Tag Archives: Media

Nook, Your Tablet Set My iPad on Fire. Are tablets killing the adoption of mobile computing?

Shortly after the iPad 2 launch, the late Steve Jobs welcomed the iMasses into the “post-PC era.” So, post-PC netizens, where are we now?

Let’s review. Apple has a mountain of apps, Amazon has its thunderous cloud, and Barnes and Noble has stacks of books, but who will win the battle of the single-purpose e-readers? The Kindle Fire has Amazon’s huge cloud presence plus some of the cloud-processing and storage services missing from the competition. The Fire lacks cellular data, which means you are tied to Wi-Fi with a petite data stomach; the Fire may leave heavy data-storage users hungry. The tablet and, more importantly, mini-tablet markets are changing, but does it really matter? No. Here’s why.

Mini-tablets comprise the growing market of devices that aren’t iPads or smartphones or laptops or netbooks. These devices tend to be large, pocket-friendly units that are multimedia consumption devices with single-use potential. Encouraging users to consume media and providing a pipe to the mothership’s storefront (an app store) is the operating strategy of these low-priced devices. Much like cigarette makers, the tablet manufacturers and marketplace shopkeepers hope to get users addicted to content for the shiny, colorful screen and then make them pay for all the new, delicious media pieces that the never-ending publishing, music, and movie industries can churn out.

Just how preposterous is this idea of mini-tablets? Let’s examine a few analogies.

Take, for instance, the car industry; assume that every car manufacturer also manufactures all the gas. In order to use your car, you must buy gas from your car manufacturer’s station in order to drive. I don’t think so!

What about a newspaper publisher? What if every publisher owned the store that sells the paper and you could only buy certain brands at one store or face paying a higher premium at a competitor for the same title? Doubtful!

But wait, there’s more.

Take my personal favorite, the desktop printer. First, when a consumer buys a printer, he or she is buying a single-purpose device to be used for one primary function: PRINTING! Yet in order to print, you must spend gobs of money on ink every time one of the colors runs out. (Check out this dated piece by PCWorld on inkjet costs.)

The tablet market is essentially the same. User buys tablet, user becomes addicted to multimedia content from the comfort of his or her lap, user shells out mountains of cash to consume the most current content. This is all fine and dandy until the user wants something that is exclusively tied to another marketplace or device. Then the user waits for the content to be available or consumes it via a different medium, say from a, gasp, bookstore or, double gasp, physical video distribution method like Redbox, Netflix (by mail), or a theatre. Add in the complexity of the app, not just the media content, and the tablet market is even messier.

Why are single-use devices to attractive to the byte-obsessed, always-connected, touchscreen-loving, SMS crowd?
Simple. They do one thing well (or so the advertising tells us). The lower the price at which a user can buy a device that does one thing well, the more attractive these media-consumption portals appear to be. Little do the users know (well, they probably do, but go with it) that once they get addicted to the sweet taste of femur-supported, organized pixel displays of pleasure, delivering virtually all their media requests, that either a big credit card bill or heaping pile of disappointment and frustration lies ahead. They have to choose: Cough up the greenbacks for more digital editions of Wired or The Daily or Mad Men or be left out in the Wi-Fi-required cold with too small a tank to hold their media fuel and no fuel in sight.

Warning, the following content is not suitable for all viewers. Viewer discretion is advised for those who can’t handle the truth.

Segmenting content into different marketplaces may be a great way to make a buck, but it kills the adoption of new technology.

Tablets lack innovation.
Other than the Motorola Xoom, no one has brought anything really cool to the table. Apple gave us the iPad and added gimmicky software, such as gestures and a magnet in the body of the tablet to turn the screen off. Don’t get me wrong––these are great, innovative features––but other than the iPad being the first device to feature them, what is their wow factor? Nothing yet. Make media consumption on my single-purpose device better, damn it. Maybe the 3D obsession was supposed to be a new source of amazement. Yawn… Palm was onto something with the TouchPad and its ability to transfer applications from one device (the Pixi or Pre) to another (like the TouchPad), but bad timing and poor management killed that tech. All we can hope for is that HP may revive it.

