Ever since the first iPad was released in April of 2010, I have been watching the magazine publishers try to come up with ways to take advantage of the tablet computer and convince readers that this is how they should view, and pay for their publications. But something is not quite right. Here is what may be wrong and how to fix it.
3 Ways Magazines Can Succeed On The iPad
There was an article on AdAge that broke the news of Conde Nast (A huge publisher of hundreds of magazines) supposedly slowing down a bit on bringing their magazines to the iPad. They were quoted as saying that “conditions are not quite right yet” and as you can guess this really means that sales are not where they want them to be.
The article described how Conde Nast still planned to bring their biggest titles to the iPad but at a much slower pace. They have magazines such as GQ, Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and a whole plethora of popular titles.
In the eyes of the magazine publishers, they are seeing a brand new platform take off with rapid adoption and massive potential. After all, it’s not a huge secret that the iPad and other tablets are used mostly for consuming content. And more to the point, with it’s beautiful 10-inch screen, great resolution, and multi-touch interface there should be no reason why a magazine wouldn’t succeed, right?
But as it turns out sales are not stellar quite yet. And from the point of view of the publishers this means the timing isn’t right. Well I feel that the timing is right, but the main issue here is how it’s being done, what is being charged, and the way that it is glaringly fragmented. Let’s visit each of these to see if you feel the same way. Here are three ways magazines “could” succeed on the iPad.
1. Delivery Mechanism
First and foremost lets talk about the way these magazines are delivered. If you want to find one you have to go to the App Store and hunt around and dig. Or you can search but most people can’t even find the little search bar so they end up spending a lot of time either hunting around or by some chance they hear about it or see it “featured” by Apple.
My point here is that, unlike a store, where you can walk in and go to the “magazine section”, there is no such location when you are looking on the iPad. Sure you can get the Zinio App but that is like saying instead of having a section in the grocery store, you have to go outside the store to another location to see all the magazines.
Basically, the iPad needs a dedicated magazine store. And like iBooks, you can browse by title, interest, etc. But this needs to be a store that is designed well and is very easy to use.
Besides Zinio there is no central place to find magazines and get a subscription.
2. Pricing Model
I’ll just say it. The prices are too high. You can do everything you want to convince people of the value and coolness factor but remember that while it’s “cool” to you as a publisher, the market views this as a way to save money. Charging $4.99 per edition is not exactly going to convince people to get the app. Why? Because they can simply go online and buy a subscription to the paper version of the magazine for up to 60% off the cover price.
And when it comes to spending money, people take the path of least resistance.
Now that Apple offers subscriptions, the larger and well known magazines have a huge opportunity here to offer up some great rates that will make people really think twice.
If you combine this with #1 above you now have a place that you can go to see the discounted rates and all of the magazines.
3. Taking Advantage Of The Platform
If you are going to give me a digital version of your magazine then do it right and take advantage of the platform. Do not just deliver me a fancy PDF with great photos and expect excitement. You have an opportunity here to create a very compelling magazine with integrated video, social sharing, ability to talk with others about an article and news ways to advertise that aren’t annoying unconvincing.
It’s not time to slow down on bringing magazines to the iPad, it’s time to ramp up and turn mediocre into awesome. The platform offers abilities to create communities around your magazine and that is something you cannot do with paper versions. So instead of trying to simply recreate a paper version of your magazine on the iPad and charge huge rates for it, deliver something that people really want which is a compelling price with the ability to truly enjoy the magazine using their iPad.
Another area that magazine publishers can take advantage of the platform is in coming up with a a solution for back issues. When people buy magazines they tend to keep them around so they can either read them later or refer to them for recipes, articles, etc. But this is very flawed right now since there is no cohesive way to do this.
I think there is hope for magazine publishers such as Conde Nast to succeed using the iPad as a mechanism for magazine sales. The platform is certainly there and the audience is growing but there needs to be focus on pricing, delivery mechanisms, and taking advantage of the tablet platform instead of delivering “mediocre” versions of what already exists.
What are your thoughts on how the magazines can better succeed with tablets and the iPad?