Quarter after quarter, Apple reports financial results that most executives can only marvel at. Even in fiscal Q4 2011, when it missed analysts' expectations, the company earned $28.3 billion in revenue, up sharply from 2010, and beat sales estimates for the iPad.
When the Cupertino, CA-based company reports numbers like these, journalists, as well as Apple shareholders, should celebrate.
To see why, open the iPad applications for The New York Times or News Corp's The Daily. Regardless of writing style or political leanings, it's clear that tablet media applications are as much the heir of the daily newspaper in terms of style, layout, and context provided as the news website. That's a positive for both the newsrooms that want to dig deeper into important issues and PR pros who want to pitch their clients as experts on relevant and timely topics.
Tablet devices are also a custom fit for emerging newsgathering priorities. Fewer than four in 10 journalists (38%) say it's "extremely important" to be the first to report on a topic, down 6% from 2008, according to the 2011 PRWeek/Porter Novelli Media Content Survey. If providing context on an important topic is a higher priority for journalists than dispatching sound-bite-length tweets, then the linking, slideshow, and video capabilities of tablet devices are a natural fit for the next generation of "print journalists."
Will people pay for subscriptions so media companies can keep producing quality content? The answer is yet to come, but it's fair to assume that if millions of folks will shell out $199 for a Kindle Fire or $800-plus for the iPad2, most will subscribe to one or more periodicals to experience the device's full capabilities.
It is also incumbent upon publishers to realize that earning back print subscription dollars with online and tablet subscription dimes is a long-term investment only starting to pay off for media companies that got into tablet publishing early. In its Q3 2011 earnings call, The New York Times Co. said digital subscriptions surpassed 324,000 in the period, while Hearst Magazines told Reuters late last year that it has 400,000 digital subscribers across all tablets. The Daily reportedly has an average of 120,000 readers a week after its February 2011 launch on the iPad. While well short of its stated goals, the company recently launched the tablet-only paper for Android instead of retreating.
None of this is to say PR pros will ever again see the days of newsrooms full of reporters focused on a single beat. The leaner, busier, and multitalented reporter is now a fixture. Yet Apple's financial success is one factor clearing a path to improved financial stability for the industry once known as "print media."
Frank Washkuch is news editor of PRWeek. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.