Tablets Poised for Huge Adoption, According to Media Research
Based on evidence gleaned from current trends, smart phones will be ubiquitous, tablets will see a huge adoption rate, and e-readers will generate relatively low sales but enjoy a loyal customer base, Bill Trippe, a consultant with media research firm Gilbane Group, recently told a room full of publishing industry stakeholders in New York City.
Predictions about the future of device usage—how they will be adopted, the content fit across platforms and the path to monetization for publishers—were the major themes covered by Trippe during a presentation at the recent "Magazines: From Dimensional to Digital Conference," presented by the Magazine Publishers of America.
Gilbane's research breaks down the device market into three types: e-readers like the Kindle, smart phones and tablet devices like the iPad. "These devices have different forms, different functions, and the market is really shaking out appropriately," Trippe said. The Kindle, for instance, has done extremely well in the trade-book space, while early speculation about the device taking off in the educational book and magazine segment proved unfounded.
"Trade book publishers are very bullish on the Kindle. ... They're seeing real revenue from this now," he said. "Will a device like the iPad have the same impact on other types of publishing? We still don't know." Early indications are positive, however: Trippe noted that publishers like Time Inc. are already proving iPad editions can generate revenue and be successfully integrated into a regular workflow.
A key question is whether Kindle use is "transient," destined to be supplanted by tablet devices like the iPad, Trippe said. Data on Kindle use up to this point suggests users tend to be older and frequent consumers of books, who appreciate the savings in their yearly book-buying budget, and that the longer people own the devices, the more dedicated they are to them.
The best clue to understanding how tablets will be adopted comes from looking at smart-phone usage today, Trippe said.
"The iPhone users, they do an awful lot, and they are doing much more interactive and much more content-oriented tasks [like] looking up reference information, [and] reading documentation and educational material on their devices," he said. Significantly, iPhone users differ from other smart-phone users in their rate of consumption of games, news and media, sports, articles and books. "The iPhone user outpaces the average smart-phone user in these content-centric activities by really a remarkable amount," he said, "and I think that's very promising for magazine and news publishers ... [if] we can project this somewhat out to the iPad."
If e-readers promise simple consumption, tablets promise a high level of engagement. This should drive a rapid and high iPad adoption rate, Trippe said.
Trippe tempered his remarks by citing the opinion of Howard Ratner, chief technology officer at the Nature Publishing Group, who has called it a "fool's errand" to imagine how everyone will want to access content on mobile devices—therefore, don't put all content in one format, and be as flexible as you possibly can. Trippe said he agrees with those in the industry who believe XML is "the path to that flexibility."
"Make it scaleable," he said of a multiplatform workflow, by integrating in high levels of automation. "As each new device comes in, you want to be able to publish to all those devices in as automated a way as possible, having [the] least impact to existing staff and process and quality."
Make vendors your partners, he added. "If you don't have bandwidth," he noted, "find a partner for that."