Over the last few year one British company has been at the forefront of creating page turning interactive magazine style experiences online - Ceros. It now has an extensive list of clients including Conde Naste, Haymarket and Dennis Publishing and some hit publications its name.
You might then have assumed that the company would be hugely excited by the launch of Apple's tablet PC the iPad with its ability to ape turning magazine pages. In fact, as Ceros MD Dominic Duffy told me, his phone hasn't stopped ringing in the last two months with publishers anxious to produce content that can be showcased on the device. So it is very interesting to discover that Duffy is taking a long view on how the Apple product might change publishing .
'There's an awful lot of hysteria surrounding the iPad at the moment,' says Duffy, 'but with that hysteria there's a lot of nonsense too. I am not sure that publishers have fully grasped the implications of what producing iPad magazines really means.'
'Ultimately publishers will be selling apps, and people tend to buy apps once and not repeat purchase them. What the publishers need to do is work out ways in which they can keep people coming back to buy the apps, and I am not sure that many of them grasped what this actually means.' Duffy adds that this means developing complimentary content to the magazine not unlike the way in which publishers attached CD-ROMs to their titles in the 90s.
'The situation is further complicated by the fact that the business model for selling magazines on the device doesn't exist yet and that the iPad itself is unproven as a format. There is also the issue of magazines being sold via Apple's app store. The data that publishers collect is massively important to them and if Apple doesn't pass on data - it doesn't to music companies - then this will present huge problems to the publishers.' Duffy also thinks that there are also potential problems for publishers going outside the iPad orbit and producing titles for other formats such as Google's Android operating system. He thinks these may work but unless the publishing companies sort out a distribution system then it will be hard to connect with readers.
That isn't to say that Ceros hasn't worked on iPad titles- it developed a version of Marie Claire for IPC Media - but Duffy feels at the moment that publishers are 'producing iPad magazines because they feel they ought to and not for any sound financial reasons.'
There is however one industry sector that Duffy feels could not just benefit from producing iPad-friendly content, but also may pioneer using the format in the UK and that is customer publishing. ' The biggest issue for publishers is the business model of selling content on the iPad. Customer publishers, who have already had their content funded, simply don't have to worry about that.'
Duffy also feels that two of the iPad magazines' strongest features will work well for customer publishers, namely video and one click purchasing. He believes that video is a central part of the platform and is perfect for customer publishers as they seek to explain complex things like recipes. 'Video has always been a core feature of the Ceros platform and I think it could have enormous impact in customer publishing. I also think that one click purchasing will be less of a challenge for iPad apps. It doesn't work well on browsers as you have to log in and maybe input credit card details. But with apps the provider will have that information already so you'll just be able to click and buy. It is a real opportunity for customer publishers to drive new revenue streams.'