The iPad was announced on January 27, 2010 and was quickly heralded by many in traditional print media as a potential rejuvenator for their troubled businesses. Having used the device daily for the last six weeks or so, I must admit it is the perfect media consumption device, among many other things, for all of my reading (books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, tweets, FB feed, emails, web sites). Given my propensity to multitask, I crave multi-purpose devices and find the Kindle far too limiting a product, especially for the price. The iPad is perfect for email, calendaring, surfing, reading books, digesting RSS feeds, browsing real-time web feeds from Twitter and Facebook, watching movies while travelling, listening to music, checking weather, tuning in to baseball games, and countless other things. It is a far better way to consume magazines and newspapers than any other electronic device I have seen.
Given this, more than five months after it has been announced and the developer tools made available, and more than 60 days after shipping, why is Wired one of the few print publishers to make the leap and offer a version? The WSJ has a decent app (but downloads take forever), the NY Times has an anemic reader which showcases only a handful of stories each day (many duplicated in each section), the NY Post released an app which just offers pictures, and Vanity Fair offers a meager PDF of the print magazine for a whopping $5 per issue. USA Today seemed to step up with a nicely designed app. But it’s telling that so few of the traditional print publishers have taken the last five months to rethink the way a magazine or newspaper ought to be delivered digitally and devote sufficient resources to getting something great out on time. Wired’s editor Chris Andersen made some noise about how his staff did this, but frankly their implementation is also mostly a glorified PDF with some videos thrown in. Amazingly, URLs are not hot-linked in Wired nor Vanity Fair, email addresses are not clickable, text is not selectable nor are articles tweetable.
I think the iPad is actually under-hyped as a device that will transform media consumption. I think, thanks to the forthcoming wave of tablet devices and better netbooks, the consumer PC is basically dead within the next three years (not so for PCs for the enterprise). But with this new opportunity comes the need for content companies to be aggressive in adapting to and adopting new platforms. We have seen countless examples of how native (i.e., purpose-built) applications prosper on new platforms whereas those migrated from a legacy platform never quite work. Doodlejump is the best selling game on iPhone, not Halo. Farmville is the biggest game on Facebook, not Mario Bros. Early adopters of new platforms tend to reap the rewards more quickly than the late entrants. Given the rapid pace of technology adoption (Steve Jobs says iPad is the best selling product Apple has ever released), consumers build loyalty to new brands more easily when they are the only ones available on a new platform. I advise our companies to be aggressive in adopting new platforms. Crunchyroll, a leader in the anime video space online, had a great iPad app available days after the device shipped. It is this level of aggressiveness that the traditional media companies must adopt in order to build consumer mindshare on these platforms.
It is easy to say, “Only 3MM iPads have been sold.” But given there are only 13,000 apps for iPad written so far, there is plenty of room for best-in-class apps to reach audiences much larger than their analogue print equivalents. NPR, for example, has a great app that has been downloaded more than 350,000 times (as of mid-June).
Conde Nast had to go the embarrassing route of announcing their intention to deliver iPad versions of their magazines back in March but have only a few examples above to show for it, shortcomings and all. Where is The New Yorker? Cosmo? Glamour? Oprah? Better Homes and Gardens? Architectural Digest? People? The Economist? New York Magazine? National Geographic? Can you imagine what type of experience could be built for the iPad and other tablets with the content of these magazines? Yet none are available. Where are the hip magazines? Paper? Paste? Even Rolling Stone, heralding a rebirth of late, is absent.
Here are the top magazines by circulation (as of end of 2009 by AdAge) and who has at least shipped an iPad app (√). Looks like a whopping six out the top 20:
- AARP The Magazine
- Better Homes & Gardens
- Reader’s Digest √
- Good Housekeeping
- National Geographic
- Woman’s Day √
- Ladies Home Journal
- Family Circle
- Game Informer Magazine
- Time √
- Taste of Home
- Sports Illustrated √
- Prevention √
- Southern Living
- AAA Via
- Maxim √
- O, the Oprah Magazine
- AAA Living
This resistance to adopt early and experiment by incumbents is precisely what provides the opportunities for startups to create value quickly and disrupt markets.
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