How to make iPad publishing work

My last few posts have been bullish about tablet publishing as a way for any business, organization or individual to better get their message in front of a locked-in audience. Way back when, back when social media was first becoming a tactic that folks were starting to be aware of, I often reminded audiences during the speeches or seminars I conducted for business groups: “You can no longer expect people to come to you or your website. You have to be where they are already congregating.”

This is just as true today as it was back in the dark ages of 2007, as mobile devices continue to make irreversible inroads with consumers.

Today, I am thrilled to announce the publication of our first iBook, which you can download by clicking here. St. Mark’s School is a New England boarding school approaching its 150th anniversary. As an institution, it is embarking on a series of education and curriculum changes for the 21st century that go to the heart of the school’s mission of educating young people for lives of leadership and service. The changes are complex and require some explanation and background and the school was looking for a thought provoking (and conversation provoking) way to best communicate these changes to the alumni community as a whole.

We tried to blend text, photos and HD video into a rich experience that resonates with readers. Because of the user experience of the iPad, unlike a four-color brochure or PDF, there is a much better chance that your audience will connect with your content since you are reaching them in a way that is comfortable for them.

This particular iBook is directed at a specific niche for a specific purpose, but that is exactly the point and the beauty of tablet publishing. In order to get your message out, you can just get your message out.

Some ideas don’t fit into a tweet.

For more about tablet publishing, click

NASA called, but I don’t get to be an astronaut

Over the past several years, I have really come to enjoy working in education. I always jump at the chance to give talks about social networking or online media to young people, and I enjoy finding out about the ways they are ACTUALLY using the internet, rather than the ways we all assume they’re using it. One day, I would love to start or be involved in a think tank that analyzes the significance of all these tectonic shifts in our methods of communication over the past 5 years, as I think there is much more substance that just staying on top of the latest apps or platforms.

For the past couple of years, I have served as a Trustee of St. Mark’s School, where I graduated high school, which has opened up tons of opportunities to talk and listen to teenagers about a whole range of issues, and not just ones related to the Internet. There are few things I find more exhilarating than having my assumptions challenged and every visit back to school provides me with plenty to think about.

A new opportunity has come my way, thanks to my St. Mark’s involvement, which promises to shake up my thinking even more. I have just been nominated to the NASA Advisory Council’s Education and Public Outreach Committee. [Those of you who know me are probably saying, “Huh???”] The committee supports the advisory needs of the NASA administrator and includes all education and public outreach related NASA programs, projects, activities and facilities.

I’m grateful and excited about the potential, and I look forward to learning more and supporting NASA’s work in this area as, I must confess, I don’t know as much as I should. Stay tuned for more updates. Who knows, I may be coming to a school near you.

The Attack of the e-Reader

I may be a digital immigrant, but I fully support the customs, language and diet of this new digital country I find myself living in.


I get most of my news from blogs.


Most of my professional development comes via online sources.


I stay in touch with friends over the web.


I subscribe to about 20 different podcasts.


And about a year ago I got rid of my laptop in favor of an iPad.

When the first iPad came out, I couldn’t envision any viable use case for the way I lived my life. A fancy e-reader seemed like a nice toy, but I couldn’t see myself owning one. But a funny thing happened just prior to the release of the iPad2. I noticed that I was lugging my big laptop all across the country, but when I reached my destination, I found myself managing email (something done just as easily from my iPhone), scanning through my Google Reader and reading, reading, reading. As a long-time video producer, I would occasionally do presentations where I would need to bring my laptop to a meeting, but it was largely becoming a posture-killing appendage.


So I got an iPad, and ditched my laptop for good. So, what’s changed? Well, for starters I am no longer lugging a heavy laptop around, but, more importantly, I find I am reading more. Much more. The ease of sampling and buying books from the Kindle or iBooks store has exposed me to books that I might not have plunked down $25 for based on a review or a lengthy book store browse. I’m not alone.


According to a Pew Internet and American Life study, 20% of American adults have read an e-book in the past year and the average e-book reader has read 24 books in the past year, compared with an average of 15 by a non-e-book consumer. (Here is a link to the study.)


