On PBS’s MediaShift, Susan Currie Sivek has a great article summing up the effect that the iPad and other digital technologies had on magazines in 2010.
She starts by looking at magazine apps for the iPad: Zinio, Wired (which sold 105,000 copies in June, but was down to 32,000 by the month of September), and more. A number of these magazines are only showing 1 to 2 percent of newsstand sales for their apps.
Users have been by and large unimpressed by iPad selections, calling the reading experience only “somewhat better or about the same” than print or computer editions, and balking at higher prices.
Users of iPad magazines have also criticized what they see as a lack of creativity and technological savvy in designing usable, intriguing magazine apps for the iPad. Today’s magazine apps tend to be dull, clunky replicas of print magazine pages that don’t let readers share content via social media or even email. Despite being designed only for the iPad, even Project, the much-anticipated iPad-only magazine from Richard Branson’s Virgin Digital Publishing, was disliked by some readers for its awkward interface and its insistence on re-creating the print page experience.
Civek also brings up the lack of subscriptions as a major drawback, and mention the efforts of major publishers to develop their own digital newsstands in competition to Apple.
But the iPad is not the only digital issue affecting magazines. The article also brings up the Cooks Source incident, which we covered in several pieces here, and a similar, less-reported incident in which another small magazine used blogger content without permission. Another issue affecting magazine credibility is the use of paid sponsor blogs along with regular magazine content, potentially confusing advertising and content.
And finally, the piece covers the rise of “magazine-like” digital content, such as social network reading app Flipboard. In addition to presenting social network content in a magazine-like way, it also now includes some traditional print magazines via Flipboard Pages.
For 2011, Civek expects to see more independent, targeted-interest magazines, made with the same tools that are making self-publishing attractive to individual writers—print-on-demand, the web, etc.