Apple sold almost 15 million iPads in 2010, and analysts are projecting that the company could sell more than 25 million of the tablets this year.
The growing presence of the iPad and competitive tablets such as Motorola Mobility's Xoom and Samsung Electronic Co.'s Galaxy has created production work-flow issues that publishers must confront as they explore this new distribution option.
Plenty of software vendors are trying to fill the gap. Among them: WoodWing's Digital Magazine Tools, Adobe's Digital Production Suite and Quark Publishing's App Studio.
“There are huge numbers of ways [to handle content work flow for the iPad],” said Jason Snell, VP-editorial director of Macworld. “There are probably hundreds.”
“It's a little wide open right now,” said Robert Brai, COO of Superior Media Solutions, a production outsourcing provider.
A key issue surrounding work flow for the iPad is its incompatibility with Flash, a staple of many publishers' websites. Brai suggested that HTML5, the next update of the Hypertext Markup Language which is the basis for presenting content on the Web, will be an ideal solution for iPad work-flow issues once the language is fully updated. HTML5, he said, is being designed to adapt more easily to varied content distribution.
But Brai didn't recommend waiting for a perfect HTML5. “It is tough for small and medium-sized publishers,” he said, “but it would also be naïve to sit back and wait for the right software and then try and catch up. They need to go after that revenue now and learn how the whole system works.”
International Data Group's Macworld has an in-house-built content management system for Web work flow. It has designed its iPad flow to be as integrated into this already established one, Snell said.
“As a result, our iPad app uses feeds from our Web content management system,” he said. “We have the ability to send stories only to the iPad app, exclude Web stories from the iPad app or let them run on both [which is the default].”
Much of Macworld goes directly to the iPad through the title's CMS before it makes it into print or onto the Web. Snell recommended that publishers considering creation of iPad-only content should account for the ongoing costs of employees dedicated to tablet content-creation in their budgets.
Guy Boccia, VP-design at Wells Publishing, which publishes Insurance Journal, said iPads and other tablets are part of information-distribution strategy for the company. “We are allocating time and resources to technologies and gadgets [where] we see the potential to reduce our costs to deliver insurance news and information over time,” he said.
Boccia said he has already selected software for his company's iPad-related work flow. Although he declined to name which software he ultimately chose, he did recommend that publishers “review how they receive most of their digital media and try to create a work flow that would complement that ... instead of rebuilding the wheel.” —M.J.M.