Is the iPad the future of magazines?

Posted by Ryan Austin

While eating breakfast a few weeks ago, I opened up my laptop and googled the

Will the iPad replace paper magazines completely? Not until some serious issues with iPad magazines are fixed. Photo courtesy of Thomas van de Weerd.

latest news on Apple’s new iPad. One of the higher links on my search was an interesting article from the New York Times on the magazine industry’s interactions with Apple. In summary, the article explored the lack of a subscription service available to the majority of magazine publishers and the relatively high cost for each issue of an iPad-specific magazine. In short, although the future of iPad journalism may be bright, it is far from being perfect, or even acceptable, in its current form.

The article brought a question to my mind. Is the iPad really the future of print journalism? I just don’t see it. Here are my problems with magazines on the iPad: initial cost, iPad issue cost, and lack of innovative content. The cost of buying an iPad is just too high. Currently, a 16 gigabyte, Wi-Fi-only iPad costs $499. As a once-avid reader of magazines, I know that $499 can buy a ton of year-round subscriptions. Why would I want to pay $499 when I could purchase a couple of annual paper subscriptions of my favorite magazines for much cheaper? What is the advantage?

Another issue I see with iPad magazines is the lack of innovation. I’d love to see an example of an iPad magazine with a video/moving cover, interactive text and photos, and links to related pages on the internet. Richard Branson’s Project magazine gives me hope (embedded below), but these sorts of innovations need to be standard practice, not the exception. I have no interest in an iPad magazine that offers the same experience the print edition does, and I’ll bet many feel the same way.

What are some things you would like to see in an iPad magazine? What features would you be drawn to? Do you think iPad magazines will catch on?



8 responses to “Is the iPad the future of magazines?

  1. Magazines’ rush to publish on the iPad without a subscription model was … utterly boneheaded.

    I pay $40 a year for my weekly print New Yorker, about 80 cents an issue. The New Yorker iPad app is $5. Every week. That’s over $250/year. No discounts or freebies for current subscribers.

    Why on earth did magazine publishers think that would work?!

    I have enjoyed Wired’s iPad app: lots of animation and videos and interactivity. But again, my print Wired costs me $12/year. You’re going to have to deliver me some out-of-this-world content to convince me to drop an additional $60/year for the app.

    Seems like a subscription model — say, $24/year for a year’s worth of Wired’s app — would have been fairly simple to put in place. It’s a good lesson that in the rush to bedazzle our readers with technology, we have to exercise some common sense.

  2. The embedded video above of Richard Branson’s project is really cool. I haven’t seen anything like that before. It would be really beneficial and much more interesting if all magazines began to do more interactive features like this video shows.

    Although magazine subscriptions on the iPad are outrageously expensive, I don’t think most people buy an iPad for the sole purpose of reading magazines. Many business professionals buy them for work and convenience. So, if they already own one, a magazine subscription on their iPad may be more convenient than in print, and worth the price.

  3. I enjoyed this. Thanks for posting the video. I honestly don’t read magazines except for the occasional golf one that falls into my hands by the grace of someone else’s charity. I flip through them pretty quick, however, and enjoy probably ten pages of the whole.
    Back to the video. Loved the idea of an interactive magazine. Would probably hit two birds with one stone for me. It would motivate me to buy an iPad AND read magazines. I can see some very awesome ways to innovate golf magazines through video. They often do a swing coach of the week and instead of pictures you can see the movements of the swing. More effective for teaching I would say.

  4. The difference in costs between the iPad magazine apps and a normal print subscription is in one word: ridiculous. Clearly publishers were tripping over themselves to be one of the first “iPad friendly” magazines without considering their customers. However, if there is such a large amount of people willing to fork out the initial dough for the first iPad, then perhaps they are naive enough to continuing paying for the high-priced magazine apps.

    I don’t see myself ever purchasing an Ipad, so there’s no anxiety for me over switching my magazine subscriptions. Plus, there’s some sort of sentimental value of having the magazines physically. Maybe it’s the big glossy pictures that can be torn out on a whim or just the pack-rat in me that loves to keep ALL my issues, I’m not sure.

  5. I also do not think this would ever work. People are all about saving money and “free” stuff as there are always perks that magazines give out for subscribing. There is simply no reason to bring subscriptions to the iPad. All the new technology that is coming out is great in some aspects but there are always going to be some people who are against it. Even if this iPad idea did become a fad and every one read magazines on them, I still would NEVER spend the money to buy one – ever.

  6. I agree that magazines may have been out of their minds when they started selling their iPad apps the way they did. It just doesn’t make sense to pay for such an expensive device and still pay that much money for magazines that are much cheaper to subscribe to.

    However, if they can resolve the cost issue, there might be hope. I’ve read several articles reporting that books on Kindle are outselling paperback books on Amazon ( Maybe that offers some hope to magazines—those kindle readers prove that portable devices for reading can bring in revenue for print media. They just need to figure out how to sell it.

  7. While I don’t plan to purchase an iPad anytime soon (being a poor college student sucks!), I do like a lot of the things that the magazine apps are experimenting with.

    Martha Stewart Living just launched their iPad app and the February issue – and it’s pretty amazing. The cover is, like you wanted to see, a video of chocolate drizzling. The related feature article also requires readers to “open” chocolates to read the text. I’m not crazy about Martha, but her team really delivered with this issue.

    I’m still not sure if it’s worth the initial iPad price – but it’s certainly cool.

  8. I completely agree with you–iPad magazines are really fun to mess around with initially, but after those first few experiences I really start to miss the traditional print version. Sure, iPad magazines have cool multimedia components, but so do online magazines. At one point, online magazines were “new and exciting,” just like the iPad. We’ve had the initial blast of a “new kind of publication” complete with videos, slideshows, and even audio additions. The iPad is just a supplement to this idea.

    I don’t think that the iPad magazine subscriptions will get much more hype than they already have. This is extremely unfortunate, seeing how much money has already been put into their production.

    On the positive (and slightly frivolous) side, I love some of the iPad magazine subscriptions for specific reasons. The National Geographic iPad subscription is organized beautifully, and it’s very user-engaging. By this, I mean that stories have “links” to similar stories, and play well into each other. The magazine sections are also very navigable. But in reality, this is really just reiterating the positive sides of online magazines. What are the differences between an iPad subscription and an online subscription? Are there any? In my opinion, we’re taking the online magazine and making it accessible on a smaller screen that we can throw in our backpacks. Hey… don’t they call that a laptop?

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