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The Unwarranted Hype Over iPad Magazines

by on December 7th, 2010

There certainly was quite a bit of iPad news last week, most of which has to do with the launch of Richard Branson’s Project magazine, as well as rumours surrounding iOS 4.3 and Rupert Murdoch’s own iPad magazine. In more than one way, I’m already quite tired of all the news and the buzz. I’m also baffled as to why everyone seems to think it’s such a big deal. Let’s break this down. Maybe there’s something I’m overlooking.

Not to continue sounding like a broken record, the iPad really is a wonderful device with a brilliant display that could prove to work well for news and magazines. This much is true. However, I simply can’t see how an iPad magazine will help revitalize news and magazine publishing. Competition in print media is at the highest it’s been in years. If you walk down to your closest major intersection in a large city [Toronto, say], you’ll likely see people trying to give you free copies of the daily local paper. On Saturdays, you’ll even see people handing out premium newspapers such as the Toronto Star.

They’re literally paying people to give away the paper.

With offline competition already so fierce, why would publishers think that the tablet space would be any better? Sure, there wouldn’t be the added cost of physical paper, but there are a number of other costs such as data hosting and bandwidth, as well as the same overhead as before like writers, photographers and editors.

While publishers can still look towards advertising to supplement subscription revenues, there is now a generally accepted expectation that paid apps [and subscription based apps] will be advertising-free. Furthermore, with Apple continuing to push their iAds platform, my gut feeling is that Apple will expect iOS 4.3 magazine apps to run through that platform too. With Apple taking a healthy slice of iAds revenue, this will undoubtedly hit any magazine content provider’s bottom line.

It’s been said that links are the currency of the internet. Without a doubt, one of the great strengths of online news, magazines and blogs is the seamless ability to share links and stories through a wide variety of outlets. While I appreciate that a dedicated magazine app would have a handful of useful features [namely, video playback], the big drawback in these paid magazine subscription is the inability to share. Regardless of how compelling the content may be, there is a limit to the number of individuals who would pay to read simply one article.

Unfortunately, it just seems like newspaper and magazines are still approaching  the iPad as a standalone channel, instead of leveraging it as part of an integrated strategy to increase engagement and reader loyalty. As mentioned at the beginning, I may be overlooking something. Or I may not be. Do you foresee iPad magazines taking off to become the next must-have app? Would other publishers jump on board and test out the waters here? Share your thoughts below.

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  • Aloombox

    I agree, I can’t see myself buying an app dedicated to a magazine. I much prefer to buy magazines at a “magazine shop” like Zinio, Kindle, Kobo etc.