The great hope, the savior of magazines, the evolution of content distribution is a failure!
Why? Simply put it is a magazine on an iPad. Seriously. That is it. Why would you want that when you can have it in print? Do you want video? Nope. Those are usually free on the internet. You don’t want to go through the hassle of browsing through the iTunes newsstand. It sux. It may be more convenient than purposely going to a brick and mortar newsstand but magazines are most commonly impulse buys in checkout lines. People don’t consistently go out to buy magazines. If they have a favorite then they subscribe. How can you sell a magazine through the iTunes newsstand? You really can’t. A strong brand needs to already exist. Folks go looking for a particular title there. Some iPad only magazines may have made it through to the masses, such as TRVL and The Magazine but they are rare and not performing well compared to other major magazine publishers’ titles.
There needs to be a more direct method. iPad magazines also shouldn’t be magazines. You find that folks buy mags on their iPads to help clutter. That’s IT!
Some key things must changed; the experience and the Apple Newsstand. The experience was great once but only allows for short term entertainment. At the end of 2013, tablet readership was just 3.3 percent of total circulation. Many in the industry had expected the tablet editions to be outselling the print counterparts by then. Oops.
What needs to happen? Tablet magazines should exist. While the circ may be small, it is still significant, especially compared to the cost of production. But if a magazine is only producing a PDF replica for the tablets, they should create something for mobile too. There is a lot to be had for a clear reading experience on the phone. New magazines shouldn’t bother with what is already the standard magazine on the tablet. They should create an app for their brand. Something that interacts, something that updates, something that calls the user back. Right now folks don’t open up more than 2 apps on a regular basis. The business model is there. It will need to be modified for the product of course, but it exists.
Magazines are conduits to branded lifestyles, in most cases. For example, if you are a vegetarian lifestyle magazine publisher, create an app that contains an Yelp like search for local vendors, in app shopping from various vendors, and updating info. This app can use a subscription and advertising model like the NYTs app. And of course, it contains the content from the issue, but it is simplified, HTML based, and is searchable. This app would live in the App Store and would likely fall into the productivity, entertainment, or lifestyle categories. No more magazines on the tablet. No more Newsstand.
I am among the professionals that thought that tablet magazines were going to be more successful.
We should have been able to see that we were approaching this wrong. Did we learn nothing from the web?