How many headlines have you seen heralding tablets as the saviour of the magazine market? There’s no question the introduction of the iPad was a game changer. But a couple of recent closures and the accompanying commentary are a sobering reminder that nothing in magazine publishing is easy.
The closures in question were Future’s Tap! and Tech. iPad magazines. We could debate forever the relative merits of the effectiveness of the content, design and positioning of these iPad only titles, but the real problem – one long familiar to every print circulation manager – was getting enough people to read and pay for these magazines. Shifting to digital doesn’t change the need to get noticed; if anything there’s more clutter to cut through online.
The Media Briefing’s Jasper Jackson summed up the problem in a recent newsletter: How do digital magazines capture an audience without a print foundation to support them?
Tech. was developed out of a technology website, and never had a print foundation to build from. Tap! was spun out of a print publication, but that was shuttered a year ago and the withdrawal of the print edition seems to have hastened the publication’s demise. Coincidence? I think not. Chalk one up for the power of print magazines as a marketing vehicle for digital magazines.
Apple’s Newsstand is clearly not the answer to getting noticed. On his blog, app developer Marko Karppinen wrote “Newsstand is Bullshit” complaining that the app does not aid discovery and leads to downloaded issues being forgotten or ignored.
Apple needs to pull the plug on Newsstand, put all apps on equal footing and make it clear to publishers that it is their job, not Apple’s, to find the next generation of readers for their publications.
Marko Karppinen, Newsstand is bullshit
The closure of these magazines is a blow for the teams involved. But their loss doesn’t mean there is anything inherently wrong with the format. It’s just a reminder that we are in the early stages of the sector, that we’re still making mistakes, still learning.
Is the iPad magazine a busted flush already? No, but it will take almost as long to reach maturity as the traditional magazine market and will require just as much trial and error.
David Hepworth, Tablet editions of magazines are no quick cure for the industry
Future has been rightly praised for its prompt “portfolio management” of Tech. closed after just seven months. They failed fast and moved on.
…one size doesn’t fit all. Not everything is going to work – just like in print publishing – but there is learning in everything we do, and we’re looping that learning back across our teams as we drive on.
Nial Ferguson, Future’s MD of technology, film and games.
The lesson learned here is Build it and they will come still doesn’t work. Audience development is every bit as important for iPad editions as it ever was for print.