Just listen to how excited print publications are about next week’s launch of the iPad:Time magazine has signed up Unilever, Toyota Motor , Fidelity Investments and at least three others for marketing agreements priced at about $200,000 apiece for a single ad spot in each of the first eight issues of the magazine’s iPad edition…
At Condé Nast Publications, Wired magazine is offering different levels of ad functionality depending on how many pages of ads a marketer buys…
Magazines largely are planning downloadable iPad applications that are near-replicas of the stories in the print versions, but they are demonstrating the new-media bells and whistles for advertisers: add-ons like videos, social-networking tools and navigation that take advantage of the large screen, touch technology and Internet connections of the tablet computer…
Time Inc.’s Sport Illustrated has been showing advertisers three video-heavy ad prototypes, including one for a Ford Mustang that includes an arcade-style driving game using the tilt-and-turn capability of the iPad. With a few touches to the screen, readers can pick paint colours and wheel styles for cars they might want to buy…
(And so on. All from Shira Ovide and Suzanne Vranica’s excellent WSJ article on iPad ads)
And, wow, does that sound great. It sounds, in fact, as though the iPad will completely save print publications’ asses.
But it won’t.
Because why would a consumer pay for a whole electronic “magazine” when the consumer can already get whatever articles in the magazine the consumer actually wants to read for free?
The iPad-will-save-our-asses craze is based on a single, flawed premise: Consumers want to read magazines and newspapers electronically the same way they have read them for centuries in print — in a tightly bound content package produced by a single publisher. But 15 years of Internet history suggests that they don’t.
To the consumer, the Internet is one vast publication. No longer are consumers limited to the particular editorial tastes and packaging of a few publishers whose “books” they subscribe to. Now, consumers can snack on content from thousands of publishers, for free, all day long. And the iPad is not going to change that.
Another iPad hallucination that print publishers are having is that consumers are going to pony up way more for a fancy iPad subscription than they do to just subscribe to the site online. (Or, in the case of sites that give their content away for free online, such as the New York Times, that consumers are going to pay for the iPad edition when they can get the regular web edition free.)
Why would consumers pay up for that? To get a sexier, more magazine-like electronic experience?
Some rich aesthetes might do that. (Some.) But the mass market won’t. The mass market will just save their money and read the publications in the iPad’s browser, where the publications are free and it’s easy to jump around to as many as they like.
In short, the hullabaloo about the iPad-saving-publishers’-asses resembles the hullabaloo about what people thought the Internet would look like when it first burst on to the scene.
“Like TV”, shouted the TV companies.
“Like a magazine!” shouted the magazines.
“Like a newspaper!” shouted the newspapers.
Of course, as it turned out, the Internet didn’t look much like any of those things. And the companies who ran away with the Internet loot figured that out fast. And they went with it.
We expect the same will soon be said for the iPad.
See Also: 10 Burning Questions About The iPad
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