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The iPad: What The South African Media Needs to Know

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Apple’s media-consuming tablet offering, the iPad, has finally released in Apple Authorised dealers in South Africa (unfortunately, we’re not blessed with the elegance of an actual Apple Store here, and have to settle for third-party retail outlets to get our fruity fix). As expected, the growing technology market in this country has been “wowed” by such a remarkable device — and rightly so, seeing as the iPad is set to revolutionise the way we consume digital content.

Already, American publication houses like The New York Times, Wired and MARVEL have created stunning iPad apps to complement their physical print publications, partly in a bid to exploit the iPad’s awesome multitouch interface and larger screen, and partly to save their skins. It’s a kind of “insurance”, if you like — these companies are “securing” themselves for the impending moment when devices like the iPad democratise and completely digitise the print industry to the extent that more people will be reading the news in an interactive format on a slate or tablet device rather than the actual physical paper.

Thus, as South Africans, although our time to consume the news entirely digitally is still some way off into the future, our media companies must not dawdle and fumble, especially in the face of the incredibly successful FIFA World Cup 2010 where this country received a major IT infrastructure overhaul.

The market leaders in South Africa’s print industry — media houses like Media24 and Independent Newspapers — need to invest in developing digitised versions of their content, and must devise innovative pricing schemes so as not to exploit the average news-seeking citizen. Thus significant research into American companies’ experiences could prove to go a long way in making the next generation of newspapers in South Africa truly successful. One clear example is Wired’s iPad app, which integrates audio, video, 3D content and text in interesting, engaging ways. The New York Times’ pricing schemes, devised to as not to discourage their actual, award-winning print publication, entices readers to embrace the digital news revolution whilst still remaining faithful to the dead-tree version.

So take heed, South African media: the time to go digital is here. Secure yourself now, and our country will continue to leap ahead into the next generation of technological advances.

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