How publishers are using HTML5
Like the iPhone, the iPad doesn't support Adobe Flash, the technology that many publishers use to display video, slideshows and other animations on their websites. The success of the iPad is causing many publishers to accelerate their support of HTML5, the latest version of the Web design language that Apple and others believe is a better alternative for running rich media on mobile devices. Some websites and third-party services, including Adobe itself, have developed ways to work around Flash.
The impetus for conversion to HTML5 might be the recently released iPad, but the move also represents a broader trend of publishers offering content across many evolving mobile platforms, including Apple's iPhone and Google's Android. Basically, publishers have two choices: They can target specific platforms directly (Android, iPhone, etc.) or they can begin transitioning their web development efforts to HTML5 in order to be platform agnostic. Some will choose to do both.
A survey by Streaming Media of more than 1,000 online media professionals found that 49% plan to support HTML5 video on their media sites by the end of the year, as reported in TechCrunch. When specifically asked about iPad support, 36% of respondents said they plan to support video on the iPad either through dedicated apps or an iPad-compatible website. (Yes, those numbers are slightly contradictory, as supporting HTML5 video would by default support video on the iPad.)
News Sites Using HTML5
Here's how some publishers are already employing HTML5 ― in both simple and more advanced ways:
Using video platforms that support HTML5: Video-sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo are experimenting with HTML5 players. Brightcove, a more professional video solution utilized by many publishers, offers an HTML5 solution for professional subscribers, including Time Inc., The New York Times and SPIN magazine. Brightcove says it automatically detects the device a viewer is using and switches between Flash and HTML5 player templates.
In a March blog post, Brightcove's SVP of Marketing Jeff Whatcott sums up Brightcove's initiatives: “The short version is that HTML5 is here to stay, but it is still in its infancy, and the Flash Platform is not going away for the foreseeable future, so it is important for website owners to develop a strategy for utilizing both approaches.” Directly discussing the Brightcove approach for publishers, he goes on: “We are investing to make it possible for them to deliver both Flash and HTML5 video experiences with equivalent capability without requiring a lot of extra work.”
Offering Flash-free iPad apps and/or mobile sites: Some publishers are specifically targeting or plan to target the iPad with more customized mobile sites and applications. NPR, for example, offers two options to iPad users: a free app or an iPad-optimized website, pictured below. While NPR's main website has Flash audio and video players, its iPad versions do not.
A few other news sites that normally use Flash for videos but have HTML5 video content for the iPad include Reuters, CNN, ESPN and MSNBC. While huge publishers seem to be the early adopters, niche publishers are testing the waters as well; luxury magazine Robb Report, for example, offers an HTML5 player for the iPad. If you want more examples, Apple offers a list of some of the companies with content that “looks and functions beautifully on iPad.”
Of course, creating a custom app is always an option, and vendors are eager to help. Time Inc. partnered with The Wonderfactory to develop its iPad apps for TIME and Sports Illustrated. In addition to offering apps, both websites feature an HTML5 player in the iPad for recently published video.
Using Scribd: The document-sharing site Scribd switched from Flash to HTML5 and is touting its site as an option for magazine publishers to easily make content more accessible on mobile devices. Its been used by publishers such as Forbes and Publishers Weekly. Currently, Scribd isn't an alternative to Flash for video content because it doesn't have multimedia capabilities, but Scribd says audio/video features are coming soon.