Of devices and desires

Attending an early morning session at the bustling AdTech conference and exhibition this week in Olympia I heard Theo Theodorou promoting the Apple iAd format.

His pitch was interesting and persuasive, full of data on how mobile apps generate far more engagement than online rich media or even (so he claimed) TV.

He started by saying that iPads were massively dominant in the world of tablet computers. And to prove this he asked how many people in the room had iPads. Everyone in the room, apart from me, put their hands up. Theo turned to me with a sad smile and admitted that iPad use wasn’t universal yet.

At that point I admitted that I did have a tablet, but that it was a Samsung Galaxy (bought because it fits nicely into my jacket pocket). And therein lies a moral or two, I think.

First of all, don’t assume that because almost all London media types have an iPad it means that everyone has one. While smart phone possession is on the way to becoming ubiquitous in the UK (although even that will take a few years yet), tablet possession is limited to a small minority: 7.5% of the adult population this autumn according to Kantar.

And second don’t assume that all tablets are iPads. While no doubt the iPad is dominant in the UK market with nearly 75% market share, the market is changing fast and Apple may well see a market share nearer 50% within the next year or two.

The marketplace for apps though is different. In the smart phone market, iOS is far less dominant and Android devices lead Apple strongly. That is reflected in app downloads with Ovum predicting that 2011 will see over 8 billion Android app downloads compared with 6 billion iOS app downloads. And that difference is only set to widen.

But back to Theo. His proposition was this. TV is a great medium for driving emotion, but it is a one way medium. Online is a two way medium, but poor at driving emotional story telling. But iPad apps take the best of both worlds being both emotionally engaging and two way.

Because of this, long form ads work well on the iPad – they show a 6% click through rate and indeed time spent on an iPad ad is on average 60 seconds compared with 9 seconds on a web based rich media ad. The examples Theo showed us, ads for a car and a camera, bore out the potential.

Those are powerful data to support using iPad apps (and I suppose apps on any tablet device) as an advertising vehicle. So why is it that tablet apps are so engaging?

Accurate targeting, said Theo. And because the ads are intuitive and fun. And because you can touch the ads.

I’m not convinced that accurate targeting would have such a massive effect although I am sure it has some. It probably does enhance click through rate (although those of us with long memories can remember the (brief) time that online ads had similar CTRs).

But I think perhaps it is the game like nature of the ads that generates that length of engagement. And that is of course helped by the fact that you can touch the screen, and also because you are holding the device in your hands so that it is physically closer to you.

So perhaps it isn’t surprising that game-like ads do work well on a tablet.

But creating good interaction is difficult, risky and expensive. And it is not going to be appropriate for every brand. So much digital advertising (especially as TV advertising isn’t going to disappear any day soon) will remain as long form video.

The question for Theo is, will video ads on a tablet drive engagement, or will advertisers who want to use this format be forced into using “advergaming”. If that is the case then the market for tablet advertising must surely be limited.

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Galaxy Tab or iPad?

Last month it was reported that Apple was suing Samsung because they felt that the Galaxy Tab was copying its design of the iPad.

So as the recent proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Tab, I thought I’d give some thought to the extent to which the two devices are similar.

Well there is one big difference for a start. I bought my Galaxy because I needed a new phone, my old one having been liberated from my car by some scally in Putney. And the Galaxy does function as a phone, albeit with an element of Dom Joly about it! However, a Bluetooth headset solve that reasonably well. Of course you can use the iPad as a phone – but only using VoiP such as Skype: and of course that limits who you can call.

Another big difference is the size and weight. iPads are surprisingly heavy, even the iPad 2 weighs in at 600g, around a third more than the Galaxy Tab. That makes it less comfortable to hold for a long time: important if you are using it to read eBooks or magazines.

The big difference is the size though. iPads, with their 10 inch display are much larger than the Galaxy with only 7 inches. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. OK, the iPad’s screen is great for reading magazines and typing. But the downside is that it is bulky. It certainly doesn’t fit into any of my pockets while the Galaxy Tab slips into a coat pocket very nicely. For me at least, the 7 inch screen is plenty big enough for most things I want to do, and a lot better than a smart phone.

There are plenty of other differences too. With the Tab I can buy extra memory if I need to – a 16 GB memory card is a lot cheaper than upgrading from a 16 GB to a 32 GB iPad. The cameras on the Tab were an important point of difference too – but the new iPad 2 has caught up with that feature.

So is the Tab a rip off of an iPad? Decidedly not. It’s a completely different beast. While it has pros and cons compared with the iPad in terms of the technology behind it, the reasons for buying it will be very different for many people.

The Tab is something to take out with you – a genuinely portable web enabled computer which doubles as a phone.

