iPad media apps: CD-ROM revisited

iPad media apps – the revenue solution for media publishers?

The extremely sucessful iPad launch (3 million iPads sold in 80 days) has created a tremendous buzz and excitement in the media industry. I am certainly one of the very happy iPad owners.
Many publishers see the iPad as a solution to their main headache: How can we charge for our media content when our web site users don’t want to pay for it and there is such an abundance of free content on internet?

With the iPad, the argument goes, we can deliver an improved user experience that looks more like our print media but with some added features like video, then people will want to pay for it.

But are we really seeing improved user experiences with the current iPad media apps? We are now seeing the first generation media apps from big publishers, like Bonnier’s Popular Science, Time magazine, Wired magazine, Washington Street Journal and many others.

Many people react against paying for these apps, some with the rather strange argument “but there are ads in it, so I should’t have to pay for the app”, as if print media were ad-free. Well, that reaction of course stems from that we are so used to free media content on the web.

I don’t mind paying for interesting media content, provided that:

  1. I can’t access equivalent content for free as nicely packaged somewhere else (hint: build your brand and work hard on your interface design and user friendliness)
  2. I feel that my money goes to an organisation that I want to support (hint: tell me your corporate story and mission)
  3. The payment process is simple and quick (this is one of the iTunes Store key success factors)

But I don’t want to pay for media apps that I feel are giving me a worse experience than online media.

Today’s media apps feels like CD-ROMs

I and many others also react against the walled garden of these apps, most of them are not connected to internet at all. We are suddenly back in the 90’s world of interactive CD-ROM media that looked great but were all one-way communication that could not be updated.

In my opinion most of them represent a step backwards compared to web media:

  • I can’t copy text in the articles
  • I can’t comment the articles
  • I can’t share  articles with my friends via email, Facebook, Twitter etc
  • I cant’ search for keywords in the articles
  • I can’t bookmark or write my own comments in interesting articles
  • I can’t interact with the ads
  • I have to wait for apps to load
  • I find the user interface unintuitive

Interface standards

The current breed of iPad media apps are using a multitude of different interface standards. Even basic functionalities get confusing when you don’t know how they work.

Two examples:
We are used to reading articles in columns from top to bottom. This is the way all our printed media have always worked. Still, Washington Street Journal manages to introduce a horisontal article layout, it even has another column to the right of the story which hides the continued story to the right, making it difficult to find. This also forces them to repeat the headline on each screen, a clumsy and unintuitive solution.

Menus: Publishers want an uncluttered interface design, so they hide the menu buttons, and they all do it differently. Some make you tap anywhere on screen, others use more obscure tricks. Worst so far is Bonnier, introducing a totally incomprehensible two-finger vertical swipe from the bottom to reveal the menu buttons. Sorry guys, I think the only way is to have small, constantly visible, easy to interpret menu buttons.

App download time

I don’t mind downloading utility apps, but when I want media content, I want it immediately. The current crop of iPad media apps weighs in at 150-500 Mb, which takes a loooong time to download. I just bought Wired’s July issue at 375 Mb, it took 25 minutes to download. Bonnier’s Popular Science July issue, 147 Mb, 51 minutes to download! Both of these magazines’ web sites load in about a second… This is somewhat like comparing apples and oranges, sine their websites don’t contain the same content, but the user experiences the app download as a pain that does not exist on the web.

What should be done?

I see two paths of development:

  1. Since users are still so reluctant to pay for online content in a web browser, apps will continue to grow for some time. The second generation of apps will soon be connected and solve most of the problems described above.
  2. Meanwhile, HTML5 and other emerging web standards and tools will enable publishers to improve media sites with smarter interfaces and functionality. In this process they will experiment with new types of online revenue models, (see my post “Experiment or die“). This will also eliminate the problems of adapting your content to multiple mobile platforms like iOS and Android. Eventually this will to a large degree replace downloaded apps, but it will take a few years.

The key here to media publishers is that they have to be more innovative and develop smarter interfaces and functionality that all the other free online media sites cannot offer.

Things like:

  1. Connect the apps to internet, link them with social media and have moderated and well designed comments and discussion forums
  2. Reinvent the navigation
  3. Develop smarter personalisation tools, letting me create a dynamic media app according to my interests and mood for the moment
  4. Work with the advertisers to increase the user value. I want to see ads that are relevant to me and my needs, and I want to be able to access more information and buy products easily via the ad

The best way to find out what will work best is to be innovative, start experimenting with all sorts of solutions. I am convinced that the development pace will be very fast in the next couple of years and look forward to enjoying media like never before.

Media industry disruption

Written in 2010

Sweden is in recession. Most companies and organisations are cutting down on their R&D and trimming external consultants. The whole media sector is experiencing disruptive changes, many of them are seeing their revenues dwindling.

I find it a bit strange that everybody in the established media sector seem to agree on:

  1. There will be big turmoil in their markets due to internet and media digitalisation.
  2. Nobody really knows what will happen or what will work in the near future.

And still they cut down on R&D!
It is as if they just hope that somebody else will come up with a working internet business model and they will be able to jump on that wagon when it starts moving and then everything will be fine again.

