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Publishing and the iPad: One year after the launch

It was the most anticipated launch of 2010. Now, almost one year later, the uptake of the iPad has been astonishing with over 15 million of the devices already sold. It has also sparked a scramble among the company's rivals to deliver competitive products with Blackberry, Motorola, Samsung and LG all about to offer their own new tablets. 

But what impact has it had on the publishing industry? It is really about to become the saviour of publishing as some media companies have suggested? Here's a quick round up of the first year of the iPad.

Who has delivered iPad magazine apps?
Global publisher Conde Nast embraced the new platform with open arms, its US wing being first with apps for several of its power titles: Vanity Fair, Vogue and Wired. The first iPad editions attracted great attention as users downloaded the i-zines in large numbers. The apparent state-side success resulted in the UK division of Conde Nast launching apps for both Vogue and Wired in the autumn of 2010.

There was also a glut of tech titles on the iPad with Dennis getting there first with its iGizmo, followed by Future Publishing's T3 and Haymarket's Stuff. At the end of the year came Virgin Group who, in collaboration with Seven Squared, published its iPad-only customer magazine Project; the first global magazine app that "aimed to look like a style magazine and act like a website".

The company though that is pinning most of its hopes on the new platform is News International. Rupert Murdoch once described the iPad as a "game changer" for news media and is currently close to launching his iPad only newspaper The Daily, which will follow the paid-for strategy already adopted by many of News International's titles.

The Times also added to the app portfolio with its science supplement Eureka. The supplement app - which comes at a separate cost to the monthly subscription fee of The Times - featured exclusive video, audio, beautiful extended galleries as well as interactive elements and psychometric tests. It was widely acclaimed by the media in the UK, though it was rumoured to have cost many million pounds to develop.

Are they selling?
The first magazine editions to hit the app store were reasonably successful with the first issue of Wired claiming over 70,000 readers. However, recent reports show that the once relatively high figures have now dwindled and publishers are heading back to the design room to find out why.

For one, the price of app content has been a talking point. Most consumer magazine apps are available free to download, but the actual issue - and its content - comes at more or less the same price as the print edition, which is usually around £3-£4. While customer magazine apps are brand funded, consumer magazine apps rely on revenue from both sales and ads to survive. But with a society that has got used to not paying for digital content, cost is most definitely a hurdle to overcome. Speaking to The Guardian earlier this week, Haymarket's Rupert Heseltine noted on topic: "Who's making the money? You've got to sell a lot of apps to break even. It brings more cost into the production process. The advertising model isn't there yet."

Second, despite Apple selling 15 million iPads in 2010 - surpassing its forecasted sales figures - the distribution market still remains very limited. This will increase in the years to come, but for now iPad apps are created for a few. And with an ever growing number of apps available, the scuffle to grab people's attention becomes ever more intense.

Once the hype and novelty has settled - and other tablets hitting the market - it all comes down to user experience. As with anything new, it takes a while to get the correct format. And it seems like for now, many of the magazine apps were designed to meet the need of publishers, not readers. People are not willing to pay for digital editions that are fairly identical to the print version, bar a few videos and moving images. They are looking for fresh, exclusive content that amazes them and that they can interact with and share. So it is fair to say that failed expectations are also partly to blame for the fall in apps sales.

Other issues facing iPad publishing
Apart from price, distribution market and design, publishers are also facing new rules relating to data, which provides Apple with almost complete control of the reading habits and customer data. The deprivation of this highly important marketing data on customers is bound to cause issues for publishers, in particular those of consumer magazines.

Customer publishing on the iPad
Since its launch, we have seen some exciting app contributions from customer publishers. Of note are those from Net-A-Porter and Jaguar Magazine both which are interactive, offering exclusive video content and information to their readers. The former also includes sharing possibilities across social networks. Many companies are also offering PDF versions of their content optimised for the iPad via platforms like Zinio, Ceros and Magcloud.

While it is still early days, customer publishers are in a particularly good position to succeed in the iPad app market. Because the apps are branded and therefore free to download and enjoy, customer magazines will become favourable to consumers. However, price alone will not provide success. It will be vital to focus on user experience and offer high-quality content that continues to exceed expectations. It is time to be experimental and creative while utilising this digital platform to the fullest. Customer publishing stands before an exciting time of new-thinking and digital development.

APA's are running a Digital Breakfast on Content on the iPad. This one-off event is co-hosted with Apple and is taking place at their UK offices on Regent Street on Tuesday 8th February 2011, 9am to 11:30am.This event is now sold out, but sign up to the APA newsletter to hear news about other upcoming events...we are trying to run a repeat session for those who are not able to come the breakfast on 8th Feb.

Posted in Digital
31stJan 2011


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