Non-smart, non-connected, non-location devices are pointless.
If the phone is the rowboat to all that is digital, then the tablet should be the luxury cruise liner, right? Well, why doesn’t what is on the market match the expectation that bigger should mean more functions? Ford Taurus drivers who upgrade to a Porsche expect more features, so when I upgrade my clunky desktop, laptop, VCR, or library card to a tablet, I should get more features (and not content fences). Likewise, users who have an iOS or Android phone expect more when upgrading to a tablet, but these expectations fall short with the Fire and Nook Tablet. Then again, it may not be an upgrade but rather a segmentation of function, essentially taking reading and watching from a phone and moving it to a tablet. The lack of GPS and cellular data kills the mobile function. Part of the enhanced reading experience is the ability to interact with rich multimedia and content from the web or to pop out to a web browser to follow a call to action in a piece of media. One question: Why don’t advertisers focus more on selling ads for rich, location-enabled devices and the platforms that they use?

There is planned tech obsolescence.
OK, planned obsolescence may be a bit extreme, but users who buy a mini-tablet and want feature upgrades like GPS and cellular data are left hanging. Their addiction to content makes them reliant on one marketplace, with few options for upgrading.

As of yet, we haven’t seen a tablet that changes the model with which we interact with content on a mobile platform. Many would argue that the mini-tablets and tablets have taken media consumption out of the house and moved it anywhere the user wants to go. This is true as long as the user has planned all the content he or she wants to consume before leaving the warm comfort of Wi-Fi. Single-purpose media consumption devices serve just one purpose––media consumption––but without data connection and a rich feature set, these simple devices are changing the behavior of users. What the future impact of these changes will be, we shall find out, but competition in the market is a good thing so far, as long as the jump from mini-tablet to smart tablet becomes shorter and filled with more options.

What say you––are single-purpose mini-tablets useful in widening the adoption of mobile technology and media consumption?

Check out some comparisons of the iPad2, Nook Tablet, and Kindle Fire here, here, here, and here.

Author: John Carew

Tear down this paywall Mr. Zuckerburg!

Bird Scarer

The Internet is built on information, and often the information that is time-sensitive gathers the most traffic, i.e. news. Back in the day, AOL and their keyword ivory tower tried to keep users in their “portal” for as long as possible to keep the targeted advertising in their face while raking in the results. One little glitch though, the Internet grew beyond the walls which AOL had built and they would fall into history remembered for “you’ve got mail,” that annoying AOL Instant Messenger icon with sound and, last but not least, they would be known for littering the planet and landfills with millions of mostly useless CDs.

Fast forward to today and we see Facebook following some of the very same footprints which AOL laid, made some cash and then fell extinct. In March 2011, Allfacebook.com, the unofficial facebook resource, covered a story depicting how the New York Times handles inbound links to their content from social sources versus search engine traffic. The key difference was the inbound traffic from social sources would receive unlimited reading on the NYT site, while search engine driven inbound traffic would receive a cap of five free visits per day. Any Facebook user has probably experienced someone in their network sharing content from a major news outlet, but wouldn’t it improve the user experience if the news source pushed their content directly into a social platform like Facebook?

Why yes, it would, and the Wall Street Journal announced last week the availability of WSJ Social, which lets users share content directly through Facebook. The service is free for now, but with financial partners like Dell and Intel, one can only wait so long for the paywall to be erected around that content.  Yes, paywall in a social network, you are not suffering from double vision. As news media history can reinforce, news organizations have no idea how to properly price their product in a digital market. News companies are used to the model where they controlled the distribution of their content with little outside intervention, except for a few strategic partners. Now, they have to negotiate getting a vehicle in the right market which carries an optimized form of the news content to the receiving device or online platform. Not only has it complicated the distribution channels, but it has also introduced significant technology learning curves which even the largest organizations in both news media and magazines have yet to truly understand. Communication-minded professionals learn technology mostly by experience and not by discipline, where technology-minded professionals are taught from the ground up how to build a platform and market that platform. Both parties need one another as a complement to either side of the brain if nothing else, but failure in the digital market backed by the speed at which content is shared on the social web, can make or break any marketing communication effort.

Facebook and a paywall model for organizations requiring that level of division is a natural step for the mega-social site, but will it improve the social web? A better solution would be to build a split advertising model where both the social platform and the news service get paid for clicks and views to their ad content. Any online effort that puts a barrier of any kind between a user and their desired content will eventually be made extinct by a more creative method to attain that same desired content. The wild west entrepreneurial spirit of the net, made innovations like Netflix, Groupon, and Craigslist. Competition to the social web behemoths like Facebook from the likes of say Google+, will push the platforms to innovate and maybe bring better features to the users. Either way, as communication professional in any field, remember that every barrier erected between you and your desired reader/audience/customer/client make the communication less effective. Share content in the social world to gain visibility and expand your brand presence, but don’t muddy the waters with convoluted revenue mechanisms which separate the haves from the have-nots.

