Some random thoughts wrapped up as predictions for 2011

jetsonsLast month, I wrote a post for the blog at Hammock.com about my content marketing predictions for 2011. I’ve picked up a couple of predictions from there, however, most of the following comes from my “one day, blog about this” folder on Evernote.

So, in the form of predictions, here are some thoughts:

Magazine apps will stop being called magazine apps: Okay, I know it. This won’t happen. Magazine is such a convenient and important-sounding metaphor and, for traditional magazine publishers, a brand extension. When a publisher or developer calls something a “magazine,” there’s no need to say, “this is an app that includes big photos and text and the content is updated on a recurring basis.” Unfortunately, big photos, text and content updated on a recurring basis can also describe pretty much any popular media site on the web. Throw in video, audio, slide-shows and what do you have? Pretty much any content-focused app. So what do you have left to hang the word magazine on. Answer: Page flipping. So that’s what it has come down to: Of all the amazing things that can be done with the technology and platform of an iPad, the magazine app is becoming known as the app that has “pages” that “flip.” Geez. I need another prediction, so…

The developers of any app that includes text will discover accelerometer-aided “text scrolling” is better than page-flipping: If you’re a user of Instapaper Pro on the iPhone and you use “tilt scrolling,” you’ve probably wondered, “Why isn’t this on every eBook reader, web browser, etc.?” I mean, you tilt your device a bit forward and the text scrolls down. You wonder, “Isn’t this the way you would do it if you weren’t tied to metaphors like ‘page’ and ‘flip.'”?

Expect an announcement about Flipboard, Twitter and something that sounds a lot like an RSS “newsreader”: Okay, while I just, in a nuanced way, slammed Flipboard, let me admit that nothing I say in these predictions will slow down that juggernaut. So, at least, let me hope them success on something they’ve discovered builds on a foundation already blessed by publishers (rather than trying to convince publishers they are something new — which publishers naturally think is threatening): Making the notion of subscribing to an RSS news feed less geeky. What do I mean? Well, first, a couple of weeks ago, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue told the New York Times that “Twitter is becoming a social RSS reader…You follow certain people who provide a kind of social curation above the level that is likely on a blog.” Right after that, it was announced Mike McCue had joined the board of Twitter. And a couple of days later, there was a release of a Flipboard feature that makes it easy to use Flipboard as an RSS newsreader. And since almost every publisher has dozens of RSS feeds they already know are traffic-builders and, well, Twitter is probably their second source (or first) of traffic, what if Flipboard & Twitter were trying to jointly pitch media companies instead of having two sets of evangelists, biz-dev and sales people doing such pitching? And what if those RSS feeds and Twitter tweets were being presented in “flipping pages” that include advertising, also?

Call those “data points” or “tea leaves” or, what it actually is, “conjecture,” but those are the kind of things that start to happen right before real news occurs.

Questions & Answers will still be questions & answers: There’s this dream use of the internet. It goes something like this. I want to know an answer to something. I go to the internet and ask it. Magically, the answer appears. Oh, and if I’m the owner of this service, all of those answers are provided by experts who do so for free. Now, if you’re a well-funded and connected startup with a new and shiny way of doing this for yet, the hundredth time, you may be able to gain publicity among the techno-taste-makers, but, as Michael Hyatt tweeted the other day, “I need another inbox like I need a hole in the head.”

Apple will mashup features of Keynote and iMovie and create a program called iAnimator: A long time ago, I suggested that all Apple had to do to increase sales of GarageBand was to “re-metaphor-ize” the same features, using podcasting terms rather than music-recording terms. I don’t know if it helped with their sales, but they did shortly thereafter add podcasting metaphors (not because of me, it was a rather obvious opportunity). Here’s another opportunity: Keynote and iMovie features can, together, provide a decent animation platform hack for many how-to and fun uses. (Here’s a Christmas greeting video animation I helped create using a Keynote-iMovie hack. Key tip: Automate all transitions and master the transition, “Magic Move.”)

