The iPad had a good week.
No, I'm not talking about the swirling rumors of the iPad 2. Apple let the world know that beyond posting a record profit of six billion dollars in the last three months of 2010 (that's $26.74 billion in revenue for those keeping score at home), they also shipped 7.33 million iPads. This brings them close to 15 million iPads sold in 2010 (which blew away many industry analysts estimated). IDC (the research firm) says that approximately 17 million tablets were shipped in 2010 and that the iPad represented nearly ninety percent of tablets shipped in the third quarter of 2010 (more on that here: Apple Posts Record Profit; iPad Sales Surpass Projections).
When something becomes mass, it begins to act like mass media.
Many people see modern technology and the content that plays on it, and think that it will all look and act like Social Media. It may... it may not. Some will act this way, while others many not. There's no doubt that in its current format, the iPad is a device driven by consumption. In it's current form and function, creating content (beyond simple text) is not that easy. That being said, reading (Blogs, newspapers, books, magazines), general Web surfing, watching movies, looking at pictures and listening to audio content is pure joy. Heavy consumption like this coupled with the number of tablets being gobbled up by consumers is creating an entirely new kind of mass media consumption.
The iPad is also driven by advertising.
As much as I would (personally) like to see a new form of Marketing emerge as these new media channels get created, it seems like old habits do, indeed, die hard (as the saying goes). On Monday, MediaPost had a news item titled, iPad Owners Prefer Ad-Supported Content To Paid. Here's the gist of it:
"A large majority of iPad owners would prefer free, ad-supported media to content they have to pay for, according to a new survey by Knowledge Networks, first reported on the Ad Age Web site. But by the same token, they're not exactly happy about advertising. Specifically, Knowledge Networks found that 86% of iPad owners would be willing to see an ad in return for free access to content, including TV shows and articles from magazines and newspapers. That compares with just 13% who said they would be willing to pay for this type of content, if they already have access to it elsewhere. At the same time, 78% said advertising 'takes away from their enjoyment of their iPad.' Assuming this group includes all 13% who said they prefer paid content, this would seem to suggest that about 65% of iPad owners would grudgingly accept advertising - even though they don't actually like it - rather than reach for their wallets."
So, we hate advertising, but we hate paying for content more?
Things have to change. Marketers often talk about mobile as the "third screen" (the first being TV and the second being the computer screen)... and it turns out they (and I include myself in this bunch) got it all wrong. The iPad (and tablets like it) are the new mass media because it makes everything one screen. While we currently get different kinds of enjoyment out of out sixty-inch plasma TVs than we do from our smartphone screens, it's not a far stretch to see how the iPad can quickly become the hub for all of our screen activity. The size, the weight, the clarity, the portability and the connectivity. Much like you flick to see the next picture on your iPad today, you'll probably be making a similar gesture to flick a movie or TV show on to some other kind of screen on your home wall in the not-to-distant future. All of this innovation, portability and content-on-demand will need to find a new kind of revenue model.
It's not going to be free... and it can't only be ad-supported. I don't know what the answer will be, but I'm willing to hack away at this with you in the hopes of figuring it out.