The tablet – whether the latest iPad, Kindle Fire or Galaxy S – is surely the Angelina Jolie / Ryan Gosling of the media world.
Irresistible to look at, touch, hold and generally be seen with, it’s attracting far more attention than can be justified by any one device, let alone one so modest in terms of real reach and impact in the larger media ecosystem.
The tablet -- as a general category -- is undoubtedly exciting and laden with potential. But like all entrants to an established landscape, its potential won’t necessarily be realized easily. Don’t get me wrong. I’m an enthusiast for the device and all it represents – I love my Kindle Fire HD.
But nothing exists in isolation -- least of all in the media category. For the tablet to realize it’s potential within the lives of consumers and as a tool for content publishers and marketers, it will be dependent on what takes place around it.
Some of the biggest challenges facing the industry today – from content distributors through advertisers -- come from the complexity of the cross-platform manner of media consumption. Many of the most urgent questions informing our immediate and future fiscal welfare focus on businesses learning to better monetize new patterns of consumption. The tablet represents all of these challenges in one device.
Arguably the most multifunctional of all devices, it represents a perfect storm of consumer control. So far, the magazine and newspaper industries illustrate that things don’t play out as quickly as we may like and the overall level of advertising on the platform is also not in line with prior projections.
The tablet is mobile, but it’s not a mobile phone. Those who talk about lumping together their ad approach to both media will likely achieve some degree of fiscal efficiency at the production end of things, but lose efficiency in communications and ultimately marketing ROI.
All media provide a unique user experience. But the full potential of the tablet will only be realized if we approach the device and its use in a manner that reflects those characteristics perceived benefits of users.
Part of the double-edged sword of mobility is the matter of where people will use tablets and for what purpose. Geographic use (at home, traveling, at work etc.) are all aspects of user context and the more we understand about where people are likely to use tablets, the better we’ll be able to shape messaging.
Likewise, the matter of the social setting – the difference between use when alone versus with the family will be significant for some in the industry. And then there’s the much-discussed matter of concurrent media use and second-screening while watching TV.
If the tablet really does offer so much potential, how likely is it that it will be dependent on the historically embedded intrusive model of advertising? Surely something this exciting and different holds the potential for something beyond a glorified print, rich media or TV ad? Can the industry come up with the ultimate tablet-friendly format that will cost-effectively engage users?
As we’ve seen before, the expected increase in time spent with tablets won’t be enough to see an accelerated shift in budgets to the platform. If it were, the online and mobile communities would be happier. TV isn’t about to surrender its share. While some money will move from print to the platform, the best hope for real revenue growth is the pro-active leveraging of the properties of the tablet itself.
In the Oscars of the media, the tablet may well qualify for Best Device, but the big prize of Best Medium is still some way off. And there’s a world of difference between the two.