Apple’s recent announcement of the iPad stirred controversy. Reactions seem mostly negative. Smart people call it ‘future shock’.
With the iPad, I believe Apple has changed the game on two fronts: computing and content consumption. Smart people have explained the new paradigm of computing. I won’t go there. What I want to focus on, is how Apple is changing content consumption today, and how tomorrow it will revolutionize content distribution.
The major media industries of the western world take three forms: music, film/TV and publishing. All three industries are contending with a world inexorably moving towards digital consumption.
When Apple introduced the iPod, it revolutionized the music industry. What was different wasn’t the device, it was the 99 cent download. Bringing the music industry on board was critical to the success of a digital music player, and no one before Apple had done it.
Apple tried changing the film/TV industry with Apple TV. So far its inroads are minimal because this colossal industry looks to compete with Apple via Hulu, and other proprietary (or legacy) distribution channels. But I believe Apple can prevail there too.
Today the publishing industry is in shambles. Publications are shutting down all over America, and with pay walls failing as a solution, the web seems to be a dead end. Like putty in Apple’s hands the publishing industry is ready to make a leap of faith. This is great news.
The iPad introduces the first viable alternative support for newspapers and magazines. Not only is it viable, it presents completely new forms of interaction and exciting opportunities to monetize. Wired recently made a great case for it.
The iPad presents a third dimension for the interaction between reader and content: depth. ‘Zoom out’ to see the publication in full, ‘zoom in’ to receive information more granular than ever before. This has been the dream for ages. Apple just happens to be in the right place at the right time.
Hear me now. 5 years from today, physical newspapers and magazines will have virtually disappeared from America. (The book is a different matter.)
Content Distribution and the Master Plan
With written content finally having its place in the iPad, Apple has created devices suited to the consumption of every type of media.
Integral to Apple’s success is iTunes (and soon the iTunes Bookstore), the hub for all content to be accessed, paid for and downloaded. So what will kiosks, bookstores, record shops – media retailers as a whole – do when everything can be found on iTunes?
The answer is the physical iTunes store. If Apple doesn’t do it, someone will.
Just like today’s record or book shop, the physical iTunes store is where you go to consume media (and coffee). Except there’s no physical media to be seen. It’s all touch screens and docking stations. You’ll walk up to a docking station, plug in your iPod/iPhone/iPad, and Genius will take over. At the physical iTunes store you get full song previews, just like you would at a record store, and you can flip through entire e-books and magazines, just like you would at a bookstore.
Genius knows what you like and gives you recommendations based on your listening, viewing and reading trends. The physical iTunes store is a place to experience digital media in a visceral way, unlike anything you experience at home. Surrounded by large touch screens you can flip through beautiful album covers and read liner notes; reviews are there too.
With a flick of the wrist you’ll send content straight to your device as you continue to browse. With 1-Click purchase there’s no cashier and with data storage in larger locations, there’s no download time.
The physical iTunes store is easily scalable. It has no inventory. It’s a stand at the airport and a multi-story emporium at the center of metropolises. The pulse of data is its heartbeat. It knows you better than any store clerk and provides the greatest selection no matter the size of the shop.
Physical presence still has a place in this world. People crave that palpable social experience. We just need to think of it differently.