Are Tablet Magazines Truly Dead?

Courtesy of Brian Taylor Carlson - All Rights Reserved

Photo by Brian Taylor Carlson

Posted by: Brian Taylor Carlson

I subscribe to many magazines. I am a magazine fanatic. I download some issues onto my Kindle and sometimes my iPhone. As much as I want to love digital versions of magazines, they simply are not the same as print.

Picking up a print magazine and flipping through it makes the magazine experience much more interactive than on mobile devices. Cumbersome and confusing tablet versions have yet to master the ease of user-friendliness.

Where do tablet magazines go from here to improve their usability? Are tablet versions of magazines simply in a state of transition?

Eddie Vassallo, CEO of Entropy – an app development company – said that the main problem with tablet versions is that the user has to access them from the Newsstand icon on either Apple or Android products, “which can be hidden inside a folder.”

Out of sight, out of mind.

Jon Lund, COO and partner at Memit, said most magazine apps “cannot link their articles directly to Google, and links lead to the app store instead, and not to the magazine itself.”

According to Wright’s Media, two mistakes the magazine industry makes are:

  1. Attempting to “ignore the tablet medium as a whole.”
  2. Trying to “place too much effort into the tablet version, bogging it down and making it difficult to use.”

Either way, this alienates the reader and thwarts advertising dollars.

Jeff Nesbit, executive director for Climate Nexus, said the Internet has planted its “seeds of destruction” in the print media industry, adding to its “race to the bottom.”

What can magazines do with mobile tablet platforms to increase their prevalence and revenue?

The tablet magazine is not dead. It is merely evolving, figuring out the best way to survive and thrive. Jeremy Leslie, editor of the blog magCulture said in an article from The Guardian: “As with most new forms, digital will succeed in various aspects. Print will continue to succeed in others.”

Navigating to a specific article or page can be a challenging task, especially if I am pressed for time. I use cooking magazines for many of my recipe ideas. It is much easier to have a magazine spread out on the kitchen counter as I prep. I tried using tablet versions for this purpose several times and failed – miserably.

If my hands are covered in ingredients or if something spills, I do not have to worry about paper as much as I have to worry about delicate electronics. It is much easier to flip the pages to other recipes or instructions in the same magazine than it is on the tablet. I hope to start a cooking blog this summer and sadly, my tablet will not be involved in the process.

What do you think magazine companies can do to improve the current state of awkwardness of some of their tablet versions? Do you think that a “stand-alone” app is better than a Newsstand version, or do you think there is a better alternative?


6 responses to “Are Tablet Magazines Truly Dead?

  1. Brian, you raise some great points about tablet magazines here. As a casual reader of magazines, I can tell you right now that I will not put as much effort into navigating a counter-intuitive tablet magazine that is identical to its print counterpart. I agree that tablet mags just don’t have the same effect as print versions. In order to make tablet magazines more readable, I think that their content must be supplemental to the print version. So by including some sort of interactive content on the tablet version that accompanies the print version (that could obviously not happen in print) would be a way for magazines to work both digitally and in print.

  2. I never bought about the whole cooking with electronics thing. That just further proves my point that print magazines are here to stay. Magazine readers are very loyal to their publications and I don’t see them switching over to digital any time soon. Besides, think of how many people save magazines in stacks in their homes. I completely agree with everything you said here.

  3. If you are a person that likes to have the tangible magazine then no alternative would make a difference, personally speaking. However, if apps were created for each individual magazine, then there would be something unique to offer beyond the print version’s content. I would only take the time to download a magazine if it had something interactive and different to offer outside of the print version.

  4. As the visiting journalists said in their presentation on the “8 Truths of Journalism” , tablet magazines and their online websites should be stand-alone products from print. They should offer different content, or as Amanda pointed out, should offer content that is compatible to what is printed in that issue of the publication. I see them as part of a larger package rather than a separate identity all together. They just need to be worked into a more functional formula.

  5. I completely agree that tablet magazines should be stand-alone. I am a fan of both online and print magazines. I do have a love for print magazines over online versions. There is something magical about flipping through a brand new crisp magazine that online and tablet versions will never be able to do for me.

  6. The cooking example you used is particularly telling of an overall challenge we still have with electronics: they are fragile and expensive. They aren’t food-proof or disposable, which makes them less useful and appropriate for certain things. Personally, I like the disposable factor of paper magazines. I love to buy the gigantic September issues of a plethora of fashion magazines, read and tear out what I want and throw the rest away. My approach to technology is quite different. Heck, I have a hard time even deleting a 99 cent song from my iTunes library, let alone a digital magazine I bought for much more. I don’t think tablet magazines are dead, but they will have to become more user-friendly for the consumer to stay interested.

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