That’s the title of an article by Jason Pontin, the editor in chief of MIT’s Technology Review.  He discusses how publishers were seduced into doing apps by the iPad and how they became disappointed with the results.

 But the real problem with apps was more profound. When people read news and features on electronic media, they expect stories to possess the linky-ness of the Web, but stories in apps didn’t really link. The apps were, in the jargon of information technology, “walled gardens,” and although sometimes beautiful, they were small, stifling gardens. For readers, none of that beauty overcame the weirdness and frustration of reading digital media closed off from other digital media.

Without subscribers or many single-copy buyers, and with no audiences to sell to advertisers, there were no revenues to offset the incremental costs of app development. With a couple of exceptions, publishers therefore soured on apps. The most commonly cited exception is Condé Nast, which saw its digital sales increase by 268 percent last year after Apple introduced an iPad app called Newsstand that promoted the New York publisher’s iPad editions. Still, even 268 percent growth may not be saying much in total numbers. Digital is a small business for Condé Nast. For instance, Wired, the most digital of Condé Nast’s titles, has 33,237 digital replica subscriptions, representing just 4.1 percent of total circulation, and 7,004 digital single-copy sales, which is 0.8 percent of paid circulation, according to ABC.


  1. Oye … another whinge about publishers being ‘duped’ by someone else. Do they ever take responsibility for anything ?

    This article is basically about publishing magazine publications and not novels or eBooks.

    The truth is that magazine publishers went into a frenzy with the idea that they could clean up and make some whopping profits.

    Then they got totally and utterly lost in the fancy technology and by the time they woke up they had spent a small fortune and were in the sh1t and who did they start blaming ? Apple, of course ….. OMG how could they dare to charge a retailer fee !! Lots of people told them they were daft, but surprise surprise they didn’t listen. The cause ? no one sat down and actually thought about what they were going to do and what they would end up delivering and who actually wanted it. They just launched themselves gung ho and got what people get when they do.

    Of course now they write articles like this one, attacking apps and Apple. The truth is they will be back when they grow up and learn some basic business sense. There is nothing inherently wrong with apps. I don’t buy this ‘walled garden’ jargon abuse. As an iPhone and iPad owner, I am certain there are opportunities for app based publishing in magazines/news. But these publishers need to look at the whole experience and what it is that readers actually want from their publications first before they allow themselves to be seduced by the technology. They need to learn from Jobs, who always believed that the technology should eb invisible.

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