My iPad is more than a year old and several magazines are available on it, including quite a few I've had print subscriptions to in the past. So why am I renewing print subscriptions like Businessweek, ESPN The Mag and Wired?
First of all, more and more magazine publishers are starting to realize it makes sense to include free app content access with print subscriptions. ESPN The Mag was one of the first to do this, although you still won't find all the print content in the app version. More recently, both Businessweek and Wired jumped on the bandwagon. The latter is particularly noteworthy since, for the longest time, Wired took a premium pricing approach to their app's content; at first they charged $4.99 per app issue but now I see you can get one month for $1.99 and a full year for $19.99.
That's much more reasonable, but I get the print edition for $10/year, so if they're going to throw in free iPad app content access my best option is to just keep subscribing to print. I can get a full-year print subscription to Businessweek for $20, including app content access, so it would be foolish to pay $3 per month for the iPad-only subscription.
The Week is another magazine I subscribe to in print. There's no app option here though. The Week offers some free content via an iPhone app but you won't find all the print content there. That's too bad. I pay $50/year for my print subscription and would pay even more if they'd offer an iPad alternative.
Then there are those magazines that are available in digital format but I've decided to stick with the print subscription instead. This is mostly because the e-reading experience for those magazines doesn't leverage the digital platform, in some cases offering no more functionality than print. That's OK if they want to toss that in as a freebie with my print subscription, but don't expect me to pay more for something that's simply a digital rendering of the print product.
I also wish the magazine publishers would start thinking beyond the quick-and-dirty conversion of print to digital and take advantage of the e-reader capabilities. Rather than just letting me archive issues, which I don't want to because of memory limitations, why not archive just those articles I've read and/or other stories on those topics or companies? How about gathering information about what I'm reading, creating a profile of me, and offering me more content on those topics, companies or industries? Or how about partnering with other magazine publishers to open my eyes up to their content, possibly driving a new subscription and creating a finder's fee for the original magazine (e.g., while reading something in Businessweek, include a link to a related article in Time...maybe I'll discover what I'm missing and start a new subscription)?
The bottom line is that I had higher hopes for the shorter-form content model by now. I'm hard-pressed to point to any one magazine app and say, "yeah, they've really created something special here." Instead, the Wired's of the world came in and offered the print content in e-format and thought they could charge a lot for it. I'm glad they've learned that won't work but now I'm hoping they'll start experimenting more, either on their own or jointly with some of their competitors.