International CES 2011 kicked off this week and with it came a slew of consumer electronics announcements by technology companies big and small. Despite the noise, a few key technologies were able to get more than their fair share of voice at the conference, serving as strong indicators of the key tech (and media) trends that will dominate 2011. According to Neiman Journalism Lab, one theme for the new year in media that’s clearly emerged from CES is the impending dominance of the tablet. As The New York Times’ Joshua Brustein wrote, that was supposed to be the theme last year, too, but the iPad was the only device able to get off the ground in any meaningful way. Several of Apple’s competitors are gearing up to make their push this year instead; The Times’ Nick Bilton predicted that companies that try to one-up Apple with bells and whistles will fail, though Google may come up with a legitimate iPad rival.
With tablet sales projected to reach 70 million in the U.S. in 2011 and 2012 (50 million of them iPads), and with early survey results, such as the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s study, showing longer news session times and a return to longer-form, pleasurable reading, this year’s real news will be how online publishers will navigate an age of news reading renewal across several mediums and devices. According to Ken Doctor from Nieman Journalism Lab, a few publishers are now laying new strategy, based on private projections. They are forecasting that 20-25 percent of their print readers will migrate to the tablet within five years. We can see in their early reader pricing the acknowledgment that the real print-to-digital transition might be finally be upon us — and they don’t want to miss this ship when it sails. Based on these projections and predictions, it’s safe to assume that the “The Year of the Tablet” will force news publishers to re-evaluate their print costs and revenue streams and transition to digital-mainly news models.