eReaders as the 4th screen

The ’3 screens’ model is quite an interesting way to look at how people consume media. AT&T do a decent job of explaining the three screen model -

“three screens” that many consumers value most — the TV, the PC and the wireless phone.

in the near future, the lines between networks and access technologies will be blurred. And communications and entertainment services will be delivered to the “three screens” in an integrated and familiar way.

AT&T isn’t the only company that’s talking about the 3 screens -

  1. Here’s a PDF report from Nielsen on How people consume Media across 3 screens. Nielsen do a monthly report on 3 screen media consumption – here’s the 3 screen report for December 2009
  2. Microsoft has a 3 screen and a Cloud strategy
  3. MediaPost has a good post talking about the 3 screens

You have to admit it makes a lot of sense.

How does the Cloud fit in with the 3 screens?

The Cloud is basically a platform – It provides distribution, storage, services, and more.

The Cloud is in a way the projected end state when, as AT&T say, ‘the lines between networks and access technologies will be blurred’.

In this end state the Cloud will be delivering services and media that are consumed on the 3 screens – TV, PC, and Phone.

However, we run into an interesting problem.

Ripples in the 3 Screens and a Cloud Model – eReaders

There are obviously some ripples in the 3 screens and a Cloud model -

  1. Radio.
  2. Books.

Let’s focus on one in particular – books.

People and companies who believe in the 3 Screens and a Cloud model would think -

  1. Books are going to be stored in a cloud.
  2. Books are going to be read on one of the 3 screens.  

However, eReaders sprang up and broke the 3 screens part of the equation.

eReaders as the potential Fourth Screen

The fact that eReaders are better for reading than any of the 3 current screens sets them up to be the mythical fourth screen.  

  1. eInk has a competitive advantage over the 3 screens – its much, much closer to paper. 
  2. eReaders come in a form factor that fits in neatly between phones and PCs.
  3. Reading spreads across books and school and work and a lot of other areas.
  4. People read enough for eReaders to gain huge sales volume and huge presence. 
  5. eReaders come with huge advantages – battery life, readable in sunlight, very few distractions.  

The rise of eReaders is going to run into a few roadblocks – some real, some imagined.

eReaders as the Fourth Screen – the Challenges

The 3 Screens trying to take back reading

We see a few examples of this already -

  1. Reading apps on phones.
  2. Reading Software on PCs.
  3. Pixel Qi’s multiple mode screen that makes PCs much better for reading.

eReader makers are well aware of this and are hedging their bets by creating reading applications for the PC and for various phones.

In addition to hedging their bets they are also, consciously or unconsciously, doing a few things to strengthen eReaders’ charge to be the fourth screen -

  1. (Usually) Locking people into their content libraries.
  2. Creating apps that are in the design philosophy of the dedicated eReader - thus functioning as a ramp to actual eReader ownership. 
  3. Getting people back into reading so that they can transition to reading enough to justify buying a dedicated eReader.
  4. Making the reading applications limited enough to not really be a threat to eReaders.

It’s very intelligent strategy.

Competing Fourth Screen Devices

Another huge challenge to eReaders are devices that want to be the fourth screen themselves.

  1. Tablets and the iPad are a great example.  
  2. Netbooks are a big threat too - although they are increasingly moving towards being thinner, cheaper laptops.  

It’s an interesting contest -

  1. Are customers looking for a more mobile PC?
  2. Are customers looking for a dedicated reading device that specializes in reading?
  3. Will customers create a fourth and fifth screen?

I suspect the answer is the third option. We like simplicity and to be able to think in threes – However, and even AT&T say this, users have shown a tendency to embrace multiple screens and use them all.

  • TV didn’t die out and neither will the phone and the PC.  
  • The PC and the mobile phone were embraced - so will eReaders and Tablets (or perhaps Netbooks).

What Happens if eReaders really do become the fourth screen?

They become really, really important. Much more important than just ‘screens for reading’ – even though reading is huge.

