Right before the iPad launched, we warned media companies that expected iPad apps to be their savior that they were making a mistake. Specifically, it seemed that this was all wishful thinking from publishers, who were hoping to go back to a gated system that they had used for many years. They were betting on restrictions, which is never a good bet. Of course, the early numbers actually sounded good, with many magazines trumpeting how many iPad subscribers they got in the first few months. But, it appears that many people tested out iPad magazines, and then decided they just weren't worth it. Again, this is not a huge surprise. Just a few weeks ago, we again discussed how iPad magazines generally suck, and it was unlikely they were going to have lasting success.
Even so, it's still surprising to see just how dramatic the dropoff has been -- especially in a platform that is apparently still selling like hotcakes. Wired Magazine, which initially appeared to drink the Kool-Aid big time on using iPad apps, now sees less than a quarter the number of buyers that it had when it put out its first iPad issue. Vanity Fair, Glamour, GQ and some others have all seen big declines.
Hopefully this will kill off the dream of just recreating magazines for the iPad, and content providers can focus on creating tools that are actually useful, rather than just on replicating the structure of a magazine in a digital format.
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