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Journalist Fellows' Papers

The Nine Commandments for Newspapers on Tablet Devices

Reuters Institute Fellow's Paper

Jussi Ahlroth, a social and digital media producer at the Finnish Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, has written one of the most comprehensive analyses yet published on the much-discussed iPad, and its potential to help the ailing newspaper industry.

In his paper called, ‘The Nine Commandments for Newspapers on Tablet Devices’, Jussi gives the fascinating results of his extensive interviews with editors, developers, designers, programmers, academics, CEOs of technology start-ups, and particularly representatives of the tablet editions at The Washington Post, The Times, the Financial Times and Helsingin Sanomat.

Jussi is optimistic that tablet devices are the best bet on a digital future for newspapers , as they are ‘the most likely interface to supplant print from the highest throne of newspaper distribution methods’. And if they become ‘post-pc-devices’, as Apple has branded its iPad, and replace laptop and desktop computers for the non-professional middle class audience, he argues that the potential for tablet penetration to explode massively in the next few years could definitely become a reality.

However, Jussi focuses most of his analysis on the User Interface (UI) and design-related issues rather than the economics of tablet devices, largely because he believes ‘UI and design are the key areas where we need strong innovation and openness to learn’.

Amongst his many conclusions are that ‘the interface can, and should, become a part of the brand. As we learn about digital interfaces we can build applications that are their own breed of creature, not a version of print or a website, but ones that naturally support and make use of rich media when necessary'.

And above all he stresses, ‘the great unbundling of news products means that there should not be only one application for one newspaper, but several. What is needed first is a lean news-driven real-time updated and truly mobile application. The second stream of development should involve newspapers putting resources into designing ‘arthouse’ special editions with rich media. This is vitally important for purposes of better understanding what these devices are, how to build UI and design for tablets and to give tablet users the wow-effect they want from their new devices.’

As with all Fellows’ research papers, any opinions expressed are those of the author and not of the Institute.