Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How the Mystery Mac Will Change Journalism

The journalism world eagerly awaits the now mythic Spring arrival of Apple's game-changing Tablet, or whatever they're going to call it. It's been a big hush-hush secret for so long, that sometimes it seems like maybe the whole notion was just a dream.

That hasn't stopped graphic artists -- with no inside knowledge of the tight-lipped Apple kingdom -- from imagining what this unwrapped dream toy might look like.

Ron Callari gathered no less than 20 possible designs on Inventor Spot, and frankly they all look pretty cool. We'll be happy to play with any of them -- just hurry up and get one on the market already!

Will it look like an oversized iPhone? A souped-up Kindle? A touchscreen MacBook? A Mac Pro with app-like navigation buttons? A lidless laptop? A big docked PDA with keyboard?

And what will it be called? iPad? iTab? iTablet? MacTab? MacPad? MacTablet? TouchPad? TouchTab? TouchTablet? TouchBook?

Bets, anyone?

To see what this mystery Mac might do to transform print journalism into a total multimedia experience, check out this video of a hypothetical issue of Sports Illustrated. It's like the magazine literally comes to life. Tell us you wouldn't spend a couple bucks for an app that sings and dances like this:

The smarter print publications (e.g. Conde Nast's Wired) are prepping for this day, since they know that a customer who won't spend a nickel for a print issue, or for Web content, will happily fork over a few bucks for iPhone apps -- and this will seem like an extension of that.

Steve Jobs is conditioning us the same way he got all the music freeloaders to pony up a buck a song via iTunes -- thus revolutionizing the music industry. True, the record companies and record stores still took a lethal hit, but he proved that there's a viable market for music; it was just a matter of upending the financial model by altering attitudes and behaviors. We suspect he'll do the same for journalism.

So news organizations would be wise to to learn from the mistakes of the entrenched music industry that bemoaned its fate (and hastened its demise) by cursing its customers. It fell into extinction while a savvy outsider came along and drank its milkshake. What can you do today to prepare yourself or your company for a multimedia future, so that there will be no more blood?

Here's our recommendation. Invest heavily in the best videojournalism talent, training and equipment. Make sure you and your staff recognize the value of video that is professionally produced, and represents excellent journalism standards and storytelling qualities. Newspaper- and magazine-produced online video is coming of age, in fits and starts. Because publishers didn't experience an immediate return on their (minimal) financial investment, and those pre-roll ads didn't materialize as quickly as they had hoped, a lot of them got nervous and withdrew from that arena. Or, worse, they stayed in the game with orphaned third-rate product, which nobody watched, and so they buried it deep on their Websites so nobody could even find it, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that "nobody watches serious video."

But with the new Mac whatchamathing on the horizon, now is the time to re-think video strategies. Apple will succeed where nearly every journalism Website has failed. Why? Because it will successfully integrate words and moving images, in a new and exciting way that has mysteriously eluded print publishers and broadcasters. The device's portability and touch-screen capability will help catapult the online visual experience to the next level.

But ultimately, it's just a platform -- a fancy bucket waiting to be filled. iTunes is pure genius, but it would be worthless without talented composers, instrumentalists, singers, arrangers, producers. Similarly, for multimedia journalism to succeed, we'll need talented reporters, writers, shooters, editors and producers.

Trust us, video is where the future lies. At KobreGuide, we're betting the farm on it.


Archway said...

If this becomes a reality, it definitely could have legs, and Apple's got the marketing muscle to put it into orbit.

Such a hardware creation would seem to dovetail perfectly with Apple's efforts to expand iTunes into a mass provider of TV content (reported by WSJ, 12/22/09).

Question: what's the best video hardware and format compatibility to go with a) this presumed device, and b) the dawning age of video journalism in general?

Roger Archibald

J Pat said...

For years, I have heard the print media is dead. But I find it very interesting that more and more papers are cutting back on video. And no one has found a way to make money on the video. To be extremely candid, we all know iconic images but I do not remember an iconic video. Who knows what the future will bring but the impact of a still image still brings the moment home.