Magazines and other marketers, in their rush to jump on the iPad bandwagon, are at risk of losing sight of the bigger mobile-web picture.
Full disclaimer: Ad Age is as excited about the iPad as anyone else. Indeed, we've ordered one for the office to see what potential it has for editorial and sales. (And, to be honest, just to mess about with it.) But in the larger scope of things, we're concerned that too many publishers are putting all their eggs in one basket. And it's an awfully small basket at that.
The iPhone -- and its burgeoning world of apps -- provides a good example. In the media world, Apple products have an outsize reputation. But in the wider world. IPhone apps, at best, only reach 25% of smartphone users -- a segment that represented 42.7 million Americans in January, according to ComScore.
That's 25% of smartphone users. Compare that to nearly 30% of all mobile subscribers that used a phone's web browser on any device accessing the internet, from iPhones and BlackBerrys to Android phones.
It is useful to devote time and money to apps, but publishers and marketers should continue to take a broader platform-agnostic approach to the mobile world.
In the case of the iPhone, at least, we know that it works and that it has dedicated, fanatical users. And the assumption is that the same will hold true for the iPad. Publishers, at least, are hoping that if they get in early enough and figure out the best way to use it, they'll be able to command ad rates equivalent to print or better.
That's a strong argument. But it ignores a couple of things. The first is scale. Because of the novelty and the price, this will be a niche within a niche. And publishers have to prepare for the possibility that one of Apple's many competitors may come out with something better and cheaper that sweeps the mass market.
Publishers have indicated they're willing to play on all tablet platforms. Hopefully, the projects they're building for iPad will translate to other tablets with minimal tweaking -- which hasn't always been the case with Apple products. And as they chase the tablet market, they must keep an eye on the mobile-web platforms that aren't going away and need constant updating themselves. While Apple has a strong track record, so did IBM and Sony. It's one thing to put all your eggs in one basket, but another entirely if it turns out to be a BetaMax basket.