THHGiP: Media Creation and Consumption

“When you go out and about with just an iPad, you’re sending a message that you’re not going to contribute. You’re just there to consume.” – Paul Thurrott (October 6, 2010)

“That’s what we keep hearing about the iPad as the justification for all its purposeful limitations: it’s meant for consumption, we’re told, not creation….all of us comment on content, whether through email or across a Denny’s table. At one level or another, we all spread, react, remix, or create. Just not on the iPad.” – Jeff Jarvis (April 4, 2010)

“Today’s iPad, the one that I just bought, is just a demo of something that could be very nice and useful at some point in the future. Today it’s something to play with, not something to use. That’s the kind way to say it. The direct way: It’s a toy.” – Dave Winer (April 3, 2010)

Those are three big names in the world of tech pundits. You’ve probably heard of all of them. And that’s what they thought of the iPad when it was first introduced. You’ve probably heard similar things from colleagues and friends, on Twitter and in chat rooms. People seem polarized over this idea of “content creation”, and whether the iPad is capable of it. Is this an active piece of technology, or just a passive one?

I contend that it’s an active one, in fact I would say it’s revolutionary in the way content can be created on it. I think the issue is with the definition of content. Let me explain.

Pass the Soapbox Please

Ok, so you noticed this article has “THHGiP” in its title, right? That signifies it’s a part of my Hitchhiker’s Guide to the iPad series, where we look at using the iPad when traveling. That’s true. And we’re going to take a look at that, in just a second.

Before we can properly look at all that the iPad offers the traveling creative, I feel I need to address the argyle elephant in the room. The preceding quotes embody an attitude firmly against the iPad as a device even capable of content creation. I’m here to say that today, the facts say otherwise.

The issue I’ve always raised when greeted with that same tired criticism, the iPad’s lack of ability to create content, is what that person views as content. That’s a starting point often overlooked, but it informs the entire ensuing discussion. If you’re using the word “content” as a euphemism for “text” then that’s a different conversation from one where you’re more broad, and include things like photos, videos, and even music.

Is any touchscreen device an ideal writing environment? Probably not. Any professional writer will tell you that a keyboard is key. Often times software keyboards take up most of the screen real estate that’s available. But what about when a keyboard is irrelevant to the content being created?

In the case of photographers, videographers, and musicians, the keyboard isn’t a necessary tool of the trade. Most of the time it’s an obstacle to be overcome. The iPad never introduces it. With the iPad there’s unprecedented access to your content: being able to touch your photos, physically scrub through your video’s timeline. That’s the creation of content, there’s no argument to be made.

And that’s the kind of content we’re talking about today.

Creating Media

The term “media” itself is a bit of a loaded one. Often used in reference to the mainstream press in all its forms, the ability through technology for the average person to create the same products at a high level of quality has led to its democratization.

The iPad allows for an amazing array of flexibility, all within one device. Seeing as we recently touched on all the opportunities for photographers to make use of the iPad, there are two other areas we’ll talk about now. Interestingly enough, it’s Apple itself who’s leading the charge in these two areas.

Movies

When the iPad 2 was announced, it came with some shiny new software in tow. One piece being iMovie. And while iMovie for iPad isn’t going to be entering the workflow of Hollywood film editors anytime soon, it does make the perfect companion to the traveling amateur videographer.

If you can get your video into your iPad’s Camera Roll, then chances are you can edit it in iMovie. The way that you edit that video though, that’s where the “revolutionary magic” is in iMovie for iPad. The controls hide the power from the novice user, but not to the point that the inquisitive geek can’t find it.

While the next Oscar nominated short film might not be edited on an iPad, there’s truly nothing like it for producing your average family vacation film while still on the road.

Music

Ok, so granted, this one might be a bit of a stretch. While campfire sing-alongs might be a part of vacations, the average trip probably doesn’t involve a roaring jam session just begging to be recorded.

But I really wanted to mention Garageband for iPad. If we’re talking mobile media creation, Garageband for iPad is truly amazing. iPad.AppStorm’s editor, Joel Bankhead, wrote a great introductory piece to how Garageband works. And both Jacob Wilson and Adam Williams have gone a little more in-depth.

If you’re curious about Garageband for iPad’s potential, then I strongly encourage you to look over those articles.

Consuming Media

Ok, so this is the thing that everyone universally believes the iPad is good at, so I figured it’d be more interesting to save it till last. When you’re looking at the iPad and media for traveling, pre-preparation can really be the key.

We’ve discussed time and again in this series, that connectivity isn’t guaranteed. So a good plan is to try and anticipate the movies and music that you’ll want with you, and make sure they’re preloaded onto your iPad.

Music

But where would the fun be if my only tip to you was to make sure you sync up with iTunes before you leave? I mean that’s common sense, right? How about other options for music?

Well, even though Spotify has made its US debut, no iPad-compatible client exists yet. But not to fear, if you’re interested in streaming music solutions, then I’d have to recommend Rdio. I covered Rdio early this year for Web.AppStorm, comparing its offerings to MOG, another streaming music service. If you’re interested in something like that, I urge you to investigate Rdio, and see if it meets your needs.

For the record, Rdio’s iPad app allows you to cache songs, as well as stream them. So you can try thwarting connectivity issues by pre-cacheing the songs and/or playlists you’d like to enjoy on your trip.

Movies

Now, much the same can be said about movies as it can about music, especially with regard to iTunes support. But there are more interesting options to check out too.

When you’re on the road, away from home, but still want to stay up to date with your favorite television shows, Hulu Plus is your best option. At $7.99 per month, it’s not overly expensive, and could be a nice option, even if you just signed up for the month that you’re taking your trip.

Of course there’s also [Netflix] for iPad. Kevin Whipps covered the Netflix app for iOS on iPhone.AppStorm a while back, and like Hulu Plus, a short-term subscription might be a nice asset for any trip.

Wrapping Up

So, there you have it. My take on using the iPad as a mobile content consumption and creation device. I think there’s quite a body of proof now, almost a year and a half after the iPad’s introduction, to prove that this truly is a revolutionary device.


  • Kim Wickell

    You are wrong there about the Spotify app for the iPad.
    Correct, there is no iPad app but the iPhone av is very much compatible.

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