The News Limited perspective on tablet media


I’m at the Woodwing Tour event in Sydney, where Alan Oakley, Group Executive Editor of Digital at News Limited is speaking on the topic of Tablets Change the Game. Below are live notes from Alan’s presentation, showing some interesting perspectives on how News Limited thinks about tablets, underlining in particular their belief in this channel, and how it inexorably drives a converged newsroom.

Alan began by providing a lengthy disclaimer on his technical knowledge, but said he is a ‘huge fan’ of the iPad. He went to cover four issues: Customer, Content, Capability, and Chaos.

Customer. The customer has most of the power. And is prepared to share just about anything. They want everything in whatever way they like.

We don’t enough about iPad users, partly through limitations in the analytics. However three things stand out. 

* The iPad is definitely a ‘lean-back’ device – more leisure, snacking

* Tablets are an intimate experience – 20% of iPad use is in bed.

* Typical users are mainstream – 25-45, balanced gender, above-average salary, used to newspapers.

We have to deliver on the promise of bringing the newspaper to life. We need to innovate because the it makes the content better.

Content. “The mere acquisition of a smooth block of metal and glass does not magically persuade people that they should start paying for news. They will pay for news if they think it has value.” – The Economist.

Only content can be the savior.

Over 300,000 iPads in Australia by Christmas. More than 7,500 subscribers to The Australian. That app is also available on the Samsung Galaxy. 

Wired app, after the stand-out sales of the initial iPad edition, is around 30,000 per month, giving an effective circulation boost of 30% to the mag.

We are still working on the paywall model, but is most likely to combine freemium and paid models.

Capability. This is about the technical capabilities of apps, and the ability of the newsroom to deliver the content into that format.

Tablets provide one more reason why news should be combined into one operation that delivers news to multiple channels. This is common sense and economic sense – media organizations cannot ignore duplication of effort. A combined newsroom provides energy to young journalists.

The design rules have changed, says Mario Garcia. We are also designing for the finger and the brain. It is an extraordinary challenge. 

The iPad shows technological austerity in its design. It demands a clear, clean user interface. It should be able to cater for a reader, explorer, or viewer. 

Alan gave a demo of the freshly-launched Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph apps, which use the same template. There are around 350 articles on each app at any time, including video, photo galleries, and some exclusive iPad-only content. 

Can the tablet be the best of both worlds? 

– Immersive: deep rich, tactile, discretionary

– Immediate: fast, fresh, accessible, actionable.


Chaos. The iPad has proven to be highly disruptive.


We want our content to be in as many places as possible. Having separate production processes across platforms is not an option.

Tablets merge the print with digital capabilities. They promise to bring alive the potential of newspapers.