Here are a few directions eReaders could go in if they do become a fourth screen -

  1. Become relationship devices – They’re everywhere and they’re trusted.  
  2. Expand into a purchase screen i.e. specialize for reading and e-commerce. 
  3. Micropayments.
  4. Location Services.
  5. Start selling other types of media.  

There are a lot of directions to go in. Getting a foothold is the key part and eReaders are well on their way to doing that.

The Battle for Being the Fourth Screen may be bigger than the Battle for Publishing

If you think of how strong the iTunes ecosystem is and how strong the Kindle ecosystem is, it’s clear that the reward for becoming the fourth screen people use might actually be greater than the reward for becoming the foundation for Publishing.

It’s a scary thought that eReaders might win an even bigger prize than control of the $50 billion annual revenues in Publishing (just an estimate – it’s $25 billion for the US).

2010 Kindle Review Blog Resolutions

The Kindle Review blog has grown 8.5 times in 2009 – that’s pretty impressive if you discount the fact that eReaders have probably grown as much ;) .

 For 2010 there are four main resolutions for me and the blog -

  1. Increase the value each reader gets 10 times.  
  2. Consistently write high quality posts – at least 5 very good posts a week plus multiple good posts every day.  
  3. Grow the Blog 100 times, including growing traffic of good intent at least 100 times.
  4. Stay focused on you (the blog reader) and what’s best for you.

Here’s a little more on each and the intial strategy. Please do add your thoughts if you have suggestions or ideas.

Increase the value each reader gets 10 times

This is the toughest one. It’s also the most interesting because it’s going to take some really good strategy and creative use of the blog.

There are a few straightforward ways to increase value -

  1. Currently 10% posts are very good, 40-50% are good, and the rest are filler. By eliminating most of the filler posts and having 20% very good posts and the rest good, solid posts the value readers get probably doubles.  
  2. Better videos and photos – have a tripod now, will start thinking more and reading up more and figure out how to create videos that are more helpful and accurate.
  3. Better writing – Perhaps most posts could be half the size and still convey 90% of the value. More value for the time spent.

That’s still just a doubling or tripling of value. So do write in your ideas for what would make the blog more valuable to you, or for non-blog ways to increase value.

Consistently write high quality posts – 5 very good posts a week plus multiple good posts a day

2009 has been good and still there haven’t been enough very good posts on the blog.

There’s a pretty clear difference between good and very good posts –  

  1. Time – Very good posts take 3 to 10 (or more) hours to write.  
  2. Timelessness – Very good posts apply for a year or more.  
  3. Very good posts add a lot more value. The free books list post or the kindle tips post are worth much more than a ’2 books are free for 2 days’ post.
  4. Very good posts usually have an hour or more of thinking before writing. This is by far the toughest part to get right.

The committment is to 5 very good posts a week. That goes hand in hand with reducing the number of filler posts to less than 10%.

In terms of good posts still want to be adding multiple good posts every day – free books, interesting news, some analysis, perhaps even a story or two. Don’t know what multiple will end up being - perhaps 2, perhaps more.

Grow the Blog 100 times

The blog hit two speed bumps – one at the beginning of the year and another in the summer that together stalled traffic for 7 months. That (and perhaps other mistakes) meant that the Blog grew much less than it would have.

In 2010 the growth in eReaders ought to be huge and the aim is to ride off of that growth (perhaps a 10 times growth) and add to that growth by improving the value that readers get.

The aim is to grow these specific types of traffic of good intent 100 times or more -

  1. People who are trying to decide whether an eReader is right for them and which eReader is right for them - growing this traffic 100 times.  
  2. People trying to get the maximum value out of their Kindle – growing this 100 times too.  
  3. People who love books and reading.
  4. People interested in the future of reading.
  5. People interested in eReaders - growing this 100 times, especially the Kindle, the Apple Tablet and perhaps 2 or 3 other eReaders.

