Our “first screen”

At The Verge, Nilay Patel recently covered the TV of Tomorrow conference that took place in New York on December 10. His post, “The future of television has arrived: it’s called the iPad”, describes how industry executives think of the device as their “second screen”.

In the article, Patel captures two different schools of thought about the iPad. The first sees it as an alternate advertising platform:

“”Within three years the primary metric that advertisers buy will be engagement," predicted Brad Pelo, CEO of popular TV app maker iTV. Reinventing the TV and TV ads might generate a little more money, but creating an entirely new platform for ads opens up major secondary revenue streams.”

The second perspective sees the iPad as a digital companion, something used with televised content, but in a new and different way:

“TVPlus co-founder Randy Shiozaki noted that people will spend 22 minutes of a 30-minute show with second screen apps open, and 38 minutes of a 60-minute show.”

It struck me that this discussion parallels the disconnect we have when it comes to publishing on devices like Kindle and iPad (our “first screen”). Most of us, naturally, default to the prevailing business model and think of digital platforms as “like print, but more portable”.

As the sophistication of reading devices grows, though, portability has become just one of the potential features. The ability to quickly search a text already leads some people to prefer digital formats.

Recently, the New York Times debuted a cross-platform approach to telling one of its stories. On the other end of the scale, Craig Mod has suggested that digital affords us opportunities to engage in ‘subcompact publishing’, cost-effectively limiting the breadth or depth of content offerings.

Invoking Frank Chimero once more, we “invent things before we know what they are for”. While we don’t yet know what all the right answers will be, publishing across digital platforms won’t be just (or even mostly) eBooks and digital facsimiles.

In a similar sense, I am not sure the future of television is just an iPad. At least one of the futures of television probably involves an iPad, but if it does, networks had best be scrambling. The company that deconstructed the album won’t be very interested in distributing programmed blocks of advertiser-sponsored content.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.