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Apples iBooks2 impact on online education

Apple announced on January 18th that the are introducing iBooks2 for the iPad.

This announcement albeit small in nature has massive impacts for several reasons.

1) It attacks a traditional industry – book publishing head on. People have been reading books on e-readers for a while now but the content has just been migrated from paper. Very few books have taken advantage of the processor features which can play video, sound, and be interactive. The only books which have really taken advantage of this are children’s books and they have been massively successful as learning tools.

The impact on the publishing industry is going to be swift. You may see publishers go out of business within 2-5 years and some will try to refocus on other types of content. For the authors, I fear that their profits may suffer short term, but long term if books are cheaper, people should buy more of them, unless piracy comes into play.

2) The lines between “app” and web are starting to be blurred through the use of HTML5. I am excited to see how the use of iBooks will actually boost the usage of HTML5 on the web and make content faster, more interactive and easier to build. Once this starts bleeding over into the TV realm, you are going to see some amazingly interactive TV shows with a much higher level of stickiness. Overall, this should increase ad rates long term.

3) A new audience for learning will be opened up. iPads and tablets have a certain magic about them with older adults and young kids. They are easy to approach and use. As tablet sales go up, you will see more and more seniors online and more baby boomers come online.  This new audience will open up a whole new realm of teachers and learners for both the traditional schools and for profit universities.  In reality everyone loves to learn things they are passionate about. I can see millions of life long learners coming online and sharing their learnings with other learners via the iPad or any tablet for that matter.  Think of it like a socially interactive Wikipedia or the laymens version of a MOOC.

From a marketing perspective, this new platform will be a massive lead generation environment. Imagine a user reading a book about psychology and all of a sudden, you have the ability to show them that there are 2 schools teaching this exact book within 25 miles and 1 school teaching this book online. If I were the reader, I would be pretty interested in finding out if I should make my interest a real degree.

However, as much as I would like to see this as a marketing platform, there is reason to believe that people will have voracious appetites for free content but stay away from environments that require testing or loans. Time will tell…

4) Keep an eye out for the mad rush to create books – even if they are 5 pages long, as teasers.

5) Now this iBooks platform may have a negative impact on online schools in the short term. Even though most of the schools offer a curriculum that is designed to be taken on a computer, few have optimized their learning for iPads and the on-the-go lifestyle of many folks. I would love to see schools start to create tablet based learning environments and use that as a marketing tool. EG – Learn Psychology on your iPad and get a degree from X school. That would have an awesome Click Through Rate.

If I had to make a recommendation to folks reading this, I would say do the following:

a) Try a children’s iBook to understand the potential of this platform.  Give it to a kid and see how effortlessly they adapt and interact with it. Then give the same kid a newspaper and see what happens. Key thing to measure is how much time they interact with each and the amount they retain from each.

b) Learn more about HTML5! It is tremendously important! Just knowing what it is capable of helps you understand how vast this platform can be.

c) Take a look at your own content – what can be made into an iBook? Remember, books are not books anymore. They are full on 3 sense experiences. Seeing, hearing, touching.

Responsive Web Design for Lead Generation

If you have reviewed your Google Analytics account lately you will notice that a large portion of your users are now accessing your campaigns via mobile devices such as phones and tablets.

If you have been in the lead generation industry for a while, your pages are most likely not coded correctly to render well on these devices.  Imagine if 30-40% of your visitors are not seeing your webpages the way they were originally designed.

What would that do to your conversion rate?

You know your media prices are going up, your compliance costs are going up, and all of a sudden your conversion rates are dropping. Margin is being crushed because he overall market is changing how they consume data.

Time to invest some time in learning Responsive Web Design.

Responsive web is essentially a CSS sheet on steroids. It plans for a variety of devices and platforms so your actual site renders in a very user friendly way every time.

Do you need to consider all browsers and devices? No. Start by looking at your Google Analytics data to see how your current users are coming in. Prioritize those first.

Some good examples of responsive web design can be found here. 

As you can see from these examples, this is for basic web information. It alters placement of navigation, sizes of images etc. However, in many lead generation situations this is not optimal.

Being in online marketing we need to do more testing with actual consumers about how a resized form may convert.

For instance – take a look at this form – 

The form on the left is a screenshot from a 13 inch laptop screen using Safari and the pic on the right is the same page on an Android phone using Chome.

The page resizes to the phone screen but all the text resizes at the same rate. Much of it is too small to read without zooming.

In a better case scenario, the drop down menu would be much larger on the phone screen, text larger and the call to action button larger. I would also recommend testing the page on an actual Android device for both right and left hand users. The placement of the button for a right thumb could help conversion dramatically.

I would also get rid of the orange bar and potentially rework how the large number “1” is displayed. The goal is to make the page as light weight as possible so it loads fast on a slower mobile connection.

Lastly I would rework the BBB and Verisign logos to be more influential on the mobile page. With such little copy and virtually no branding you want to assure the user their info is safe.

Key takeaways –

1) Look at your visitor data for each campaign to see what type of devices your users most commonly using.

2) Test pages on real devices to see how they look and feel. Optimize for the thumb as the main input, not a mouse.

3) Augment your CSS to detect and serve pages according to the device or OS.


HTML 5 and the effects on Apps

For the past 3 years our tech economy has been smitten with the concept of monetized apps being distributed via the Apple AppStore and the Android MarketPlace.

Some people have monetized the apps on the front end with a purchase to download and some have monetized in the app via banner ads.

However for the user, our smart phones have become cluttered messes with apps being closed off experiences. Arguably many apps should not be apps at all.  In many cases the app version of the data does not offer any additional functionality or any functionality that is optimized for the device screen or input interface.

There are some apps like games which are unique experiences and really leverage a closed off experience.

With the rise of HTML 5, there is potential that the idea of an App may soon disappear. HTML5 has the ability to detect device type, OS, screen size etc and deliver a new experience based on that information.

In other words you get all the functionality of a app on a regular website through HTML 5. This may also allow for greater revenue generation by the publisher and potentially lower cost to get the site/app to market.

In a recent report by VisionMobile they stated that the average app costs between $10-50k to develop. However, there are major benefits being associated with an App market place like the App Store – such as marketing time is reduced and overall cash flow is faster.

The great thing about HTML 5 is that it is a universal standard that all phones can use. For developers this means they don’t have to build two versions of the application for iOS and Android. This means less maintenance, faster time to market and a more uniform experience for consumers.

I personally hope that HTML 5 evolves fast and allows for developers to stop building applications within silos. It will be exciting to see the next generation of technology come out, the age old battle of Mac vs. PC or iOS vs. Android will cease to exist since we will all be working on the same standard.