One of the most exciting things happening in mobile computing today is magazine publishing on the iPad. The huge sales of the iPad, along with its large screen real -estate and advanced, multimedia capabilities, have breathed new life and hope into an industry that has seen a steady erosion of its advertising base and in the last two years the shuttering of several major publications. The iPad is proving to be a doorway for magazines to regain some of their income -- Time reportedly picked up three new advertisers with its first iPad edition, which was released on the day that the iPad went on sale in the United States.
That edition of Time also showcased the creativity that the iPad platform, combined with strong publishing tools (in this case from the German software firm Woodwing can unleash. Depending on the magazine page open on the screen, flipping the unit from horizontal to vertical, for instance, can display a full-page view of a photograph, while simple hand motions on the screen can zoom in and out. Time has been publishing its electronic edition weekly since and has been joined by a growing list of other magazines. Last week Time Warner announced an iPad edition of Sports Illustrated with heavy use of hot spots and other digital technologies that cannot be duplicated on paper.
This is all great for the magazine publishers, who certainly need some good news, but what does this have to do with the great bulk of corporations? While most do not think of themselves as publishers, virtually every organization produces published information that is very important to it. Annual reports, technical documentation, employee newsletters and magazines and a number of other publications are all vital to corporate success. Creating effective corporate publications presents several challenges ranging from creating impact to simply explaining complex concepts and procedures in an understandable fashion. In the early 1980s, for instance, I personally watched the Japanese PC manufacturers fail in the North American market because of these challenges. Their products were excellent, even superior, but their documentation was often unintelligible.
The iPad, and potentially the neo-tablets being developed by Hewlett-Packard, Google, and other players, free publications from the restrictions of static printing. On these devices, for instance, documentation can include film clips showing an instructor demonstrating a complex procedure alongside still images and a written set of instructions. And the portability of these devices allows technicians to carry the documentation to the device. And anyone who wants to see what annual reports will look like in the future should look at e-magazines on an iPad.
Action Item: E-publishing is a marriage of IT and advanced publication design. CIOs need to be involved and should be leaders in what will be an exciting, creative process of redesigning their organization's publications to take advantage of the new platform. Start by experiencing some of the new magazines on the iPad while establishing a partnership with the publication people in the organization, whether they are internal or external contractors. CIOs should name a technical liaison to the e-publishing development process, which certainly will require new IT resources and should work with the publishing group to present electronic publishing concepts to senior management and to gain maximum advantage from them for the enterprise.