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Magazines on iPads will just be like GQ’s latest iPhone app

January 31, 2010

While Apple’s iPad has been the subject of a lot of attention ranging, from ridicule and mixed reviews. The spin suggested the iPad would usher in a new era for those in the publishing business by creating another medium for consumers to experience print.

However, the promise suggested by Apple’s demos and a number of flashy publisher initiatives is that this new experience is going to be better than a web site, and more satisfying than reading a newspaper or a magazine.

The dream being sold is how our magazines are going to be turned into immersive multimedia experiences (see the Sports Illustrated demo below) where the user takes a joyride through a stream of beautifully designed content and can dig deeper on topics and experience multimedia to their hearts content. While all these seems technically feasible, the big question is who are the publishers who can afford to develop this content on a daily, weekly or even a monthly basis?

It’s easy to imagine a scenario where excitement drives the creation of great first iPad editions that succeed in seducing new subscribers into magazine franchises at significant premiums to current subscription rates. However this will not be sustainable because the economics won’t map out and the result will be falling quality standards and subscriber discontent. 

The other way of looking at this is through the application lens, where new entrants will come into the publishing space from a completely different direction.These new entrants might find better and more interesting ways of serving up content than the publishing incumbents.

It’s likely magazines will never be able to afford to realize the “Sports Ilustrated” dream and instead be forced to fight it out in the App Store with hundreds of thousands of competitors.

The future for traditional publications on tablets has to be more “application like”, than “issue like”.

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but I don’t believe we are going to get the sizzle of the Sports Ilustrated demo, it’s much more likely we will be looking at something like the latest GQ iPhone application.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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