Tablets and news: Back to the future?

Those of us who are children of television can remember the family oriented shows that would

Leave It to Beaver — © Universal Studios Home Entertainment, All rights reserved

"June, have you seen my iPad?"

always show the dad (whether it was Ward Cleaver, Ozzie Nelson or Jim Anderson) coming home from work, settling in the easy chair after dinner and opening a copy of the evening newspaper to settle in for an evening of catching up on the news.

That was life back in the ’50s, and in many ways Hollywood‘s dads reflected the habits of the average American. The U.S. was full of p.m. dailies to meet the information demands of the real-life Wards and Ozzies.

Then came the ’70s, and lifestyles changed.  Evening newspapers  died off like  black-and-white TV as morning newspapers fit people’s lifestyles more.

Today, newspapers — and news organizations in general — continue to struggle to find a profitable way to meet the growing information demands as people turn to electronic media to satisfy their thirst for news.

When Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, we in the business looked at it as a game changer, but we weren’t sure just how it could change. Now, a year later, we’re seeing how people are using tablet devices, and the results may give news organizations hope in finding their way into the future.

I recently sat in on a News University webinar (co-sponsored by The Poynter Institute and the Knight Foundation) on reader trends on iPad and tablets. Some interesting takeaways from that webinar:

1. iPad use among the early adopters tends to be more for leisure than productivity (counter to PC use). Most use their device while sitting on a couch or chair.

2. Use of the iPad trends high during the early morning (5-8 a.m.) and late evening (after 8 p.m.) hours, again contrary to other platforms.

3.  iPad users spend more time with their device, and tend to read more long-form items.

4. iPad users tend to be more willing to pay for quality content.

Heavy use in the evenings? Users sit in easy chair or sofa? They spend more time on the device? Willing to pay for content?

Is the iPad creating a new generation of Ward Cleavers?

This is something newspapers in particular should take notice. It is a formula that worked 50 years ago, and maybe it’s time to develop p.m. editions for tablet platforms. Keep in mind that the experience as well as the content is what will sell your product, but it is something that worked before, and if readers are ready for it, it’s definitely worth trying again.

But you better hurry.

Ozzie’s waiting for you.

Stay ahead of the pack, if you know where the pack’s going

Just when we thought newspapers had it figured out and started charging regular visitors to view its websites, comes out with the list of the Top 25 newspapers on Twitter. While newspapers are still focused on web visits, consider the top 2 news sites (with Twitter followers):

1. New York Times 3,062,437
2. Chicago Tribune (coloneltribune):  829,742

Now, compare this with ABC circulation figures as of Sept. 2010:

1. New York Times: 876,638
2. Chicago Tribune: 441,508

Granted, the other newspapers are still running more in paid circ than Twitter followers, but the numbers have been getting closer together in the past few years.

Given that newspapers in general still have a problem getting their hands around social networking, it’s not surprising that they still hand out content to Twitter and Facebook followers at no costs. The idea is still to build brand and readership loyalty that will eventually bring readers back to your newspaper or … more likely … your pay-to-play website.

But, given that new and younger readers are veering away from Web 2.0 and moving toward social networking as their primary source of news and information, wouldn’t it make more sense for publishers to look ahead to where readers are going and set up the checkout register in front of the crowd, rather than behind them?