traditional publishing world of books, magazines and newspapers. And that group will make all kinds of noise, with more veteran executives saying things like "over my dead body."

With the announcement today from CondeNast, and how they're embracing the iPad, we see the first, of what will be a series of publishers who recognize that if they don't change their ways of delivering content, and what they deliver, they know they will be going down the same precipitous slope that the record labels, like Terra Firma are sliding down faster than they can dig in and entrench for the next wave of how music and video are consumed. You see, the iPad is a mixed-mode, multimedia and mixed media device. That means a whole new way of authoring content, producing it and delivering it are coming, all surrounded by interactive (both realtime and time delayed) communications by communities. We will see all kinds of new "mashups" including those that are one to one, one to group, group to group participation around the new content, delivered in a way that will live up to all the "phenomenal" and "amazing" adjectives tossed out by his Jobliness, Steve Jobs back in January.

This also means that those real-time communications messages, as well as the content they include, and how they are actually delivered, will change too. For example, I won't just have a Skype or Gizmo chat or call with one person. I'll have a group call that stems from comments made on Twitter (can you spell Phweet) inside Mashable (have you seen what they are doing inside Google's Buzz?) or as part of a Google Wave (and you wonder what Eric Schmidt was thinking about in all those board meetings at Apple--it wasn't hardware.) These real-time threaded conversations will quickly go to real time voice calls using Skype and GoogleVoice (imagine that inside Buzz and Wave) or better yet, just as the gaming world has taken to Voxygen (an agency client) whose development efforts with Blabbelon we'll see all kinds of new ways that voice and collaboration services begin to interact with the multimedia delivered via the iPad.

Media companies will thus need to be more understanding of what telecommunications is, and how its not only the new ways the content is delivered, for they will have to become more aware of what's possible and how to monetize it from both the consumers AND the advertisers. One company which is clearly grasping the need for the pipe is Cablevision, which via their cable, High Speed Internet and now public WiFi cloud has clearly grasped the most important aspect of what this all will mean in their world first. Distribution.

Right behind them is Comcast, which is making similar moves but albeit more slowly and is likely farther out, but because of sheer mass, could easily go from their 4G and Business sector pursuits and quickly deploy public WiFi just like Cablevision. Unfortunately, the third company in cable which could have done very well here, TimeWarner--because of their publishing expertise, holdings in video, music and print, as well as via AOL and their own publishing relationships that goes back decades with Appleh ave over the past two years shown how much they fail to grasp the obvious, having spun out their cable and AOL properties. Talk about being premature. They came and went so fast and so early that no one enjoyed the screwing.

The other longterm winner will be at retail and that will be WalMart which over the past few years has been gaining an understanding and buying up smart teams, and hiring the kind of people which understand new media. Music and video sales are already declining at retail. So too are books and magazines. By seeing the future in digital, multimedia content and figuring out how to own the source material (or at least have rights to it) then be able to sell it (not just monetize it) the retail giant will be in a position to dominate along side Apple.

All this means that what we've seen before in eBook readers, is nothing like what we'll see from the iPad as to its effect on a targeted industry---publishing. No one should be surprised and no one should try to stop progress. Instead the publishers of today should wake up, smell the coffee and find creative ways to work with Apple, not fight the battle that they can't win.

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