The End of Ebooks
How Will the iPad Affect Content and App Pricing?

Envisioning iPad Apps

Appstore_20100127The more I play with my iPad Nano, also known as my iPhone, the more I realize the potential the bigger screen will offer.  This is the time of year when I go out and buy a Major League Baseball preview magazine.  My old favorite, Street & Smith's, was rebranded as Sporting News awhile back, so I picked one of those up last weekend.

What did I get for my $8 investment?  The same type of season preview guide I've seen for the past 30+ years.  That's great, but why not create something to take advantage of today's (and tomorrow's) technologies?

There's a Sporting News app for baseball.  It's a free alternative to and offers a subset of the features offered in MLB's own $14.99 app (which happens to be one of the best apps in the entire store, btw).

Rather than creating a poor man's MLB app I think Sporting News should have broght their preview guide to life as a different type of app.  I'm not talking about a quick-and-dirty p-to-e conversion.  What's needed here is a dynamic guide, something that's always up-to-date from spring training till the bottles are uncorked after the World Series.

Players get cut, traded, put on the disabled list, etc.  My $8 print product is already out of date.  So why not offer an app with the same content for, say, $4.99 and charge me a dollar or two every month for updates?  Another option is to let me buy the full season's guide for $9.99.  Either way Sporting News gets more money out of the deal than they did on my $8 print purchase.

More importantly, think about how this sort of content would render on an iPad!  Those rich images in my color preview guide would come to life in the form of videos and other rich content.  And rather than the limited view box scores you get on the iPhone, imagine a scorecard display on the iPad.  You hook up to the game in the 5th inning and the app shows what looks like the official scorekeeper's sheet with pitch-by-pitch details of the game, all on one screen.  Let's see someone do that on an iPhone.

Speaking of improved renderings on the iPad (vs. iPhone)...  I recently discovered the Tech Junkie iPhone app.  This is a terrific product that lets you aggregate all the popular tech news sites into one app.  If you're into technology and you have an iPhone you need to invest 99 cents in this one.  It's great on an iPhone but I can't wait to see it on an iPad.  There's way too much scrolling required on the iPhone but that will be less of a problem on the larger device.

Why isn't there a premium, paid upgrade option for apps like Tech Junkie with more features?  I'd pay $5 for the app and a couple of dollars per month (minimum!) if this would just do one simple thing: Push the content to me and don't force me to go out and retrieve it.  It's the same complaint I have about the New York Times app.  The free version is terrific but I'd pay a monthly subscription if the content would come to me instead of me having to click and save each individual article.  I was told once that the NYT app doesn't do that because of the volume of data it would require.  I don't buy it.  Configure it so that it only happens when I'm on wifi or charge me more for 3G.

I can't be the only person looking to dump all my print magazine and newspaper subscriptions for e-replacements.  This push vs. pull issue is a critical feature that's largely missing in today's apps, and one that could generate a lot of revenue.  Here's to hoping Apple's iPad is more successful than Amazon's Kindle has been at getting more newspaper and magazine publishers to recognize this opportunity.

Comments

John Plank

Joe, I appreciate the article. And I wonder, too, if the publishers of newspapers and magazines are going to realize the possible opportunities the iPad (and perhaps still the Kindle)will provide them.

I wonder your thoughts about the current model of "one book at a time" purchasing versus a one-time fee or monthly subscription model to get access to many books at once. Do you think iTunes or Amazon (or ebooks.com, for that matter) will ever change their model? Yes, there are sales and big book retailers like Borders and B&N offer rewards programs. Will that be enough in the long run?

Thanks,
-John

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