Paper to Pixels: Venturing into the Unknown
I received an e-mail today from a photo editor who attended "Paper to Pixels v2," a panel discussion on tablet apps presented last week by the Society of Publication Designers. l was among five designers who addressed a packed house on the promise and perils of publishing to the iPad and other tablets. The photo editor sought advice: how to realign his career to best position himself for the opportunities ahead. My response, as it may benefit others who are considering similar questions: ***
Thanks for your note, and your kind words about my presentation. You are wise to begin researching ways to break into the new world of multimedia tablets, as they represent the future of our industry. It’s still extremely early in the development cycle, and it will likely be another year or two before tablets become commonplace. By then the players will be firmly entrenched, and the winners and losers will be apparent to all.
Knowledge is power, and the best source for that knowledge is a combination of internet-reported news and firsthand experience. There are numerous blogs that do a great job covering this emerging marketplace — in particular, follow Poynter’s Mobile Media site. I try to check it daily. Further, keep a close eye on Gizmodo, Phil Elmer-DeWitt’s Apple 2.0 blog, as well as a generalized Google news search for keyword “iPad.” The NYT and WSJ, as you might expect, offer the best mainstream reporting, particularly online through the NYT Bits blog by Nick Bilton and the WSJ’s All Things Digital with Walt Mossberg.
Regarding firsthand experience, incorporate the iPad into your daily routines and carefully dissect the apps that you find yourself returning to. Consider what makes them compelling, how they incorporate multitouch and accelerometer functionality, whether the content is published or user-generated, and how they generate revenue. As a photographer, pay close attention to The Guardian Eyewitness, Getty Images app and the New York Post Pix app. The Elements is another winner, and a proven example of how photography can drive valuable content on the iPad. It’s important to stay abreast of the fast-changing environment. Samsung and BlackBerry have competitive products in the works that will force publishers to confront the decision whether to develop for other platforms. Understand the differences between ePub format, SDK-dependent apps and fully customized apps — and know the benefits and limitations of each.
Software? It depends on whether you intend to write your own apps or come up with ideas that others can develop. As a photographer, it would make sense to get your hands on a Canon 7D or the more affordable 60D and familiarize yourself with the nuances of digital video, as the demand for it will increase as multimedia tablets multiply. The RED camera is also worth knowing about, although the steady decline of print makes its high-resolution capability less relevant. Video editing is an increasingly valued skill in the tablet era, along with a working knowledge of codecs, formats and technical details.
How to get your foot in the door, you ask? Understand that very few individuals — and very few companies — have meaningful tablet experience at this point, which levels the playing field considerably. When hiring, I consider raw potential, curiosity, flexibility and work ethic. But everyone’s different.
Best of luck. Joe