iPad, iSaw, iConquered (Perhaps)… Will the “Papery Goodness” of the iPad Cause Publishers to Miss Building in Social Features to Apps?

The iPad is undeniably a sweet little sliver of a new media paradigm. Well… it’s not that new.

I, and a number of people, have been experimenting with presenting and working on a tablet for years (an HP for me). But Apple made it good — or certainly good enough.  And being the geniuses that they are, it seems new to the world — and therefore it IS new to the world.

Traditional print media people  (books, magazines, newspapers) LOVE the iPad… They see themselves in it … and why not? One of the beauties (perhaps a dangerous beauty) of the iPad is that it feels so much like paper. So, in that way, it’s a great transitional technology. It allows very smart “traditional media” people (the paper kind) who didn’t “grock” tech before — at the level that would let them start to free-associate about possibilities and begin to self innovate  —   to start thinking about what they could do. And it excites them.

This is fantastic! But.

A good number of smart traditional media companies are launching straight into iPad apps …  and quite a few are jumping blithely over a set of tech/media innovations that preceded the iPad innovation: And that is the social/sharing aspect of media. Social media/tech is CRUCIAL to building media businesses .. to marketing, branding, product development. It is actually quite a lot more subtle to develop for.

“Porting” print content to the iPad is still very much within the comfortable paradigm of an expert creating content for a market — one-to-many. The iPad media apps (e.g. Flipboard) that were developed fresh by people who cut their media teeth in the social era are fantastic examples of  applications that takes full advantage of the knowledge and innovation-thinking that’s been going on for the last several years — it’s “papery” AND very very social (another good example is this from the Guardian in the UK) .

A number of other applications simply don’t. They have papery goodness… but just aren’t social. So the content ends up in a person hands… and then it just sits there. That reader is an end-node in a traditional one-to-many distribution schema that might appear beautiful on a new beautiful device, but is missing out on a big big part of the media revolution — many-to-many networks. This limits growth — a lot.

We could see a lot of media innovation investment going toward replicating old models on a new screen — because the screen is so compelling (and it is!). I’d like to see the companies investing in this area weave people who really get social media onto their teams. That’ll lead to incredible leaps forward, real innovation.

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