Author: John Carew
Photo Credit: Jonathan Baker-Bates

Around the World: Media Reaction to bin Laden’s Death

The world automatically reacted early Monday after President Barack Obama announced that terror leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan.

In Pakistan: National Public Radio’s Julie McCarthy finds the general national sentiment to be “America, mission accomplished.” Now, many Pakistanis say the focal point needs to be on ending U.S. military operations in Pakistan.

In Afghanistan: Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged the US: “Remember that the war against terrorism is not in the valleys and villages of Afghanistan, but in the terrorists’ training centers and camps. The fighting should be taken there.”

In Saudi Arabia: The Saudi Press Agency wrote that it hopes bin Laden’s death will be a “step that supports the international efforts against terrorism.”

In Europe: “We woke up in a safer world,” according to the president of the European Union Parliament, Jerzy Buzek.

Front pages have mostly exposed a second-day lead on the news. Take a look at how media around the world responded to bin Laden’s death.

Author: Marina Kaljaj

Will Low Image Quality Destroy High-Quality Printing?

On February 17, Rachel Sterne, the newly appointed Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York, re-tweeted a post on the promotion of several EMS members. In her desire to share the event with her throngs of social media followers, she also re-tweeted a photo of the event on stage.

Photo Quality from a Blackberry Tour
Note the image quality from the picture taker’s BlackBerry Tour. Just like most people’s smartphones, the camera was probably covered with dust, pocket lint, and grime from daily use, which resulted in the out-of-focus image shared by Sterne. Sharing the image is great, good PR and all, but it undermines the public’s expectation of high-quality images.

Photography in the early twentieth century was nothing compared to what technology and digital image sensors can do today. Early photographic lenses, camera technology, and image-capture methods could only produce soft, poorly sharpened, grainy images. Film grain does add an aesthetic quality to early images that is difficult to reproduce with digital image sensors, but there’s no contest between an old image and a professional digital photo.

Traditional photographic printing technology, using chemical or silver-based processes, was designed to create a continuous-tone image where the human eye cannot discern the grain or image pattern. Halftone printing systems were created to mimic that continuous-tone process using a series of aligned dots separated by four printed ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). Using the weakness of the human eye, the halftone system can achieve pseudo-continuous tone with a sufficiently resolved image (300 dpi) and properly executed print quality (line screen, screen angle, dot uniformity, registration). This is the high-quality printing that has existed for the last 30–40 years and was printed on modern presses using the four-color printing process (CMYK).

As the media “publish” more and more low-quality cell phone images, the expectation of quality will be diluted. High-resolution, sharp, well-composed images will become the exception, not the norm, and high-quality printing will no longer be required. The printing industry has invested huge amounts of cash over the past twenty years developing digital imaging technology––primarily ink-jet and electro-photographic technologies––that can mimic continuous tone. Sure, printers can print low-quality, pixelated images just as easily as they can high-resolution images, but as a graphic arts professional trained to identify those low-quality images, I must object.

How can we stop high-quality image annihilation?

Destroy all low-quality image sensors worldwide. Not a viable option unfortunately, but if it were, I would eliminate a few typefaces as well.

What do you think? How can we stop the slaying of high-quality images?

Author: John Carew

Think the Design of your Website isn’t important?

Gawker Media is blog network and media company run by Nick Denton out of New York. Gawker is the parent company of many successful blog producers, including Lifehacker, Gizmodo, and Kotaku.

Recently, the Gawker network issued a redesign of many of these sites. They released this video touting the features and advantages of the redesign:

Despite the claims in the video, the redesigns (thus far) have not been effective. Here is a breakdown of the users immediately following the re-launch:

It goes without saying that there was a substantial drop. Many users are skeptical about the new sites, but one thing is certain: design matters. Design, paired with usability, can dramatically affect the flow of traffic on and off a site. Content is certainly a priority, but when you have an established user base, people are only going to keep coming back if clarity and functionality are fun, friendly, and intuitive.

Author: Eric Swenson