iPad Procrastination

The iPad is the new Walkman.

No, it’s more than that.

The iPad is the new Walkman, TV, newsstand, bookstore, Wii and communication center all in the palm of your hand.

For some reason, traditional media companies either don’t get this or don’t want to believe it. After all, acknowledging that Apple will be hosting their content in the foreseeable future is a scary thought to them.

There is no time to waste in understanding the changes that will have to be made to keep up with – well, your consumers.

They are buying iPads as fast as Apple can make them. Hardly anyone doesn’t want one. It’s a matter of when they get the money. Over three million sold in less than three months and there is no reason to believe this demand will recede any time soon. Keep in mind that Apple has defied the recession and continues to do so with computers, iPods, iPads and iPhones.

How big is the iPad already?

• iPad is Apple’s third largest business in less than one season next to iPhones and Macs.

• The apps that work so well on Apple mobile devices have generated nearly $1.5 billion in sales since their June 2008 launch.

• In less than three months on the market, half of the Fortune 100 companies are either reported to be testing or launching the iPad for service, sales and other business functions.

• The iPad will eventually have competitors although I don’t see anyone overtaking Apple’s dominance in this area (Full disclosure: I am an Apple shareholder). Other iPhone or mobile devices easily work with iPad apps.

So what’s the delay?

Media companies are hanging on to what they’ve got -- what they are familiar with.

As I mentioned earlier, no one in traditional media likes to hand Steve Jobs 30% of their revenue just to get access to his commerce tools. They would rather have the greater expense of owning the towers, transmitters, printing presses, bookstores and what not.

Record labels are particularly bitter and yet Jobs has triumphed and the labels have been made to look like prehistoric operators who have the one thing everyone loves (music), but don’t seem to know how to distribute it to a market that has clearly moved on.

Traditional media companies don’t like to risk moving their content to platforms that they don’t fully understand. If you bought a radio group for billions of dollars, you wouldn’t be so anxious to adapt to the fast growing mobile market while you’re in over your head in debt to pay for the stations.

But there really is no time to waste.

Look to the record labels and do the opposite. They have let Apple break down their albums for easy cherry picking by consumers and yet they don’t understand that the album had died a long time ago. The onset of the CD emboldened record execs into making them think the album would never die.

It has.

Both creatively in some (not all) cases and as a means for consumers to access music.

If media companies, then, are procrastinating on embracing the iPad, here’s how to accelerate the process:

1. Move right now to optimize your non-digital content for the iPad. This will be different than designing it for a computer or laptop and takes some creative thinking, but from now on the litmus test for delivery of content is how does it work on an iPad.

2. Social networking is at the heart of an iPad. Who needs magazines delivered on a handheld device if you can’t talk to the authors directly or communicate with others reading the articles. The feature on digital books that shows you what others are underlining is one of my favorites. Cliff Notes in the digital age.

3. All audio will need video. All video has audio. Both will need text and social networking. This is the Holy Grail of iPadding.

4. New content must be created by traditional media companies separate and apart from what they do at their day jobs. This content – preferably short-form – does not even have to be consistent with what their main business is. For example, if a radio station plays the hits, it can also maintain a sports blog that listeners can access. The deciding factor is monetization.

5. There are three major ways to monetize iPad content in my view – banner ads, event marketing and/or paid subscriptions. That means new ways to look at content creation before you do it. And it means attracting the kind of people who can sell this content not as an add-on but a standalone.

Many interactive opportunities and the revenue they suggest will be missed if the iPad does not become the major focus on every media company. I'm focusing on that right now. While challenging, it presents so much promise and I will share with you my experiences after Inside Music Media – iPad-style is launched this fall.

The iPad is the great liberator from gatekeepers (other than Apple).

In the past, if you wanted to do a show, you needed to find a radio station to broadcast it.

Now, do content on the iPad and you will not need a radio station.

This is not taking anything away from radio or TV when it is local and live. That's a business -- a good one. But this is as well and it can run in tandem with traditional media or it can stand alone.

No one is in your way.

Nothing can stop you but a lack of trust in the mobile future and should that be a problem there is reassuring evidence all around us increasingly living their lives in real time, on the go and connected to each other.

Procrastinating is detrimental to your brand.

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