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.