News for Digital Journalists

March 07, 2012

The New iPad: What does it mean for news publishers?

Today Apple unveiled the new iPad—notable mainly for improved graphics capabilities, a better camera, and 4G wireless network access. Thus it probably earns Apple’s marketing buzzword “resolutionary,” since it’s by no means revolutionary. Still, this tablet is expected to sell well in coming months.

What might it mean for news and information publishers…

In the run-up to today’s product launch, many news publishers have updated their iPad apps. Over the last two weeks, such updates include the iPad apps for the New York Times, Associated Press, New York Daily News, Pulse News, Flipboard, NBC Nightly News, the Guardian (Eyewitness app), the Star Tribune and more.

Now that the specs and capabilities of the new iPad have been confirmed, it’s likely that even more news organizations will be revamping both their apps and the kind of content delivered through them—especially the resolution of photos, video, and graphics.

Video—including live streaming—might be an especially good bet for iPad app content, since the new iPad runs on faster 4G wireless networks from Verizon or AT&T. Also, since the tiered new iPad data plans do not require a contract and can be changed or canceled at any time, it’s likely that many iPad3 users will sign up for 4G service at least initially just to try it out.

This means that demand for mobile video will likely spike via both iPad apps and the mobile web after the new iPad hits stores March 16. This might be a good time to review your capabilities for video delivery, especially during sudden spikes driven by breaking news. Can your servers handle this kind of mobile traffic? And how prepared are the carriers to deal with such spikes?

According to a recent report from comScore, Apple’s iOS mobile operating system currently accounts for 60% of all U.S. mobile traffic, and the vast majority (90%) of all tablet traffic in the U.S.

The improved camera and built-in photo, video, and audio editing and management capabilities of the new iPad might also make this market segment a good target for multimedia contests, or collaborative projects such as crowdsourcing.

Of course, if your news or info venue serves rural communities or other places lagging in 4G deployment, the new iPad will have relatively little impact at this time.

The new iPad is still rather pricey: the lowest-end wifi-only model costs $499, and if you want to add 4G capability that costs $130 more up front. Plus there’s the cost for the data plans, which range from $15/month (for a paltry 250 MB, from AT&T) to $80/month (for 10 GB, Verizon).

What will be more interesting will be to see if later this year Apple finally launches a smaller, cheaper iPad mini. This long-rumored unicorn so far has failed to materialize—but if the Kindle Fire and other smaller Android tablets keep gaining ground fast, Apple might be tempted to compete with this large consumer market segment.  It’s still a rough economy out there—and the lesson of how Android quickly came to dominate the U.S. smartphone market is probably not lost on Apple. An iPad mini would have very different device and app support capabilities, which would require more significant adaptation from apps and mobile websites.



I think you may have missed perhaps the biggest short-term issue for news publishers. A retina display means images need to be far, far bigger if you want to take advantage of the screen. Same goes for ads. So the filesize of apps, potentially the download times, and the speed of ad loading are all going to be big headaches. I’m not sure 4G will make a big difference in the short term, given how much iPad usage occurs over wifi anyway.

Video streaming is at stake, especially good for the iPad application content, since the new iPad running on a 4G wireless network faster than Verizon or AT & T iPad3 many users will sign up to 4G

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