Seeing as my background has always been something with development of apps, or in most cases, breaking the hell out of them, I’ve been looking at how creative types can utilise the power of the iPad/iPhone and various Android offerings to serve up content and appeal to new markets.
The iPad is great. I won’t beat around the bush and will admit it has mostly replaced my laptop for 90% of what I do. The ease of use and portability is fantastic. Having said that, I’ve been left very disappointed with the current crop of publications available. I won’t go into detail here about the two winners for me: Wired and Popular Mechanics. Both really make use of the iPad to showcase stories and content. Thing is, they are expensive and I’ll bet they are running at a loss at the moment due to the time spent doing R&D and development to get them ready.
Other than that, the only app that works well for me is the NYTimes one. It’s designed to work like a newspaper and it does the job well. The other benefit is that it’s free, although I’d most likely pay a small amount to get access to content not found on the NYTimes website, their photography and multimedia section springs to mind.
As with any development process, understanding what your customers need is key. I see the next 18 months of mobile device development to be key to the creative industry, such as photography and photojournalism. Creating a story and publishing it on the web is nothing new, we’ve all done that. What will change is how interactive we make that story. An exciting application to check the location of a courier parcel is the Speed Services Tracking tool. Right now the photography magazines out there for the iPad remind me of Web 1.0 websites: very limited and only really able to do one thing at once.
A good example of this is Latitude Magazine, one I’ve been featured in recently.
It shows the image off, has fixed captions at the bottom of the image and generally acts like most slideshows on the web today. Problem is, what happens if I want to show the reader more?
The use of GPS, video, sound and other multimedia to tell a story has made the basic image story so much more powerful. Problem is, as creators of that content, currently it’s hard to get it all onto an app.
There are companies out there who are making frameworks. Zinio/Adobe Digital Publishing and Appslides, by my good friend Diederik Meijer. All useful but with a steep learning curve or closed source where you need to supply them content and have them build it.
A application, be it a desktop one for Mac/PC or a web application, that operates like the current crop of online book publishing applications. The user is presented with a series of templates and the ability to drag and drop photos, video and other rich media. Once the user is happy with the layout, it is checked for validity (such as correct image quality, video encoding and the likes) and then sent in the queue to be prepped for the various app stores (apple/android/self published).
Another feature that might work is to have a single application, as I’ve discussed before, whereby it’s a standalone photojournalism/documentary application, which pulls down content from a site and updates itself.
As creators of content, we really need to make ourselves aware of the multitude of mechanisms currently available to enjoy content. It’s no longer good enough to shoot single images and think they look good in print or on the web. We need to think “how will this work on a mobile device? What would my readers really like to see me do if I really push the boundaries?”
For my Bushman documentary, I’ve really been thinking about how I can tie in a number of technologies to really tell the story. Be it satellite images that update to sound snippets, video, stills and clickable areas on an image. Sure I could record the sound of a Khwe piano being played, but wouldn’t it be even better if the user has the ability to look at the image and click on areas of that image to hear the sounds? It’s like a modern day scratch and sniff approach.
This in itself does mean changing the attitude of a photographer. It’s no longer enough to know how to take a picture and tell a story. Having a basic grasp of technology is now paramount to ensuring your story and images are accessible to everyone. When last did you see a teenager buy a paper?