In contrast the iPad is something to keep at home (or perhaps in your briefcase) – which is perhaps why the majority of iPads sold are not 3G enabled. Bigger screen, admittedly. But far less useful, at least for me.

The future of newspapers

The future of newspapers is an old debate, but the terrible events in Japan throw a spotlight on how the role of newspapers is changing – or perhaps needs to change.
Buying my copy of the Sunday Times yesterday, I was shown pictures and news that I had already seen or heard – on TV, on the radio and of course online.
But as well as the slightly redundant news, there was the analysis and explanation that can be done so much better in newspapers than it can on TV or on the radio.  TV is powerful, but the type of analysis it can deliver is inevitably different and in many ways lighter than the analysis press, with its ability to deliver extensive articles as well as diagrams that can be pored over, can deliver.
Online of course combines the benefits of TV (video) with the benefits of press (long form text) – and adds a few others all of its own (e.g. the ability to manipulate data such as making calculations, buying products or playing games).
The disadvantages of online come down largely to convenience (who wants to lug a laptop around with them instead of a newspaper on the morning commute?) but also to functionality (paper makes a pretty good interface which you can for instance scrawl on or tear off).
Tablet PCs change all that. For example, newspaper iPad apps (and we will inevitably soon be seeing their equivalent for Android devices) can mimic paper’s advantages because they potentially allow the user to annotate pages and to “cut out” pieces of text such as ads or articles. OK, they can’t be folded in quite the same way as a newspaper but the 10 inch screen is still pretty light and convenient.
And that’s the opportunity for newspapers. Tablet PC apps from newspapers that allow updated news (like TV and online), long form text and convenient functionality (like paper), and additional interactive functionality (like the web), combined with trusted brands (i.e. credible analysis from well-known reporters) will be a pretty hard combination to beat.
And not only that, it does increasingly appear that people are much more willing to pay for content on a tablet PC app than they are for content from a website.
So don’t write the press off just yet. Paper may well be (slowly) dying as an interface for news, but the tablet PC revolution may well be the market change that secures the future of newspaper brands.
PS. My tips for must-have mobile app functionality
1. Ability to interact with content
• Write notes on content
• Take clippings, save images etc into a scrapbook
• Zoom in on images, pan across images, swivel images
• Enlarge font
2. Ability to share content and opinions
• Share with other websites e.g. twitter, facebook
• Share via email, chat and IM
• Share opinions on the app via comments pages or polls
3. Appropriate content
• Customisable content
• Constantly updated content
• Extra content compared to web and paper
• Different horizontal and vertical experiences – e.g. horizontal might mimic paper product while vertical has different layout and extra content
4. Good usability
• Navigation: e.g. clickable table of content, thumbnail images, click for previous article/next article
• Text only and images only versions
• Video and audio with appropriate play controls
• Full screen slide show/article view
• Gestures in interface (which should be intuitive) e.g. rapid page turn using gesture
• Search functionality
• Content viewable offline; ability to browse content before a full download; ability to download some but not all content
• Ability to click through to ads or shopping (but while staying within environment of the app)

iPad – lovely, but it won’t save the newspaper industry

Everyone else is doing it, so I guess I’d better. Here goes…

I’m sure it’s a lovely notebook. Except for the fact that it doesn’t have a webcam; and it can only handle one application at a time; and it can’t handle flash. And it will probably be a rip off price in the UK, like everything else.

But it looks lovely in an Apply sort of way and I’d probably “get” it more if I was given one to play with.

I’m still disappointed though. There was a lot of hype about the iPad being a “kindle killer” and a device that would revolutionise the newspaper industry. I can’t see it doing either of these things.

Unlike the iPad, the Kindle has a very special screen – easy to read in a way that computer screens are not. With a Kindle you feel inclined to read text – not just scan it.

Computer screens are hard to read – hence the need for text to be short and easy to absorb. And because of the way people react physically to current computer screen technology they are never going to be a place where you will comnfortably read long newspaper articles.  Kindle-type screens (sometimes called e-ink or e-paper) might well be. 

Of course the Kindle isn’t ideal for reading a newspaper either. What you really need is a big screen that allows you to “surf” the page in the way that (paper) newspaper readers do, letting their eyes get caught by interesting headlines (not sure the 9.7 inch DX is really big enough to do this, although anything larger might be cumbersome if it didn’t fold).  Oh, and a screen that you can write on (to make notes or fill in the crossword).

The iPad is, well, a bit more than a big iPod Touch. But without an e-ink screen I can’t see it having an effect on the newspaper industry. Because I can’t see many people rushing to access newspapers on an iPad in a way that would replicate their currently established behaviour of paying to access paper based content . The experience would just be too different.

Of course it might well be a different story for magazines…