ipad14[1] The iPad was supposed to be the digital savior of the magazine industry at a time when people are foregoing paper subscriptions to take their media experiences on-line. But is it? Adweek’s Brian Morrissey has an article looking at the way the high hopes of magazine publishers who came out with iPad editions are colliding with reality.

Part of the problem is the high per-issue cost of such apps, with no way to buy discounted subscriptions yet. But a larger part of it is that the apps simply aren’t put together in the way that readers would like to experience them.

"These apps suffer from a product design problem," said Khoi Vinh, a former lead designer at NYTimes.com. "They are designed around the wrong product vision, one that doesn’t realize people won’t read content in this way over the long haul."

For example, Wired’s magazine app weighs in at over 500 megabytes (The complete Wallace and Gromit iPad game I downloaded over the weekend was only about 300!) and suffered from a lack of quality control in terms of functionality. Another problem is the lack of social-network connection, the ability to use the Internet to broaden the experience from just the article’s content.

Publishers would be wise to take their cues from Flipboard, a publication built specifically for the iPad. Read an article on Flipboard and you’ll see the social commentary around it, a far cry from the solitary interface of most publisher apps. The empty experience of publisher apps shows up in the stats. According to app analytics company Flurry, media iPad apps average less than two minutes per session.

It remains to be seen whether Apple’s planned “iNewsstand” will make any difference to the way electronic magazines and newspapers are consumed on the iPad.


  1. “the ability to use the Internet to broaden the experience from just the article’s content.”

    I see the ipad’s reason for being as an attempt to disconnect users from the competing (and largely free) content that the internet offers. It’s the walled garden thing again; they’re trying to create a sort of hybrid medium “e-print” with all the advantages of distribution that the digital medium has, but reintroducing the traditional restrictions of print that created the need for customers to pay for content. It’s a regression from a user’s point of view.

  2. This walled garden thing is a complete mirage and doesn’t exist.

    The story is simple. The Magazine Publishers saw the iPad as easy money for old rope. They thought they could churn out any old rubbish in a glossy format, charge daft prices and sit back and watch the money role in. It is completely self inflicted.

    It isn’t working because although iPad owners may have slightly more spending money that the average Sammy, they are not stupid. Enormous bloated files and poorly thought out layouts became the norm. They also ignored the lessons of the web where distracting and useless eye candy gizmos just annoyed site visitors.

    And then to add insult to injury they through in crazy pricing !

    It really beggars belief sometimes. There is a massive market there for the getting. There is a long and well established experience by web designers and web writers of what users want in their content. It’s not rocket science. But when corporate managers and sales directors get the green eye they seem to lose all sense of reality; a sense of how best to nurture this market through content driven delivery and low prices to suck in the interest and generate new habits. There is a reason why ‘free’ as an initial pricing model has been so enormously successful on the web and in today’s software market. These people need to leave their walnut desks once and a while and see how the wider world works.

  3. I use Zinio. I will not entertain paid magazine content outside of that platform because I don’t want to clutter up my iPad with all sorts of random apps. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, they should be utilizing platforms which already have a proven record with customers and where the market share can grow.

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