Here at CJR, we’re interested in not just how these kinds of mobile apps can change the way people consume news, but how that technology might change the way news organizations produce and deliver the news. Have you thought about that at all?
I don’t know if we have thought that far yet, but the sphere is such a wonderful visual way of telling information that we’ll do more of that, because it’s just fun. To have a sphere that tells you which stock had the most volume today, that is a very simple thing, but to have it visually represented so you can move it and touch it, we’ll start populating it with lots of those kinds things.
I don’t think [the iPad app] will cause us to want to produce more video, because we want to produce more video, period. We have in a given month, on the ABC News Web site, we’ll do about 25 million video streams. Next year, we’d like to double that. We want to push as much video as we can. I think this medium actually says video almost more than any other platform that we’ve seen: better than the iPhone, better in a way even than the static Web site. That’s just my gut feeling.
I think the visual display of information, for us, will be more important on this device than on any others. The display of still images on this is also a beautiful experience. You can tell stories with still images that I think the desktop computer doesn’t do quite as well—at least within our traditional Web sites—and that the iPhone doesn’t do as well, but this thing, the iPad, is just beautiful. So I think we’ll tell more stories by still images.
I don’t know too many people with iPads. Is it naïve for people to say that this tablet thing is hype? Will tablets become less expensive, more increasingly available, just as laptops and cell phones have?
If history is any guide—and it has been an exceedingly helpful guide—these things will become ubiquitous, cheaper, and more powerful. In two or three years, you’re going to see $99 models—not necessarily the Apple one, but everyone’s going to start coming out with tablets. And I don’t know if they will necessarily cannibalize PC sales, or cannibalize phone sales. I think for a certain segment of the population, not an inconsequential segment, this will be additive, a third device. For another segment of the audience, for a lot of gamers or video watchers, people who aren’t processing words extensively, this could replace the PC, possibly.
Do you plan to charge for Web content in the future?
Every news organization would be remiss if they weren’t thinking about new revenue streams, new ways of helping to monetize their operations. I think, in our case, we’re looking for new ways to add value to the user’s experience. How we do that is something we’re looking at, but no decisions on that yet.
As a video-heavy news organization, do you have any advice for traditional print publications that are looking to improve their Web sites or develop new mobile apps?
As we increasingly move towards platforms that can manage videos, streaming and otherwise, I think they need to figure out how to do it. I guess my advice is, text is very, very, very competitive. And the CPM’s around text are not so great. I’m not looking for any more competition, but I think it’s very hard to live in this world today by being one thing only. Some people can do it. But just as broadcast is moving into text because there’s opportunity there, it seems that if I were a text-only operation, I would be vigorously looking for ways to supplement that.