Clearly, this is a trend line that will only continue rising over the next several years into the future. There is quite a bit of talk about the “post-PC” world that many who try and predict this sort of thing feel we’re moving towards. In a nutshell, this means that as mobile and cloud-based computing begins  to dominate, many of us will do away with our laptops and desktops because everything we need to do fits in our pocket. I’m going to call bull shit on that prediction, but it is undeniable that the future of computing is mobile. I just don’t feel like it’s such an all-or-nothing proposition. Mobile will undoubtedly continue to take an ever larger share of the pie, but as I have pointed out many times before, radio didn’t kill TV and the automobile did not kill the horse. I’ll leave the apocalyptic predictions to others. (As I write this post, this just came in regarding first quarter iPad sales. Truly mind-boggling that Apple sold 63% of all tablets sold worldwide in one quarter.)


So, if people are reading more and more and Apple (and others) are selling more and more devices that fit easily into your purse or bag, what’s the opportunity for you or your business? The barriers to publishing are low and the versatility of e-publications is only going to continue to improve. You can already seamlessly embed video, audio, photos, links, etc etc etc. into your publication, whether that publication is a standard book, or something more focused on your business, industry or organization.


 Maybe you want to take a second look at some of those old brochures, folders and presentations that never got the distribution you felt they deserved. 17 million iPads in three months. That’s a lot of eyeballs…

Tablet Publishing: The Next Frontier in Social Sharing

Do you own an iPad? If you don’t, you probably know someone who does. How about a Kindle, or some other tablet? Well, according to Forrester Research, tablets are “rapidly becoming the primary device of choice for millions of people around the world.” By 2016, tablet sales are expected to hit 375 million units, meaning there would be over a quarter of a BILLION tablets in use worldwide. And one-third of those devices will be iPads.

I think this represents a gargantuan opportunity for both traditional content creators and businesses of all kinds. How?

The best way you can turn someone into a loyal, enthusiastic customer is by making sure they understand what you do and/or use your product correctly. I don’t care if that product is a power tool, an IKEA shelf or an annual trade show. I cannot think of a single type of business that would not benefit from publishing their story on a tablet.

If you’ve ever read anything on a tablet, especially an iPad, you know that the ability to embed slide shows, video, music, audio, diagrams, etc., makes the reading experience so much richer. And when that experience is richer and more immersive, not to mention SHAREABLE, it’s more likely to actually get read and, well, shared.

But do the costs of producing that content outweigh the potential return? I might think of it the other way around. Tablet readers tend to be more affluent but, more to the point, they are more predisposed to making purchases online. The opportunity to offset the costs is clearly there, but we have found that those costs can be very low to begin with. For example, do you already produce guides or manuals that never get read? How about your flat four-color marketing materials that might be improved with a little video? Can you envision these materials being published, and EASILY UPDATED, on a tablet?

A few targets that spring immediately to my mind, among countless others, include:

  • Interactive how-to guides or manuals (imagine putting up that shelf correctly the FIRST time)
  • Cookbooks with video tutorials
  • New product presentations
  • PR materials
  • Media rich brochures

The list is truly endless.
A couple of months back, I mentioned that we would be rolling out a new service that took advantage of both our video production experience and our social media savvy. I firmly believe that tablet publishing is the next frontier and unlike other forms of media creation, it doesn’t have to require enormous investments in time, infrastructure or expertise. We have already begun working with a few clients helping them turn their messages into tablet-ready, media-rich presentations that live in the iBook store. Some are giving the content away for free as a way to build awareness, and others are exploring the possibility of selling their stuff either in the iBook store or Kindle store. Either way, now is the time to think seriously about using the ubiquitous iPad, or other tablets, to connect with your audience and create new audiences. Please contact me for more information by leaving a comment, or send me an email by clicking the arrow beneath my picture at the top right of the page.

What possibilities do you see for yourself or your business?

What is truth?: The controversies around Kony2012 and This American Life

Like just about everyone else with an internet connection, I am aware of both the video and the “controversy” surrounding the video Kony2012. I first saw it posted on a friend’s wall with the comment that her 12-year old son had made HER aware of it.

That is how it started: young people sharing it with other young people until it became one of the most viral videos of all time.