Continue reading Media industry disruption

26 types of online corporate video

There are many ways for an organisation
to use online video for communication, marketing and training

Here are 26 examples organized according to production costs and how complex they are to produce. There is a twist to the green ones, see the end of this post!

Click the image to enlarge it, or click here to download it as a PDF.

Most people associate corporate video with rather boring 20 minute company presentations where the proud CEO is presented along with all the products and the nice offices, accompanied by a rambling voice-over and some elevator music. Or perhaps “talking heads”, tie-clad managers boasting about the company.

But now video has been revolutionized at both ends:

  1. The production is much faster and cheaper due to all the new, smaller digital techology.
  2. The distribution is now enormously more flexible and cheaper. Instead of mailing out DVDs or arranging screenings all kinds of video can now be streamed on corporate web sites, in video blogs, emailed etc. All at very low costs.

Nobody has the time or patience anymore to watch those 20-minute corporate all-in-one presentations, and they become outdated quickly anyway. So instead, go for short, niche videos, for example:

1. Press release videos. Show how the new product is used by real customers, thus creating better stories for the journalists.

2. Product launches. Do like everybody else and make campaign sites with slick video commercials etc. But the smarter companies also produces more viral videos that are spread via YouTube and other video communities, blogs and media sites. Before the launch, make a video about your product development challenges where you build hype around the problem that your product solves. When you launch it, post a video that does not look like a commercial but shows the product in a documentary way when it is used by real people

3. FAQ-videos and support screen casts. Use the pedagogicial superiority of video to give answers to frequently asked questions and explain how your software work. Put them on your support web site and email them to customers that call in with problems.

4. Staff presentations. Notice how most consultancy firms proudly states that “our staff is our most valuable asset”? Yet they present them with just a name, title and department. Imagine instead 45-second personal video presentations where the staff describe their background and experience, how they work now and what makes them tick! Far better for boosting relations and the corporate brand.

5. Testimonials from happy customers and employees. A real customer describing how his life was improved by product X is a lot more credible than a slick ad with studio shots of beautiful models holding the product. Here is a good example.

6. Instruction videos. Why have not companies noticed the explosion of “How to” video sites with short video tutorials about everything under the sun? Such as Videojug.  Realise that this is a very good way of both decreasing your support costs and building brands. See also my blog post about this.

7. Video blogs and mobile videos. Let your executives speak in person to the whole world, here is why this is good. And encourage your employees to use their mobiles to document things that customers or other employees could benefit from seeing and post it on video blogs. Reports from business trips, development labs, attended conferences etc.

8. UGC campaigns. User Generated Content, where customers upload videos on how they use the products. Creates marketing ambassadors and an image of acompany that listens to its customers. IKEA does it, why not your company?

9. Recruitment videos. How do you entice people to apply for work at your company? Especially the younger generation don’t read endless texts or brochures. Create short, up to date videos where HR shows what it is like to work here, and interview some of the employees. Here’s how Google did it and a good blog post about it.

10. Internal communication. Replace some of the streams of internal email communications with video. For example, the sales manager’s weekly follow-up of the sales reps is more effective if they can hear and see the sales manager.

11. Company policies. Use video to explain all those rules and policies about security, vacation, sick leave, travel etc. Interview those that are responsible and show how they should be used and the benefits. This motivates the employees better than those Word-documents with bulleted rules on the company intranet!

12. Lectures and seminars. Increase the audience for your speeches, conferences etc by live-casting them on your web site and post edited versions afterwards to prolong the value. Also use short videos to promote the event in advance, interviewing the organizer and make people want to go there or follow it on internet.

13. Talk shows. Think value for your target group. Invite an interesting person for a relaxed chat about a current issue. Do this weekly or bi-weekly for almost no cost and build valuable relations and position yourselves as authorities in your business area.

14. Crisis communication. Prepare before it happens: a disgruntled customer posts a video showing a weakness in your product, such as this Assa Abloy video. But don’t respond like Assa Abloy did, instead fight fire with fire: make your own video response and post it in the same channels, as well as on your web site.

15. Knowledge bank & internal training. Interview your experts on how they solved various problems, post it into an internal knowledge data base on your intranet and make it easy to search. This creates valuable assets out of your organisations skills.

Video = expensive and lots of work?

Many companies have realised that video is an effective form of communication but they still think it is expensive and labour-intensive to produce good videos. Also, they have not realised that you build relations better by producing content regularly, so it is much better to make one short video per week than a long video every 6 months.

Program formats

The way to do this cost-effectively is to create program formats. In the TV business formats are big business. Think “Who wants to be a millionaire?”, “Survivor” etc. It is much easier, cheaper and safer for a local TV station to produce shows according to these formats than trying to come up with their own program ideas. So I help companies do the same thing.

All the green types of video in the matrix are suitable for making program formats. I start with a base template and then analyse the company needs and write an adapted production plan. Then a pilot program is produced with a professional team while I make detailed notes. The result is a template that enables the company to produce multiple programs at a high and even quality level and at a low cost per program. The production can be done inhouse with some employee training,  or the format can be used as excellent documentation for outsourcing to local video producers.

Please send me tips on more types of corporate video and links to good examples!