Tablets are the real thing: Recap from the tablet portion at the SND annual meeting in St. Louis, Mo.

Tablets are the next big thing in journalism.

No trip to St. Louis is complete without a visit to the infamous arch.

At least, that’s why I got out of the sessions hosted by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Society of News Design annual meeting this week in St. Louis, Mo.

I, along with two other co-workers at other JRC Michigan properties, Chris Laine at The Oakland Press and Rene Cizio at The News-Herald in Southgate, attended several sessions focusing on the mobile strategies for news organizations, which mostly focused on tablets such as the iPad, Galaxy and the newest kid on the block, the Kindle Fire.

Some estimates put 250 million mobile tablets being shipped in 2017, which would be a huge increase in tablet computing. This projected jump is showing news organizations the importance of developing products and content specifically for 7-to-10 inch tablets. This trend is already starting to show, with mobile usage surpassing desktop computer usage for the first time in 2011.

One of the sessions that spoke to me was a presentation by Chris Peck, editor of the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., and Guy Tasaka, a publisher who worked on nytimes.com when it first launched in 1995 and who is assisting Peck with the launch of a new digital strategy for the newspaper in Tennessee.

The Commercial Appeal currently requires its readers on its mobile app to register for access. Starting tomorrow, a metered paywall will be in effect on its website, mobile app and iPad app. The plan, Peck said, is to bundle all the content to encourage subscribers to read and interact with all the products the Commercial Appeal produces, including its print product. This, of course, is a strategy the New York Times has employed, and it seems to be working well. Peck and Tasaka said the studies the Commercial Appeal did showed only 4-5 percent of all readers looked at 10 or more stories on its website. Most of the time, it was someone coming for a single story, and then bouncing off the page.

It’s important to note that just because technology is available, it doesn’t mean everything has to be done. This was stressed by Peck and Tasaka, as well as other presenters. In other words, an app for the iPad or other mobile device sometimes isn’t needed. A good mobile site that allows readers to access content can do the trick better than an app.

And just because apps are downloaded doesn’t mean they will be used. In fact, the more apps a user has downloaded, the less likely there are going to use them. Apps should also give a reader something different, something unique. Why would a reader download an app, when they can just visit your mobile site to read news?

A great example given was working with local transportation. The app informed owners of bus times, scheduled departures, etc., so readers could use it to plan a trip around town. This type of integration could work well if Heritage West were to have an app, possibly working with an entity such as the AATA in Ann Arbor.

For a list of mobile links, where many of the articles cited came from, check out Poynter’s Regina McCourt’s list of links here on Delicious.

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