iPad nirvana for B2B media: Get serious
I recently read an assertion by a well-regarded digital media thinker that the iPad and its eventual competitors represent a "huge opportunity for B2B media". The article then goes on to give a series of unremarkable examples of how B2B media is leveraging the iPad, which pretty much prove my contention: A successful B2B iPad app solves a significant reader need, period.
The iPad is pretty exciting. After shipping 14 million units in 2010, and robust growth forecast over the next few years, it certainly seems like the next big thing. But in the workaday, niche world of B2B content, the "lean back" experience is not usually high on the priority list. Even more important, where is the ROI for the investment if almost none of your audience is using an iPad in their profession? Even though iPhone and iPad users are far more voracious consumers of mobile web than users of any other platform, they still account for a tiny percentage of overall web consumption.
This number is set to grow explosively over the next few years, but it does underline the need for a laser-focused strategy. I believe the goal should be this: If the app is compelling enough to convince significant numbers of your audience to buy an iPad so they can use your app, you've got a winner. I can guarantee that a B2B magazine-replica iPad app will not generate worthwhile ROI. For some much better examples of how media companies are playing to the strengths of the iPad platform, check out "Beyond the magazine replica: Publishers explore new types of content-driven apps."
In general, B2B publishers looking to mobile platforms like the iPad need to start thinking of their readers as customers, not just a qualified audience for advertising. Do you have data or content assets that your readers could leverage in their work while out in the field? Interior designers, contractors, landscape architects and all manner of salespeople would benefit from a slick interface to updated data to make better decisions and sell more.
Mercedes-Benz has equipped its salespeople with iPads to streamline the painful administrative paperwork associated with an $80,000 purchase. I can assure you their sales productivity will increase as a result.
There is so much real opportunity out there for B2B publishers who are willing to look outside the reader-as-audience mindset. Turn all that data into an iPad app your readers can use to close more business every day. Use your magazine as a marketing channel for that tool. Then start working on the next thing. That's a real path forward for B2B media on the iPad.