Are iPad Magazine Apps Dead?
A state of the art roundtable, featuring five top magazine and app creators. Here’s a sample excerpt:
Why have readers failed to embrace magazine apps in the numbers that we all once hoped? Is the problem the app format, the tablets, or something more fundamental?
David Jacobs, CEO of 29th Street Publishing: A lot of the thinking about how audiences work on the Internet is flawed. For years, the thinking was “all audiences are moving on-line.” OK, that’s an interesting assertion! So what happened? Websites rebuilt themselves to be better clients for Google, and then again to be better clients for Facebook and Twitter, and now we are seeing the beginnings of that happening again – for folks to be more like Buzzfeed and Upworthy. This is an incremental improvement – Buzzfeed and Upworthy both advertise their empathy for users as a cornerstone for what they believe in.
But overall, the way audiences behave on-line (and on mobile) is much less predictable than anyone thought it would be. Successful products focus on accessibility, experience and flexibility. Traditionally, mobile magazines have fallen down on all three of those. By the way, print magazines, especially this most recent generation of independent magazines, completely understand this and take advantage of it. Start-up publishers are taking advantage of social networks to find their ideal audience and then sending them beautiful print products. And it’s a great experience flipped around, too – as a reader and a fan of magazines, the joy of searching for (and finding) a new print magazine is not something the average tablet experience can touch.
Josh Klenert, former creative director of Huffington magazine: We’ve learned over the last 20 years of publishing on the web, that to gain scale you need to leverage search and social to build an audience. It’s not true that “if you build it, they will come.” The same is true for apps. Right now, they are a destination. If a user connects with your brand, they will come, consume, and hopefully return. For example, with our HuffPost news app, we see that it’s a destination that sees more page views per visitor versus mobile web, but mobile web sees more unique users. But this is for a news product that is updated hundreds of times a day, not a weekly or monthly publication that lands with a thud. Those weekly/monthly publications then just sit in the Newsstand collecting dust in between updates while users move on to products that embrace the always-connected digital platform; ones that simply provide more stuff more often. I certainly don’t think you can blame the tablets themselves. You can’t argue with the vast number of iPads or Android tablets sold or apps downloaded (and used), and it’s not the usability of the iPad either. How many times have you seen a two year old flawlessly zip around on an iPad?
Jeremy Leslie, magCulture: Tablets are great for watching movies, playing games, reading websites, checking emails, listening to music, tweeting, facebooking and answering questionnaires like this one. And now you’re saying that in addition to all these activities I have the option to spend money on a 350-meg download of a product that is better in print? The problem is fundamental (and reflected in Apple’s lack of interest in the magazine app. Abandon Newsstand!) An exception is as an alternative to physical distribution. If a print magazine is expensive and slow to arrive in a far-flung part of the world, an app is a great get-round. I designed the Frieze magazine app, and that’s their strategy.
Read the whole conversation here.