Skip to Main Content

Dec 7, 2011 | 6 minute read

How Tablets are Changing Content Creation and Consumption

written by Amanda Dhalla

We recorded the following video live at meshwest in Vancouver on December 5. Meshwest is a one-day event about what's next online for marketers, entrepreneurs, the media and citizens.

Linda sat down with Mathew Ingram, a co-founder of the meshwest conference and a senior writer at, one of the leading technology blog networks in the US. He writes about the evolution of media and content and all that involves, including social media, Google, and the web in general.

As the sound in the video is a bit iffy, here is a summary of the conversation:

How are tablets changing consumer behavior?

Tablets are changing the way people consume media. Certainly the way I consume media. I've always been a voracious reader – newspapers, magazine and books. Now I virtually read nothing in printed format.

Ali Davar from Zite, the iPad magazine that learns from your reading preferences, talks about how reading on the tablet is a much better experience than reading on a computer. The fact that you touch the device – swiping, pinching, zooming – instead of using a mouse makes reading a tactile thing, as it always has been with printed newspapers and magazines. This changes the way you think about the media you are consuming. You are no longer passively sitting there but are interacting with the content. To me, this is the single biggest shift with digital content. It allows interactivity. Whether it's comments on a newspaper story or blog, or Twitter or Facebook, the fact that a reader can interact with me and I can interact with them around the content that I'm writing is a huge transformation.

How about an example of a publisher that's done a great job integrating or exploiting social media?

Everyone is experimenting right now. One of my favorite examples is The Guardian which is very forward thinking when it comes to digital. They are owned by a trust and therefore not driven as much by returns as public companies are. The Guardian is more interested if their content is reaching readers and they are embracing content from non-journalists. They have an open blog network, Comment is free, where anyone can contribute:

And last year they launched an open API, a programming interface for their content. They are effectively saying 'We don't care if you use our content. Build it into your service and either license it from us or give us a share of the ad revenue'.

Most media companies are still more concerned about control. 'How do I keep all my content to myself? How do I force people to come to my website?' The Guardian is more interested in using digital technologies to distribute content and then monetize it, rather than corralling people into silos. It's a reversal in how you think about what you're doing.

Is citizen journalism a threat to 'traditional' media?

Definitely. 'Traditional' media companies have always thought of themselves as the creators of content. Journalists were the only ones with a channel to reach people through or with video cameras to create content. But now anyone can do it.

The guy who was live tweeting the raid on Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan was a programmer who happened to hear a helicopter. For about an hour he was the single best news source about that event. He was a journalist for an hour. And Twitter, smart phones, and the Internet are what made him a journalist.

Either you see the value in that or you see it as a threat. You can't do both. Companies that see the value of that and adapt are going to be better off and further ahead than those who don't.

So subscribing to traditional media is becoming more like joining a community?

Theoretically. Smart newspapers are thinking of it that way. The editor-in-chief of The Guardian, for example, talks about what he calls the 'mutualized' newspaper.

It's no longer us, the journalists, simply delivering content to you. It's a regional back-and-forth process of determining what is news. What do we care about and what don't we care about. Again, at The Guardian you can now see all the stories being worked on by journalists. And if you know something about one of those stories you can reach out to that journalist and help them. We need to think about what we do differently. Rather than dictating the news, it's about co-creation.

Do you think in the future that you'll be able to purchase single pieces of content rather than a whole newspaper?

We're already part of the way there. People are reading individual articles recommended in Twitter, or that show up in a Facebook stream or in an aggregator, for example Pulse or Flipboard.

Let's face it, people never read the whole newspaper anyway. They've always customized their news. Now it's just a lot easier to read only the things that you are interested in.

And if you're not taking advantage of this shift, it's going to take advantage of you and harm your business. An editor friend of mine says that he now thinks that the way people come to the news is as if you'd taken a newspaper and ripped it up into individual articles and thrown them into the wind. Who's going to find which piece? What are they going to do with it afterwards? How are they going to find another one? People don't come in the front door. They come in from different places and might not even know the name of the publication. It's a fundamental change in the way information is created and flows which has widespread implications. It's hard to wrap your head around that if you've always packaged up the news and delivered it as a bundle.

Unfortunately the whole advertising model is based on that packaged model. A newspaper bundles up all their eyeballs and claims that a million people read all their stories. While no one believes that's true, advertisers then pay based on the number of eyeballs. They are looking for a mass audience but that's not the way information works anymore.

Is technology driving our behavior, or have we slowly changed our behavior and new gadgets are just coming along to support it?

It's a little bit of both and feeds on itself. The type of information consumption that we're talking about really wasn't that possible previously. I tried to customize my own content before by subscribing to 15 different magazines and 5 different newspapers, and watching 11 cable channels. Now various services let you consume just what you are interesting in. And tablets make content consumption so convenient, reinforcing this behavior.

I'm sure there are new products coming along that are going to accelerate the shift to personalized content delivery. For example, I've seen delivery mechanisms that are built into your bathroom mirror (for instance, the Cybertecture Mirror). Or a heads-up display while driving. Or on your glasses or contact lens.


A lot of exciting things to look forward to in the future - Thank you Mathew!

Looking for help with digital commerce?

A recently released Forrester report provides tactics for selecting digital ecommerce solutions and looks at some of the key platforms available in the market today. Get your free copy of Market Overview – Digital Commerce Solutions 2011 here.