What My iPad Is Teaching Me

My wife and I waited by the door for the FedEx delivery late last week.

We were expecting our 3G iPads. Birthdays seem to come so quickly but iPads seem to take forever. That’s how we felt.

Of course, I played with WiFi versions of the iPad at the Apple store but never took them home.

Now, I've got one to explore.

I know many of my friends who read me every day are interested in the convergence of technology with sociology so I’d like to share some thoughts prompted by actual iPad use.

And, what the iPad could mean in a year or two.

It was easy for me to set up because I handed it to my wife and she did it. But she told me it was easy.

The Mobile Me part worked fine. No glitches. The device itself was a pleasure to use. As the days went on I began to discover the full potential of the iPad.

Nonetheless, I am beginning to see things that need our attention if we plan to be part of the mobile Internet.

One of my neighbors, Taylor, an extremely bright eight-year old girl has already mastered my iPhone. When she visits, I hand her the phone. She scrolls through the screen and prepares our favorite little game – air hockey (Go Flyers!). Whereas older people tend to carefully move from click to scroll, young people have no fear and whip through it.

She chooses the “insane” option and gets a game of air hockey so wild you have to be fit mentally and physically. I won't be answering the question you're thinking which is -- has an eight-year old ever beaten you in air hockey?

When I was showing her Microsoft Word on my Mac one day, she learned it by capitalizing on the intuitive nature of Apple-based software. I mention an eight-year old for a reason – they will be in college in ten years or less and in the work force quickly.

Keep this market in mind.

I always do.

Using the iPad tells me that web designers and content creators are going to have to do more than just customizing apps to run their sites and programs.

The iPad is a different mindset.

So different in fact, I am changing the redesign of my website that is due to become a paid site this summer in ways I could not have previously predicted.

For example, had I not spent time with the iPad, I would have been inclined to build a real nice looking website for InsideMusicMedia.com – slick and colorful, easy to read and attractive.

But ...

But I contacted the designer and said, “we have to build this site optimized for the iPad – more visual, more intuitive, less cluttered, with the ten-inch screen in mind”.

In other words, simply redesigning a website for the computer is to miss the market that is developing. It’s like radio trying to cram terrestrial audio onto a stream and expect that consumers will listen to it the way we used to listen to a radio.

That brings me to music.

The current software – soon to change – on iPad does not allow for multitasking. Therefore, I wanted to play Pandora in the background while I was doing some mindless tasks and surfing the web, but currently, as with the iPhone, that is not possible.

Before the year is out, consumers will be able to enjoy music while they work and as good as this news seems for radio owners, it comes with new-age challenges.

For example:

1. Commercials in the background will either distract or at the very best be ignored as iPad users pour their attention into other things.

2. Content in the future will have to be designed to be used on-demand by consumers. That is, they will have to say, I want to enjoy this and will pay attention to it – somewhat like YouTube. I don’t put YouTube on in the background. I pay attention.

3. Shorter content will be warranted although not always mandated.

My friend Dick Carr whose Big Bands Ballads and Blues will one day be available to mobile Internet users (I hope!) will now be what I call destination listening.

And that’s going to be a big field.

Dave & Geri, the Grand Rapids morning team that recaptured their audience after they were set free by their radio employers, are also destination listening.

That’s good.

Very good.

It means they are compelling enough that local fans will want to choose to spend some of their valuable time with Dave & Geri.

But there’s more.

The iPad can and will do for radio content providers what the bookstore feature will do for reading. Digital publishers will offer print that is enhanced by video, pictures, links and even connections to other readers. Making only the text of books on this device is to leave out great multimedia potential.

Same for radio content providers.

And let me mention that when I say radio content providers I am not talking about anyone I know in this industry – yet.

However, I remain hopeful.

Repurposing talent or terrestrial content for mobile use is a lame game. It is not up to the exciting potential of a device such as the iPad.

Therefore, when radio people finally get into the mobile Internet, they will have to enhance their podcasts with video. Have content available with pictures or links. Have social networking access built in.

Maybe because I am launching my new project soon all of this hits me as a sobering message.

Study the iPad before making content decisions. Apple sold a million iPads in the first month that they were available. Rupert Murdoch said yesterday the iPad will lead to a revolution in media content -- read more here.

I know, I am an Apple shareholder and they certainly don’t need me to drum up business. But hold this thing in your hands. See why a calendar or to-do list is fun and addictive on an iPad where it can be mundane on a computer. See why over-the-air radio has to be rebuilt as on-demand content.

Fall asleep listening to audio or reading the next morning’s New York Times. Do it all – stay connected, be informed, get organized and be entertained on one device.

Radio can’t be radio on an iPad. It has to be more.

In spite of what industry executives would like to think -- mobile devices like iPads, iPhones, iPods and smartphones are not radios in the sense of a Walkman.

More context, more information, more links.

More ability of the user to become "the program director" and choose content.

Shorter content. Richer content.

Compelling and addictive.

We used to think radio got great ratings when it played more music.

Now, radio is going to have to play more media to attract attention.

If you’re interested, I’ll share observations I am learning along the way but one thing is for sure – the iPad is the first of its genre that will force content providers to rethink their visual, contextual and social approach to information and entertainment.

The great media convergence everyone predicted fifteen years ago never happened.

We got consolidation instead -- and that sure wasn't convergence.

What we’re seeing now in devices like the iPad – is the convergence of technology and sociology. The melding of the human condition and the mothers of invention, so to speak.

The old Apple motto that launched the MacIntosh into the consumers mindset was Think Different.

I am suggesting, with the iPad and mobile Internet revolution developing that phrase should become Rethink Different.

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