News media benefits from iPad apps
By Bridget Meade
Mercury Intermedia CEO Bill Tallent encouraged RSJ students and faculty to be disruptors of their industries. Tallent, speaking on the first day of Journalism Week 2011, heads a company that walks that walk, innovating mobile applications for news and information.
“I don’t have a background in journalism but I do have a background in disruption,” said Tallent, who led the creation of the USA Today app for iPad, the most installed iPad application in 2010. “Although I am the first to admit, as someone who has been in the computer industry since college, I didn’t see this disruption coming.”
Tallent talked about recent technological shifts, from cell phones to the changes in the music industry. Unlike these industries, the print industry has remained basically unchanged for centuries.
“My God,” Tallent said, “I don't know of any industry that has had a 500-year run.”
Now, however, the Internet and mobile devices have caused necessary shifts in print media.
“Newsrooms are traditional organizations that have trouble with change,” Tallent said. “The music industry barely survived when they refused the public demand for different buying options. The public began illegally downloading music. Apple solved the situation with by allowing users to buy individual songs.”
News apps for mobile devices offer an opportunity that newsrooms can’t afford to miss. In the two years of using mobile apps, USA Today expanded its readership as much as it did in the first 29 years of its existence. The iPad offers an easy interface, instant news updates and the ability to interact, Tallent said. Advertisers like it, given that users spend typically twice as much time with iPad app sessions than they do with iPhone apps.
Tallent predicted iPads will have an enormous effect on laptops and personal computers. “They will be used for content creation,” he said. “iPads and other mobile devices will be for content consumption. A recent report indicated that 92 percent of consumers will not go back to a website format after reading news on an app.”
Tallent suggested that apps must be user friendly, fast and reliable. He said that brand loyalty is not enough to keep users on a poorly designed application. He predicted that News Corp.’s The Daily app might be an example.
“They should have waited until that application was completely finished before they launched it,” Tallent said. “It’s going to be a train wreck.”
Other components of successful applications prioritize editorial attention, contain video and quality still photography and enable sharing via social media.
“Tallent’s work is an example of the transformation journalism is enduring,” Dean Jerry Ceppos said. “However, it also proves that strong competencies in reporting and media are as much of a necessity in the future as they have been in the past.”
Journalism student Sydney Aubert appreciated the different aspects of the industry Tallent presented.
“It was nice to hear more about more than reporting,” she said.