Content Strategy and the iPad

Doug Bolin   September 13, 2010

Blurring the lines between old media and new media. (Image via Shakespeare Monkey)

As content strategists in our never-ending quest to extend the practice of content strategy to emerging digital interactions, we have now come face-to-screen with the iPad. Plus, rumor has it that Apple has filed a patent on a similar OS and interface for desktop computers. So, it’s time to leverage our skills and experience to develop a body of thought and practice around content strategy for it.

Right? Maybe not.

Maybe, as content strategists, we will need a fundamentally different approach to the iPad. So the goal of this post is to start generating some discussion around content strategy for the iPad.

A proposal, let’s start in two parts, answering the following:

1.    What is unique about the iPad experience?
2.    What makes content strategy for the iPad more than the sum of the content components?
3.    What are the content strategy and user experience best practices for content being experienced through the iPad?
4.    What are the content strategy and user experience best practices for App content?
5.    Is the iPad itself already a content strategy?

What is unique about the iPad experience?

Most of what is being written and said about the iPad these days concerns what it is not. For example, it is not just:

A big iPhone …An iPod Touch on steroids…Portable digital out of home …. A Netbook…A way to do email… A way to surf the web…An eBook reader…A big portable game player… Digital Signage…Its Apps…A great screen for watching movies and television…Microsoft Surface…a kiosk… Apple TV… A virtual collaboration tool … and so on.

We seem to be developing a pretty good idea of what the iPad isn’t, but not much about what it really is and how to do CS for it.  Rich Jaroslovsky nailed the challenge facing us:

“A far better name would be iWonder. As in, it certainly is a consumer-tech wonder. And also as in, I wonder if the content providers (read content strategists) who may determine its success are prepared to take full advantage of it?”

As a content strategist, what do you think makes the iPad experience unique? What do we need to do to take full advantage of it?

What makes content strategy for iPad more than the sum of its content parts?

In other words, is content strategy for the iPad merely a discrete collection of the thinking about the different content types and interactions it delivers?

I’d argue that it isn’t.

The fact that the iPad can potentially integrate virtually every digital experience, App and content type into one experience means we need to do the same. Plus, it uses a touch interface with gestural overtones. It’s fast, it’s mobile and it’s dynamic. All of this changes and extends the content experience in ways we have barely begun to explore. We won’t explore them if we keep thinking about the iPad as a delivery device for traditional content types and traditional interactions.

One thing that is particularly discouraging, most material currently available on “Creating Content for the iPad” or similar themes turns out to be about getting traditional content onto, or into, the iPad.

Thoughts?

Please tune in again next week for Questions 3 – 5.

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7 Responses

  1. I’m a little disappointed that Apple makes such a big point about trying to integrate metaphors from the physical world into iPad designs, since it’s the same tired thinking that Apple used to influence HyperCard design almost twenty years ago.

    The iPad is more than the sum of the multimedia it can play. Much of our current multimedia content has been developed based on dated UIX paradigms. Here’s one example of why I think we have much to unlearn:

    Shopping center print directories were designed to answer as many shopper questions as possible for as long as possible. No one wants to walk to a store that no longer exists. Accordingly, marketing managers learned to include as little information as possible simply because if too much information were included, that would be more information that would be likely to become out-of-date, triggering bad mojo with shoppers. (And, as hospitality types are fond of saying, one piss-poor experience can undo a hundred things done right.)

    So marketing types didn’t want to rock the boat, and in doing so, most of their production processes went into supporting that paradigm.

    Storing information in the cloud is a huge shift, as is the notion of getting information wherever you happen to be. Since your post is about the iPad I’ll move on, but I think it’s significant that most businesses have yet to think of the second- and third-derivative effects of having the most up-to-date information available on any device.

    The iPad’s ability to boot up almost instantly makes it a preferred tool for demonstrations. Further, while the computer experience to date has been a solitary one, the iPad unlocks new paradigms for sharing, from Scrabble games that turn individual iPhones into tile holders to virtual pianos that enable impromptu duets between people facing each other.

    I submit that most businesses, like malls, have some sort of information distribution dysfunction that could benefit from the iPad.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Let me add one last thought to this wonderfully crafted collection. When we think about “context”, are we considering all the occasions when a device like iPad can be an integration to the laptop screen?

    The use of a small, more versatile, and “touch” screen can be a perfect match to the use of a traditional computer. (Think about enjoying content on the main screen and the related social stream on the iPad or doing a task on the main screen while having the to do list on the iPad). The possibilities are almost endless and very interesting.

    Good post, Doug. ;)

  3. Ann Rockley says:

    It is very true that there is no strategy for content on the iPad, yet there is much we can draw on to develop this strategy. We have:

    -the old HyperCard design guidelines
    -instructional design (eLearning)
    -application design
    -rich media design

    The challenge is what is content? So much of current content strategy revolves around text and graphics and to a lesser degree around rich media. When we move into extensive rich media, interactivity and integration with the cloud, the question is what is “content” in today’s world and what is it developing into? Exciting food for thought.

    Ann Rockley

  4. Scott Abel says:

    Exciting food for thought indeed. But we have models for content strategy on the iPad. I think Ann Rockley’s Unified Content Strategy is a good starting point.

    Http://www.managingenterprisecontent.com

    The lessons in that work are still valid today.

    As someone working with book publishers on this very challenge, the main obstacle appears to be the reliance on printed book production processes. I’m writing an article now for an investment magazine about why investors should not invest in publishing firms that do not have a unified strategy because they waste investment dollars treating each new information product (app, eBook, web content) as a one-off project that takes place AFTER the printed book is done.

    If we can get publishers to change their print paradigm we can introduce the strategy and help them become more efficient and effective. And, there are so many interesting new topics to explore — interaction best practices is one (what do we enhance, why, when…)

    These are indeed exciting times.

  5. Richard Turpin says:

    It’s an interesting device from a users input perspective, the gesture interface has huge implications in how you might interact with different types of content, and in different ways for different types.

    I don’t think that it’s quite intuitive yet, I’m still finding out how to interact with the device, and whilst that is fun, it also shows that I may be missing something when interacting with particular types of content. That said, writing is not intuitive, I’ve just forgotten how long it took to master the technique of pen and paper, keyboard and screen.

    The adherence to a particular set of standards, means that not all content is readily available. I suspect that this will also be an issue for competitors, and therefore how you bundle your content for devices.

    It’s limited storage, also points to more cloud based content consumption in the future. I think the stream/cache metaphor will be an issue for content strategists. I like Spotify’s stream mostly, but cache data important to me, so I can access offline if I go out of signal range.

    Dynamic, group collaboration is also an interesting issue for content strategist. Wireless laptops have been with us for years, and yet the level of group collaboration, ad hoc, viewing/consuming, production/editing is almost laughable.

    I don’t think the iPad wins much in this area yet, it’d be interesting to see what happens with Facetime, although I suspect this will be a cul-de-sac for content, but a group discussing/recording content with both local and remote users, using not only video but other content types would be interesting.

  6. [...] screen tablets such as the iPad is an ongoing discussion content management people at sites like Razorfish are [...]

  7. Inga Clausen says:

    Sorry to join this thread so late – fascinating exchange. A question for Scott: can you point me to the article you wrote for the investment magazine about why investors should not invest in publishing firms that do not have a unified strategy, or can you post it here!
    I’d love to have a read.

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