Just a scant four weeks after the launch of the iPad, WeMedia had the wisdom to gather some folks to spend a day exploring the future of the iPad economy. Of course, they didn't call it that. In fact, everyone at Tabula Rasa imagined a world in which the tablet universe has more than one player. But for now, that's not the case. And as much as you can expect an Android competitor to emerge, today other than the Kindle, Apple has the world all to its own.
The day-long event can be broken into three camps: Believers, Fence Sitters and Skeptic.
On the 'Believers' Camp were a number of magazines that are leaning in.
"We're trying to make our readers not feel like we're slapping them in the face as we explore this new world," said Mark Jannot. Mark is editor-in-chief of Popular Science. And what about price? "We're going to continue to be aggressive about pricing. We'll see what the market will bear." said Jannot.
There were a bunch of these.
'Fence Sitters' were the largest contingent, folks who want to believe that the iPad and its unborn competitors will create a new emerging market for publishers. But the same day as the WeMedia 'throw down', Steve Jobs was coming out with a harshly worded anti-Adobe screed, Jon Stewart had called Jobs crazy and compared him to Howard Hughes, and Silcon Valley police were trying to figure out if they should have busted down the door of the Gizmodo editor who bought the iPhone prototype. Not a great day to be expecting Apple's iTunes eco-system to shower publishers with gobs of new revenues. History says that Apple doesn't often provide windfall profits to content makers.
Merrill Brown, the former Editor-In-Chief of MSNBC was selling his freemium model for publishers (some content free, some paid). "Putting up a pay wall does not solve your business problem," said Brown. "Publishers who think they can put their magazine on an iPad and make a lot of money are making a significant mistake."
Josh Levy of FreePress wrote of the iPad,"There are a few major issues with the iPad. Some of these so-called features set us on a dangerous path to a future of closed computing."
But for all the fence sitters and believers, the room only had one 'Skeptic' on stage, and Buzzmachine's Jeff Jarvis seemed to relish his non-believer role:
"I think the TIME Magazine app is the most sinful piece of shit ever," said Jarvis, "The ego of it was unabashedly awful." On his blog he writes: "It’s worse than the web: we can’t comment; we can’t remix; we can’t click out; we can’t link in, and they think this is worth $4.99 a week. But the pictures are pretty." (read all his opinion here: http://www.buzzmachine.com/2010/04/04/ipad-danger-app-v-web-consumer-v-creator/)
Josh Quittner, Time Magazine's editor-at-large, wasn't able to hold back and fired full guns at Jarvis thusly: "Jarvis, a former Time Inc.-er, can be forgiven for the disgruntled, I-hate-my-ex-wife tone that creeps into his rhetoric, whenever he discusses his former employer. It’s tiresome, dude, and intellectually dishonest given that you’re still stumping for your Google book." Ouch.
Quittner, who was one of the key creative forces behind the Time magazine iPad app didn't leave any room for equivocation. "'appgazines' on Tablets will indeed save the day for many publishers as they complete the transition to extremely profitable digital media" wrote Quitner on his blog.
Which kind of calls the question, even if the iPad isn't the god machine, it sure is an interesting device. Jarvis, it needs to be pointed out, is both negative on the Time Magazine app (because it doesn't have social features) and on the iPad itself, which he somewhat theatrically 're-boxed' and returned to Apple after he determined it wasn't a 'necessary' device.
I can't help but wonder how Jarvis will live up to his promise of getting an iPad "When there are apps that are truly great." He called the iPad "Sweet and cute but shallow and vapid" in one of his may anti-iPad tweets. His basic argument, as he posted on Business Insider says: "The iPad is retrograde. It tries to turn us back into an audience again. That is why media companies and advertisers are embracing it so fervently, because they think it returns us all to their good old days when we just consumed, we didn’t create, when they controlled our media experience and business models and we came to them. " http://www.businessinsider.com/i-really-hate-what-apple-is-trying-to-do-with-the-ipad-2010-4#ixzz0mijCZbE0
If that were true I'd agree with Jarvis. But it's not. Sure it doesn't have a camera, or a USB connection. And there's no doubt that it is more engineered for consumption than creation. But there's no reasonable way to argue that it isn't web connected, or collaborative, or useful to comment or link or share. There's simply no evidence to support that. It is, rather, a device designed to create a new category of media distribution.
The issues around censorship at Apple are real, and I've written about them. (link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-rosenbaum/steve-jobs-porn-problem_b_551722.html)
But as a first generation device that aims to kill fewer trees, expand publishing to a portable device, and encourage app makers large and small - the iPad is a game changer. And everyone at the WeMedia Tabula Rasa throw down would agree - except Jeff Jarvis. I wonder how he'll explain iPad apps to his students now that he doesn't have one to test apps on, maybe CUNY will buy one for the department? Let's hope so.