Before I even watched the video, however, I felt a combination of emotions because of what my immediate reaction was to learning of its very existence. My very first thought was, “Who is going to try and poke holes in this video?”

We live in a “Prove it!” age where seemingly everything can be faked and there are competing industries of content creators and content disprovers. I’m not sure what makes me more sad: that our willingness to believe what we see has been decimated by those who would prey on our trusting nature, or that there are so many out there who prey on our trusting nature.

Before I was even finished writing this blog post, another “truth” controversy was unearthed, this time by the producers at American Public Media’s This American Life. A recent episode devoted to Mike Daisey’s one-man show “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”  was their most downloaded episode ever.  Then it was revealed that the actor had taken a few liberties with the facts, throwing big parts of the story into question.

What these two episodes share is the now common tendency to play fast and loose with the truth. Both the Kony video and the “Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” get both stories mostly right, but the liberties taken with some details immediately call into question the whole narrative.

Or do they?

There was a time when it meant something to be a journalist, and there are still legions of ink-stained wretches (can you still say that in a digital age?) who do their damnedest to get it right. But neither Jason Russell nor Mike Daisey are journalists, they’re storytellers. My question is: Can simplifying complicated stories in the service of a larger goal ever be excused? Much of the criticism leveled against both the Kony video and Daisey’s “This American Life” interview had more to do with what screenwriters or authors might term creating a “composite” character. Kony2012 has been accused of, among other things, being oversimplified. Not false, mind you, just oversimplified. Well, as someone once said, complexity is complicated.

Daisey, for his part, recounts an incident where some Chinese Foxconn employees were poisoned due to exposure to a chemical but, in his account, he claimed it happened in one factory in China when it, in fact, happened in a different one. I’m just not sure how this blows up his whole story. With more than a little indignation, Bob Garfield noted in his essay on On the Media, “…facts in and of themselves do not constitute truth. They can be selected and arranged any which way, intentionally or unintentionally, to distort truth and turn it upside down. That is precisely how political consultants earn a living: assembling nominal facts to tell big, fat lies.”

Fair enough, but a lot of this seems like hair splitting to me. No one can deny that Kony is an evil guy. No one can deny that Apple, and every other electronics manufacturer on planet Earth, exploit lax Chinese labor laws and low prices in order to give us the shiny gadgets we all want. Now, because of Daisey and others, they are trying to clean up their act, the way Nike did 15 years ago. And the whole world knows about Joseph Kony.

But it still gnaws at me, this idea of getting things MOSTLY right in the service of another goal. It’s OK as long as you agree with that larger goal, right? But what if you don’t? And where are the ethics?

Nicholas Kristof wrote an OpEd in the New York Times on March 15. Since getting behind the Times’ paywall is becoming less and less of a trivial matter, here is the takeaway:  Kristof, who has probably seen more of mankind’s atrocities than any living journalist, delivered a point-by-point rebuttal to the early Kony backlash.

“It’s true that indignation among Americans won’t by itself stop Kony. Yet I’ve learned over the years that public attention can create an environment in which solutions are more likely.

I asked Anthony Lake, now the executive director of Unicef who was President Clinton’s national security adviser during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, whether a viral video about Rwanda would have made a difference then. “The answer is yes,” he said. He suggested that this kind of public attention would also have helped save more lives in Darfur and in Congo’s warring east.

In 1999, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright paid a brief visit to war-ravaged Sierra Leone and was photographed with a 3-year-old girl whose right arm had been chopped off. The photograph, widely circulated, helped galvanize outside powers to crush the militias. Sierra Leone is now at peace, and that girl is studying in the United States.

I asked Albright, who later led a task force on preventing genocide, what she thinks of the Kony video.

“Shining a light makes a lot of difference,” she said, adding that Kony’s prospects are probably less good now than before the video came out.

The bottom line is: A young man devotes nine years of his life to fight murder, rape and mutilation, he produces a video that goes viral and galvanizes mostly young Americans to show concern for needy villagers abroad — and he’s vilified?

I don’t know if this initiative will make a difference. But if I were a Congolese villager, I would welcome these uncertain efforts over the sneering scorn of do-nothing armchair cynics.”