It’s been six months (OK, nearly seven) since the nerd world collectively paused and Mr. Jobs stood on his stage to debut that nifty little tablet thingy called the iPad (the what?! I remember thinking).
Since then, sales estimates have ranged from 6 to 8 million, and we’re teetering on the brink of what is bound to be a very successful holiday season for Apple. We’re looking at projections of 43.7 million being sold by the end of next year.
Books got iBook, news publishers got their apps, and the music industry is still cornered into publishing from iTunes. But what about magazines? We were all waiting with baited breath for Jobs’ magical magazine solution. Instead we got bitter spats over Flash, file types, and subscriptions.
But even with all the bickering, of all the paid apps that are downloaded, magazines are No. 9 on the list (above social networking, sports, and travel apps—wahooo!).
According to a study of ABC-audited publishers, 25 percent of magazines say they have iPad apps. Of those who don’t, 43 percent expect to develop one in the next six months. And 60 percent of iPad users say they spend between 16 and 60 minutes in their magazine apps—Condè Nast is even reporting average time spent on their apps at a whopping 160 minutes (200 minutes for Vanity Fair).
But that’s just iPads. More than 6 million non-iPad tablets are expected to be sold by end of year; 11.1 million are expected to be sold by end of 2011. And IMS predicts that Android-based tablets will capture 15.2 percent of the market in 2011. Plus, the recent announcement of a “Hulu for Magazines” launching through Next Issue Media publishers in the first quarter of 2011 gives us all hope.
So, when the discussions inevitably turn into heated debates over what’s next for apps, tablets, and digital magazines, what should you be thinking about for your publication? Here are a few things to consider:
Magazine+ vs. Exclusive Experience
Will your magazine app replicate the print experience but add on animation, videos, and interactive elements (like Martha Stewart and WebMD the Magazine), or will it carve out a unique user experience for your readers (like Esquire and Oprah)?
Readers will undoubtedly demand more content out of their digital edition (long gone are the days of the PDF replica), and publishers will have to invest in interactive content to satiate that desire, but the choice will need to be made between the magazine+ and the exclusive experience.
This will also have ramifications on the business model that supports the magazine app and drives revenue for the publishers. Your team will need to make the decision: Should we upsell existing advertisers and bundle each sale with print, or should we find an exclusive sponsor(s) for each issue?
Beyond the iPad
The launch of the iPad made it the media darling of the tablet revolution, but more and more tablet manufacturers will come out to play in 2011. The Samsung Galaxy Tab, the HP Slate 500, and the BlackBerry PlayBook will enter the market and start to vie for slices of market share.
Creating a digital magazine solution that is completely platform-neutral, ready to run on any of the emerging devices or operating systems, is an absolute must. The tablet market is small and growing, but it’s certainly not confined to Steve Jobs’ brainchild.
Production and Workflow
Be strategic when planning your future magazine production, so your art directors aren’t recreating the same content in five different formats for five different devices. Will your app be built in-house using something like Adobe’s Digital Publishing suite or an InDesign plugin, or will you rely on a third-party vendor like Zinio or Texterity? Or will a whole new solution emerge from the fringes?
It’s clearly still the Wild West out there in tablet land, but at least the magazine industry is strategically saddled up for the ride. If 2010 was the year we learned that “there’s an app for that,” then 2011 will be the year we learn exactly what that means.
Related articles on magazine apps
- Are Magazine iPad Apps Profitable in the Long Haul? (pbs.org)
- App subscriptions coming to the iPad, say hello to push news (zdnet.com)
- Why Media Apps Aren’t as Good a Business as They Seem (blogs.forbes.com)
- Oprah Releases Mag App For The iPad; Ad Placements Are Limited And Premium (paidcontent.org)