Designers will discover the key to user-love is simple, minimalist, user interfaces: Technology is often accused of making our lives more complicated. When publishers think that, to be impressive, an iPad app or website needs more bells and whistles, they fall into the trap of doing just that — making things more complicated. However, many of us are attracted to technology that helps us gain efficiency and achieve order — that dampens noise and distraction. Such neo-minimalist new products as the multi-platform product, Instapaper, are gaining a big following among early-adopting tech influencers.

You will publish an e-book: Or, you will if you want to. Two words for 2011: Kindle Singles. Here’s some math that jumped out at me while reading this post: If an author has a traditional contract with a major book publisher, an ebook sold for $9.99 via the Kindle Bookstore earns the author $1.75 per sale. However, if the author sells the book directly to the reader, via the Kindle Bookstore, the author will net slightly below $7. I know writers aren’t always good at math, but stick with me, please. Let’s say, when Kindle Singles launches, the average price of these new, shorter-form, eBooks is $2.99. If an author sells direct, they will generate more net revenue per sale ($2.09) from a short eBook than they could by selling a standard-length book sold by a traditional publisher ($1.75, if priced at $9.99). Draw your own conclusions. (But expect for me to be publishing lots of Singles in 2011.)

You will publish your book in print: Book publishing using print on demand (POD) technology and innovative distribution methods is a concept that has been around since slightly after the Guttenberg press. However, some inside-baseball channel wars and pricing elasticity challenges have prevented its long-hyped potential from matching its reality. I predict 2011 is the year that happens. (Note: I predict this every year.)

You will start thinking the word “social” is so last decade: Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but I’ve been saying the following for about three years: When you start calling everything “social,” then you don’t need the word social. So, if every page on the Internet has “like” buttons and comment boxes and at least two ways to join or see what friends have visited that page, is there really a need to use the word “social” anymore?

Android devices will continue to improve. Apple iOS devices will continue to improve and also get cheaper and more ubiquitous: First off, there is no reason for anyone to make predictions about market share of iPhones until iPhones are sold by Verizon. I know, personally, three people who have been putting off purchasing an Android phone to see if, indeed, that will happen and when. The market of those willing to change to ATT for the iPhone is pretty-much tapped. However, in the meantime, Android phones have improved — perhaps not to parity status, but they’re getting close. And they’re cheaper. Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, I predict Jobs will compete on price when it comes to the iPhone. I also predict there will be no -killers; this is a case where competition is great for everyone, including those of us who are inclined to use Apple products.

In 2011, I predict I’ll purchase an Android device: Not a phone, but something.

  • Great stuff. A few years ago, when I was locked into a non-iPhone contract but wanted to understand and experience the growing apps phenomenon, I bought an iPod Touch. Soon, the Samsung Galaxy Player will fit the bill for people curious about Android.

  • Anonymous

    Minimalist, simple interfaces are the way for mobile as well. When you’re using a mobile app your more than likely to be, well, mobile, oddly enough 🙂 Moving around means you can’t take a whole heck of a lot of time to get something done without walking into a lamp post or unexpectedly down an escalator at the mall or colliding with someone or something. Simple and linear is the way to go. That’s partly the rationale for the success of Instapaper since you can have it anywhere, including on my iPhone.nnI’ll predict we have Verizon iPhones before the first quarter ends. I say that partly for two reasons – one, I’ve heard it hinted at from our CIO, who knows stuff most people don’t; and second, I just got a brand new two-year AT&T contract, and I’m a professional master at doing stuff like signing long contracts just a tad bit too early. I used to predict our company’s restructuring efforts two months in advance by the simple expedient of deciding to order new business cards. Which reminds me …

  • I was thinking just that, when I said, “Not a phone, but something.”

  • Jim, the Wall Street Journal will have lots of explaining to do about the credibility of their sources if Verizon doesn’t have the iPhone soon. They’ve been reporting it since October as if it’s a done deal.

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