The focus of the blog still revolves around the Kindle, figuring out which eReader is right for you, getting the most value out of your Kindle and the future of books and publishing.

Stay focused on you, the blog reader, and what’s best for you

This is actually going to be the 2nd toughest thing to do. There are a ton of distractions – negative people, the press, money, search engine optimization, lack of discipline, and more.

Perhaps the biggest is staying focused on what people actually want and need and respond to – as opposed to assumptions and perceptions.

So it’s basically two intertwined threads -

  1. Figuring out and staying focused on what’s most important to all of you. 
  2. Staying true to what’s best for the people who come to this blog - no matter what the distraction or temptation.

In many ways the third year of this blog is like the third release of a product - It’s time to hit the ball out of the park. The main resolution for 2010 is to do exactly that.

iReaderReview blog subscription on your Kindle for $0.99

Amazon knocked down the price of this blog from $1.99 to $0.99  in case you were considering it. Like I said before – don’t really need the money – however, if you’d like to get it on your Kindle or Kindle 2 you can get it at a more reasonable price.

How iReaderReview makes money

Thought I’d make this a separate post since iRR is now earning a non-trivial amount of money.

Here is the main way in which iReaderReview gets money -

  1. Associate income from Amazon (In Association with Amazon). Whenever someone clicks on a link on the site to go to Amazon and then buys something within a 24 hour window, iRR gets 4-10% of the amount spent.
  2. Kindle Edition books are not included – probably because Amazon is losing money on them (which no publisher will ever agree with even though they get a 35% cut of the list price i.e. 80-90% of kindle price).

There is a cookie that lasts 24 hrs. Also, anything put into the cart and bought within 60 days counts. However, if you visit today and buy something 3 days later that doesn’t count. I have no idea whether that’s fair and don’t really care.

I’m actually quite grateful since I don’t have to plead for donations, or put up stupid, ugly google ads or sell my visitors on products they might not need. There are tens of millions of Amazon associates and its a big reason for Amazon’s success.

How making money relates with the Site’s philosophy

The blog/site’s philosophy is to help people make smart decisions. Since the kindle is an exciting product, the transition in publishing is a huge change, and I feel some sort of connection with/responsilibity to people who bought a Kindle via this site or visit this site I also blog a lot about Kindle tips and free books and Kindle related stuff.

Along with this blog I run a few other blogs all  centered around helping people make smart decisions and they make me money too. Since its customers who’re earning me money (and not advertisers or retailers) my responsibility and loyalty is always to my readers.

People have indicated that they’d like to support this blog by subscribing to the blog and I really appreciate the sentiment – at the moment I don’t need that support. The associate income is good and if you can get the blog for free choose that method.

The only reason I have to have the blog on the Kindle Store is to introduce it to a new audience.

I derive most of my inspiration and business model from MoneySavingExpert.com because its a really smart, well run site. Martin Lewis runs it, probably makes 3-4 million pounds  amonth, and is probably going to be the first billionaire who got that way by helping people spend less. MSE has no ads, and neither do we.

They publicly disclose how they make money, and now that the income stream is non-trivial for me, I felt I would write about it to ensure it’s out in the open. There’s never going to be a ‘support us by buying from Amazon’ button or a ‘donation’ button because earnings in the course of the value the site provides are the only means worth focusing on.

Thanks for your support – writing for the blog is fun and never feels like work and every day responding to your comments and thoughts is one of the highlights.

iReaderReview now available on your Kindle

You can now get iReaderReview delivered straight to your Kindle.

Because I chose the option of daily multiple posts it’s for $1.99 and if paying for blogs on Kindle doesn’t make sense to you that’s fine.

Not too happy about the price – however, given that Amazon have to pay 12 cents per MB I understand why they can’t do it free.

After thinking a lot I did want to get the blog on the kindle store – mostly for people who don’t know about the blog yet, and for people who’d like to get it automatically on their Kindles.

You can always check it here, or subscribe to the full RSS feeds. Thanks for visiting the site!

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