What Radio Should Be Doing on the iPad

Okay, we’ve talked about the future of the iPad for years now. That’s right, I told you, my readers, it was on the way over a year before it was introduced by Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Now on to what radio, the record business, publishing and TV should be strategizing.

First, this quote from The Economist that I think sets the stage:

“THE advertisement for Newsday’s iPad application starts blithely enough. A man in a shirt and tie sits in the kitchen, reading the New York newspaper on his tablet computer. He turns the device on its side and watches the live feed from a traffic camera. Then a fly lands on the table. The man quickly raises the iPad and smashes it down, shattering the glass. The ad implies that the iPad is superior to old-fashioned print in all sorts of ways, just not every way. It is a joke—but also a good summary of how newspaper and magazine outfits have come to feel about Apple’s product in the eight months since it was unveiled”.

It hasn’t even been a year since Apple’s iPad has been in the hands of consumers with so many options and already the iPad promises to be the content delivery system of the future with all its advantages and a few disadvantages. Some analysts estimate that over 20 million iPads will be sold in 2011 alone.

You’ll see the expected ego fight between media titans and Steve Jobs. I’m betting Jobs will out maneuver them. He just knows what works with this new generation -- not that his ego is any smaller.

Sports Illustrated got in early with impressive graphics.

You’ve all heard the story of Wired selling 24,000 paid apps at $5 a piece the first time it tried paid subscriptions.

But as The Economist points out, Time is starting to hold back content from its free website. This is the sign of a confused plan going forward.

HBO is going to try “TV Anywhere”. Their own Hulu. It won't work.

Nor will individual sites by TV networks or content producers who want to control the delivery system. It would be as if a TV network could have previously aired content only over its own televisions. Without diversity from -- yes, competition -- that model would never have worked.

Rupert Murdoch wants pay walls up even on local newspapers that aren’t very compelling, addictive and unique. He's laying an egg with that one.

Don’t even go where The New York Times is going in January – a metering system that will punish readers of The Times who read a lot and let the casual reader see a handful of stories for free each day.

All these ideas are worth trying, even though in my opinion, few of them are going to work.

At least there is the recognition that the iPad has already been adopted by consumers as their TV, radio, newspaper and movie screen. Perhaps you saw this coming if you were the parent of a college age student who started watching “TV” on their laptops a few years earlier. Now with the iPad, those laptop TVs just got smaller and even more portable.

Needless to say other consumer electronics companies are rushing to get into the space Apple will occupy as chief transmitter of content to cool devices. And no doubt clueless media executives like NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker are going to continue to insist that 99 cents for a TV show is too little.

In fact, consumers think it is too much.

What a disconnect.

Sadly, the radio industry is trying to play catch up with old fashioned websites and doesn’t understand that radio will have to reinvent itself as audio, video and text rolled up into an iPad. That terrestrial radio is still a viable business for now if it is live and local but it will not be the same business on a portable consumer electronic device like an iPad.

So, with that in mind, a few observations about what radio, the music industry, television and publishing can do to optimize their inevitable iPad presence sooner rather than later:

1. Don’t duplicate -- innovate.

That is, restricting traditional media’s efforts as brand extension to an iPad will fail. I’ll say it again. Trying to cram TV onto an iPad just to deliver it to millions of mobile devices will not maximize the audience or profit potential.

New content will need to be developed for iPad delivery. However, media outlets with solid brands can use their expertise in creating new and separate content in these brand areas for iPad delivery.

2. Think of the iPad as a mini-website and you’re done.

I’m afraid that’s what media executives think. The iPad is its own experience not a small website. In fact, while you can view your favorite websites on iPads, it is the handheld experience that begs for innovation.

Sports Illustrated
is on the right track. Look to the major pro sports to figure this out first. I’m betting they will get it right as well.

3. Everything starts with social networking.

The thing that scares me the most about media executives (besides their affinity to imitating Gordon Gekko) is that they are missing step one – start by building a social network.

I take this advice seriously. My new paid subscription website which will debut in about two weeks or less is built for the members and their interests first. The topics, the presentation, the two-way communication – it all matters as much if not more than the stories I write.

For media execs, take heart that social networking is the revolution that matters most and in 20 years when historians look back, they will not recognize the advent of the Internet alone or even the mobile Internet. It will be social networking that will be looked at as the digital revolution.

In present terms, to those who can differentiate between the Internet, websites, filesharing, streaming and the other distractions that confuse sound strategic thinking, will go the victories.

The iPad is a cool portable device but its real purpose is social networking enabler.

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