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Reformatting for the iPad

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The wait is over: Apple Computer's iPad made its grand entrance last month. As usual, Apple devotees are impatient to get their hands on Steve Jobs' latest sexy product. But just behind this group is an entire industry: print media. Having weathered a disastrous decline in their advertising-supported products, publishers hope that this new platform will revitalize their businesses. Unfortunately, print media hasn't been eviscerated simply because it lacked a suitably sized, color-capable delivery platform. (Although, yes, if the iPad and similar products take off as hoped, sellers of tabloid magazines will need to consider reformatting.) On the revenue side, will readers who now receive a controlled- circulation trade magazine upgrade to a paid subscription just because the title now arrives—“automagically”—on an iPad screen once per month? Don't bet on it. Paying subscribers will demand much more, such as dynamic magazines that refresh their stories in real time, as well as offer video and audio content. Nor is it obvious advertisers will pay a premium for ads delivered on an iPad screen—not unless, that is, publishers do a far better job of tracking user behavior and so provide their advertising clients with better and better leads. Publishers need to rethink their value propositions and redesign their products accordingly, for audiences and advertisers alike. That task will make reformatting for an iPad screen seem trivial by comparison. Ellis Booker can be reached at ebooker@crain.com.
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