The iPad Illusion

From “Why Publishers Don’t Like Apps,” by Jason Pontin, editor in chief and publisher of Technology Review:

… Publishers believed that because they were once again delivering a unique, discrete product [with apps], analogous to a newspaper or magazine, they could charge readers for single-copy sales and even subscriptions, reëducating audiences that publications were goods for which they must pay. They allowed themselves to be convinced that producing editorial content for the apps and developing the apps themselves would be simple. Software vendors like Adobe promised that publishers could easily transfer editorial created on print copy management systems like Adobe InDesign and InCopy directly to the apps. As for software development … well, how hard was that? Most publishers had Web development departments: let the nerds build the apps.

Jason Pontin

Publishers hoped that the old print advertising economy could be revived. …

I never believed that apps would unwind my industry’s disruption; but I felt some readers would want a beautifully designed digital replica of Technology Review on their mobile devices, and I bet that our developers could create a better mobile experience within applications. So we created iOS and Android apps that were free for use; anyone could read our daily news and watch our videos, and people could pay to see digital replicas of the magazine. We launched the platforms in January of 2011. Complimenting myself on my conservative accounting, I budgeted less than $125,000 in revenue in the first year. That meant fewer than 5,000 subscriptions and a handful of single-issue sales. Easy, I thought.

Like almost all publishers, I was badly disappointed. What went wrong? Everything. …

Read the whole thing here.
Read Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic, on the Magazine’s iPad app here.
See my response here.

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.