TabTimes is a new media business focused on the tablet industry and ecosystem. It was started by Patrick Pierra, who serves as Publisher. Patrick founded Branchez-vous.com in 1995, and served as CEO of BV! Media for 15 years. The company was acquired by Rogers Communications in October 2010. Branchez-vous! was the first media outlet in Canada to launch an iPad application.
Patrick remains in Montreal, but his team is spread out across the United States.
According to Patrick, their mission is to help managers and professionals do more, work smarter and improve their business through the use of tablets. “The core of our target audience are people involved, in one way or another, in tablet projects for their organizations,” says Patrick. “Such projects typically require the development of one or several specific apps, and the deployment of tablets through the organization.”
TabTimes is starting with their flagship product, a tablet magazine, in the form of an iPad app, scheduled for launch in early 2012. It’s a tablet app about tablets. They’re already publishing news, which users can access through the TabTimes Daily Update newsletter and through their Twitter feed. They also plan to ramp up their feature and analysis coverage.
The company also plans to run events. Their first conference, TabTimes Tablet Strategy, will be held in New York on April 27.
Patrick has assembled a very strong and experienced team.
Patrick: For the project, I went after experienced journalists and editors, with established connections in the technology area in the US.
Our editor, George Jones, is a highly experienced tech magazine editor. He quit his job last spring as editor-in-chief position at MaximumPC, the second largest tech magazine in the US (after PCworld) to join TabTimes.
Previously, he had worked as Editor of two leading gaming magazines, Computer Gaming World and GamePro (respectively published by Ziff-Davis and IDG, the two largest tech publishers in the US). George is based in San Francisco.
Our Managing Editor, Steven Lang, alss worked at Ziff-Davis, where he organized business conferences for PC Magazine. He is now directly in charge of our events. He had also edited several B2B technology and business magazines. Steven is based in New York.
Our News Editor, David Needle, previously worked for InternetNews.com, InformationWeek and Infoworld (then two of the leading print B2B IT magazines).
On the business side, our Associate publisher, Rick Vandervoorn has also worked for many tech publications – including PC Magazine and PC Gamer – as well as for Internet companies (IGN) and mobile companies (Jingle Networks and iCall).
As nobody could be a tablet advertising expert so early in the market development, this triple-play experience (print, web, mobile) is helping him lead our sales strategy (which won’t be tablet-only, by the way; we’ll offer multi-platform solutions from the start.)
NextMontreal: What made you decide to start TabTimes? Although the tablet market is big (and growing) it’s still an extremely narrow niche for a complete, daily magazine.
Patrick: Many reasons:
(1) I am fascinated by tablets. I think they represent a shift in technology access. It may not be as huge a change as the web brought to the world, but it may be comparable in scope.
Think in terms of age: neither young children nor old persons would fully use computers (at least, not all of them did). The tablets is much easier device to interact with.
Think in terms of education: if you can’t read easily, using a computer is not easy. With a tablet, you may just touch icons and look at pictures and video.
Think in terms of language: for many, many people around the globe, a keyboard is not their best friend.
Think in terms of revenues: even if computers have low-end offerings, many manufacturers, particularly in India, are now able to produce entry-level tablet devices at an extremely low cost.
Also, tablets are a perfect platform to leverage both high-speed internet access and and cloud information storage..
(2) Work-related uses of tablets are growing very fast.
I am not kidding myself: the vast majority of consumers who buy a tablet don’t do that to work on it. They see it as an entertainment, a communications, and to some extent an educational device.
But, on the one hand, many of these consumers end up loving their device so much, and using them so much, that they also do some work on it: first by reading and answering some work email messages at home, then doing some work-related web research; then taking it as a laptop-replacement on short trips; then on using it to show something to coworkers or customers; then using it as a presentation device.
That’s one part of it.
The other part is that, much more quickly than everyone expected, some industries adopted tablets as a very convenient at-work device. Look at hospitals, and then schools: the number of tablet deployments there is absolutely astounding.
And now it’s retailers who want to use tablets to show products to customers in store without storing them on the floor.
And then airlines who want to provide tablets to passengers for their entertainment, and to pilots to replace print documentation.
And then sales departments who prefer to use tablets to draw customers into their sales pitch.
And it goes on and on and on.
In all sectors, tablets are, in most cases, not replacing computers; they are playing a new role, to help mobile workers, sales reps, nurses, teachers, do their job better, faster and at a lower cost.
Being able to participate in that development, and to contribute positively to it, is very exciting.
(3) A new media platform usually opens opportunities for new players.
When a new platform emerges, start ups have a leg up established media groups. At least, there is window opportunity. It won’t last very long because most media groups – specially the print-based ones – have identified tablet development as a priority.
Still, being able to start a product just for that platform, while other players are focused on porting established brands and existing content forms on the same platform, should allow one to get a better product faster on the market.
By the way, while there is plenty of activity in the tablet space by many media players, how many new tablet-only media brands do you know? Frankly, I don’t know of many. The Daily and Project are two that stand out. Sure, there will be plenty others in the years to come. But for now, what you see is many tablet apps for newspapers, tablet apps for print magazines, tablet apps for TV networks, tablet apps and sites for web sites and portals, etc. Very few true tablet media outlets.
(4) A personal opportunity for me
I saw the tablet space as a one-time opportunity to launch a media product which would not be constrained by language or regulatory barriers. The previous examples of, among others, Mashable (created by a young guy in Scotland) and ReadWriteWeb (created in New Zealand) show that it’s possible to establish an international media brand without starting from the US, nor belonging to an established media group, nor benefiting from VC funding.
And even if we don’t play in the same category, examples like Zoom Media, Vice, Stingray, Seed magazine show that a media project can be started in Montreal and become a North american or global key player in its niche.
That does not mean the road will be an easy one. But I have experienced quite a few bumps in my previous journey and that doesn’t scare me (well, it still does scare me a little, but I am confident that we have the right mix of market, platform, business focus, resources, expertise and passion to overcome future hurdles).
NextMontreal: How will you monetize?
Patrick: Mostly advertising and sponsorship. We focus first on sponsorship, with an emphasis on events. When the tablet advertising space will have matured somewhat, and when we will have built an audience, we’ll focus more on advertising.
As a complement, selling access to premium content. While our tablet app will be free, targeting a business audience allows us to contemplate selling some premium content items, like industry reports. Also, conferences will not be free to attend.
NextMontreal: How many employees are at TabTimes?
Patrick: Six full-time employees currently, with approximately a dozen regular freelancers. We will progressively staff up in the coming two years, but we’ll remain a small group of full-time employees. We only handle content production and sales in-house. All tech development is outsourced.
NextMontreal: What’s response been like so far?
Very encouraging and even enthusiastic. Not only from users – people involved in corporate tablet projects and who are looking for information and guidance to help them lead these projects in the right direction – but also from vendors who also see the potential of this market.