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Yelvington: Tablets will displace home desktops in computing ecosystem

September 30, 2011

Brandon Goodwin
University of Kentucky

Within the next few years, home desktop computers as we know them will be obsolete.

The replacement: tablet devices.

Steve Yelvington, a senior strategist at Morris Digital Works and founder of the now startribune.com, made that point in his presentation at the “Tablet/Mobile Strategies and Visions for News Organizations” workshop in St. Louis, Thursday, Sept. 29.

Yelvington’s presentation, called “How do Tablets Fit Into Newspapers’ Mobile Strategies,” focused on tablet and mobile innovations that could change how consumers will interact with information, and what news companies are missing that prevents them from succeeding in the mobile market.

For example, while tablets have potential to take over the mobile device market, Yelvington said that has not happened yet.

Part of the reason falls with the design of news applications. Designers are struggling with “finger-friendly interaction design,” he said.

Most newsrooms’ digital strategies include covering what is happening in the immediate present, but lack an open forums for community conversation and useful reference information.

“But, It’s not just the newsroom.” Yelvington said. “A lot of what we ought to be doing with this [tablet] technology is commerce, and connecting people with buying and selling.

“When you look at most of our mobile sites and tablet applications you see coming from news companies, that stuff is just completely missing.”

Yelvington also said Morris Digital Works focuses on improving their mobile web, mobile app and tablet apps. What they ignore in their strategy is tablet web development.

“At this point, our thinking is the size of the tablet market is still pretty small. We can’t justify rebuilding everything that we do on the web to meet the needs of the tablets.”

The current web frameworks that adjust for traditional web viewing and tablet viewing are broken, and he expects HTML5 to be a solution.

Programmers will then be able to move from a page focus to application focus, he said.

He cited the recent bostonglobe.com HTML5 based framework, which adjusts the layout of stories according to screen size, as a structure as a working model, compatible with multiple devices.

With mobile websites, Yelvington predicted the next generation of mobile websites will be more finger-friendly with large app-like button, use geolocation services and include non-news related fields, like daily deals.

Tablet consumers tend to be more affluent and hold more traditional views on how news is presented, Yelvington said.

“If you are going to charge for a product like this,” he said. “You really don’t want it to be a representation of what you are doing on your website.”

Newspapers also have an inherent advantage over news websites, he said. They are better able to show editorial judgment, and have a beginning and an end. Websites are template and are hold nearly endless amounts of information.

That influenced the form and shape of their tablet app to look and feel more like a newspaper, with the additions of videos, slideshows and interactive media.

The two-day conference, co-sponsored by The American Society of News Editors, the Reynolds Journalism Institute, the Digital Publishing Alliance and the Mid-America Press Institute, includes national leaders and innovators in the digital publishing industry.

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