Opinion

How The Australian fell in love with the iPad

While it’s fair to say that the world’s media has been pretty excited about Apple’s iPad, The Australian appears to be on the verge of spontaneously combusting over the device’s official arrival Down Under this Friday.  

iPad Australian MumbrellaClearly the newspaper’s plans to launch its own paid-for iPad app are unrelated to that. Indeed, if it sells as many apps as it has written stories about the iPad, it will be well on the way to securing a digital future for itself.

So let’s celebrate The Australian’s coverage of the iPad:

We begin on January 28, with the newspaper kicking off its iPad coverage with “Three reasons the iPad will be a success“:

“Like a latter day Moses, Apple supremo Steve Jobs has handed down a tablet, called the iPad, from on high to his faithful followers.”

The same day also sees book publishers “embracing” the device.

It would even kill the medium of direct mail, the paper reported on February 1, citing an expert’s prediction that:

“Within five years iPad devices will have proliferated so much that many retailers will eschew letterbox delivery of catalogues for digital.”

But by March 8, the paper was still a little bit on the fence, reporting the sad news that there’s going to be a delay before Apple’s iPad hits Australia. However, it’s still a chance to remind readers:

“The company is seeking to revolutionise computing by creating a new market for mobile devices in between the laptop and the smartphone.”

Indeed, April 2 saw the paper warn against elevated expectations. However, it did add:

“The iPad is expected to help cement Apple’s position as a distributor of media content such as music, video, games and now books.”

But the next day, the revolutionary fervour began to set in. On April 3, the paper reported the end of the laptop and mouse:

“This beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop. It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multitouch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades.”

But the big moment came on April 8 after owner Rupert Murdoch gave the device his blessing, predicting:

“It may well be the saving of the newspaper industry”

On April 8, there was even a bit of AV support, with a video review by IT editor Stuart Kennedy. His conclusion:

“A great device for media presentations such as looking at newspaper content”.

At this stage though, The Australian was still lukewarm, telling readers on April 9 the iPad was “not life-changing but media-friendly“:

Over that weekend though, it looked like the superior vision of the boss had won over any internal doubters. And from that moment on, The Oz was truly, madly, deeply in love with the iPad.

On April 12, comes the news: “The Australian newspaper’s ready with app of its own

Also on April 12, The Oz was reporting how “Apple’s iPad ushers in the era of convergence

“The technology has finally caught up with the promise, while the price of the next generation of mobile computing devices has found a sweet spot.”

And still on April 12, Mark Day reckoned the paper would save newspapers and attract ad dollars but was worried about what happened if the iPad was not a hit:

“What then? What’s Plan B? Who gathers the news? Who sifts it, sorts it, analyses it and prioritises it? When there are no newspapers, who does Google steal from?”

And yet more on April 12, with Media editor Geoff Elliott who opined that “Hype is justified as new media model emerges“:

“Here is a genuinely new distribution platform for a craft many of us have been doing for years on the “dead tree” version”

The next day, April 13, the paper was even further off the fence, reporting “Emerging iPad apps a visual treat and user friendly“:

“It’s clear that tools for newspapers and magazines, action games and board games, and high-resolution educational uses, will strive for levels of visual excellence and novelty previously unseen on computer devices.”

Indeed, also on April 13, the paper predicted the iPad was going to give Apple “an unbeatable lead“.

April 26 saw news that “The Australian is believed to be the first newspaper in Australia to sign-up lucrative advertising packages for the iPad, which is expected to garner $1 million in the next few weeks.”

Further down in the story, it conceded that most of this package was actually in the print edition.

April 27 carried what was becoming familiar news:

“A plethora of news and magazine apps has flooded what many publishers hope to be the newsstand of the future and the key to reviving the industry’s flagging paper-based revenues.”

April 28 saw The Australian carry a review from sister paper The Times, with the language-bending headline: “I was an sceptical of Apple’s iPad, until I used it

By the start of this month, the newspaper might as well have renamed itself The iPadstralian. On May 4 it informed readers of the rush to join the tablet bandwagon:

“Wired.com, the online manifestation of the famed digital age magazine, last year famously proclaimed that 2010 would be the Year of the Tablet. How right they were. Feverish excitement is building in some quarters as Apple prepares to finally launch its hot-selling iPad tablet into a number of international markets, including Australia.

And also on May 4, it informed readers of the good news that the tablet had passed the 1m sales mark… and the next day May 5 it reminded readers there was still no Australian launch date.

But on May 8, the paper breathlessly reported:

“Unless big boss Steve Jobs runs out of parts over the weekend, Apple will begin taking orders in Australia for its iPad tablet PC from Monday.”

Later on May 8, there was more good news with the pricing details now available:

“In an interesting and somewhat unexpected move, Apple announced that the iBookstore, which allows iPad owners to purchase electronic books to read on the iPad, and later this year on the iPhone as well, will be available from launch for Australians.”

May 9 saw more helpful details of Telstra’s pricing plan.

Two days later on May 10 came another reminder that pre-orders were now open:

“The iPad can be pre-ordered in Australia from today at $629 for the base model iPad with 16GB of memory and WiFi-only internet access. Prices range right up to $1049, the cost of a decent laptop PC, for the top-of-the-range iPad with 3G access as well as WiFi and 64GB of storage space.”

And the following day, May 11 local book publishers are rushing to get on board the miraculous device, said the Oz, reminding us:

“Australian iPad owners will be able to use Apple’s iBookstore online bookshop as soon as they get their hands on the device.”

On May 14 there was good news and bad news. The good news was that demand was “off the chart”. The bad news was that it would mean a delay in distribution. Still, it was a chance for Optus consumer marketing director Austin R. Bryan to tell the paper:

“In the same way the iPhone had a huge impact on the way people use their mobile phone, we expect the iPad to transform the way our customers use and access rich content on the internet.’’

But it was all good news on May 17:

“Apple’s iPad is the good news story in the sea of red ink spilling from the pages of circulation and readership reports for newspapers and magazines.”

By May 18, the narrative stumbled a little, with zeitgeist-hating educational officials inexplicably not buying into the revolution, although an official did at least tell The Oz:

“An iPad is a wonderful consumption and entertainment device.”

Today,  May 24, just in case readers had forgotten, The Australian broke the big news that the cafe circuit is bracing for the impact of the iPad:

“A cup of coffee and a newspaper looks set to be usurped by a latte and an iPad as the media of choice for Australia’s cafe set with the launch of the iPad on Friday.”

And even more good news today, with The Australian rinsing advertisers for some big bucks:

“The Australian has sold out advertising on its Apple iPad application for three months with confirmation IBM and Emirates have signed up.”

Unfortunately this time there’s not room to mention that each of the $250,000 packages includes $200,000 of print advertising plus online inventory too.

But there was a reminder about The Australian’s app:

The Australian will launch an iPad application for $4.99 a month that will provide updates throughout the day, and include photo galleries and video – all laid out in a newspaper format.

Indeed, there was a fourth story about the iPad in The Oz today. It’s going to save the skill of reading too:

“This year is widely tipped in the publishing industry to be the year of the e-book, spurred on by the arrival of Apple’s iPad in Australian retail outlets this Friday, and other tablets and mobile reading devices.”

I’d love to bring you every article The Australian’s carried about the iPad. But Google tells me there are 4,790 of them. So I’d better stop there.

Did I mention that The Australian’s got an iPad app?

Tim Burrowes

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