SXSW Report: Reach Customers in New Ways via the iPad

The release of the much-anticipated iPad is fast approaching. Do you know it will explode the possibilities for ways you can interact with your customers and audience?

Now that we as an industry have seen the iPad and developers have had the opportunity to write applications for the new device, thoughts are crystalizing around just how many new ways content creators, publishers, brands, companies and organizations will have to reach, enage and serve their respective audiences.

Discussion at SXSW

On Saturday, March 13 at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference, developers, gaming and media executives gathered on a panel to discuss these very opportunities. The thoughts that emerge will enlighten you to the scope of the opportunity ahead. The panel, entitled "iPad: New Opportunities for Content Creators," validated and enhanced many thoughts KeyLimeTie has been having about the device's potential.

iPad Panel at SXSW

Moderator Raven Zachary (@ravenme) set the stage by telling the audience that the pre-launch demand for the iPad is higher than it was for the original iPhone. On the first day of pre-order sales, Apple sold 51,000 iPads within the first two hours, and 90,000 units within six hours (source).

Why such a high demand? Today approximately 75 million people use the iPhone OS (between iPhone and iPod Touch owners) and are familiar with the multi-touch screen interface as well as the App Store. Many of these people will enthusiastically purchase iPads and in the process bypass the learning curve because they're already familiar with how to operate it.

The Panel Discussion

The panelists each gave a perspective on the iPad based on their respective industries. Bill Jensen (@BillyJensen), Director of New Media for The Village Voice talked about the power of the iPad to deliver well-formatted niche content. As one of the few print weeklies that continues to see growth thanks to its local focus, Jensen seemed keen to leverage this lower cost barrier digital format to deliver more niche content.

Jensen made an illustration of the variety of content available through the largest digital medium—the web—and through print distribution channels. A typical city street may have 10 newspaper boxes and the largest of bookstores could carry up to 1,000 magazines while the Internet boasts an almost unfathomable 109.5 million web sites. Being a digital medium, the iPad will bring back the experience of reading elegantly typeset books fused with interactive media, while offering a selection that will dwarf bookstores.

76% of Top 5 grossing apps in the iTunes Store are games. By 2013, panelist Shervin Peshavar (@Shervin) from the Social Gaming Network (creators of best-selling iPhone games) asserted the app market will have an estimated value of $30 billion with approximately 20 million iPads sold. Peshavar disussed the ways the iPad's size and features will change the way people both experience and produce content.

Accoring to Peshavar, the iPad's unique value lies in four distinct factors:

  • Screen real estate
  • Processing power
  • The immersive experience it affords
  • Convenient size

"The iPad enables new usage occasions, pushes creative frontier and boosts engagement" says Peshavar. "Greater engagement leads to higher ARPU," or average revenue per user. "The iPhone is more for media consumption, where the iPad will be for media creation," said panelist Jason Grigsby (@grigs). Peshavar even speculated about a radical shift in human-computer interactions, musing that we may now see real-time collaboration between two people using the same device simultaneously.

Books on the iPad, photo credit Photo credit: Wired Magazine.

Katherine Tasheff (@tasheffka) of Hyperion Books said "The iPad mimics the experience of reading a book like nothing else does." Hyperion, she says, is seeing print book sales decine thanks to e-readers. "[The iPad and e-readers are] the first step toward the virtually paperless society we will be in about twenty years," added Jensen. Underscoring the iPad's potential for ubiquity, Tasheff added "This is the first device both my father and I are excited about. And I am tech support for the man, I know what's involved."

Other Observations

  • The potential for two people to collaborate or play a game on the same device instead of two networked devices.
  • The iPad will be used fundamentally differently than the iPhone. The panelists are questioning the need for things like camera and GPS because people will treat the device more like a computer than a phone.
  • The iPad and similar devices will likely signal the end of vertical scrolling (like on computers) as this is an artifact non-touch screen interface. Now that we are touching the screen, we won't need to scroll. Instead, designers and content creators will be free to build content that pages more naturally.

Looking Ahead

We've only seen the beginning of the possibilities on the iPad. As the iPad launches, think through ways you can better serve your customers by producing an app or re-formatting the content you create for the device. Its popularity virtually ensures someone who does what you do will be competing for peoples' attention on this new screen. This is an opportunity and also a call to action to lead the way for your industry for providing quality interactions via the digital device where many of your customers, users, fans, and audiences will be conducting their day-to-day business, communication, and pleasure activities.

If you have questions about how your company can build an iPad application, or if you are looking for a technology partner with whom to explore this frontier, please call KeyLimeTie at 630.598.9000.