Payment Models
eReaders and Digital Bookstores

How Magazines & Newspaper Publishers are Training Me

Hamster wheel The iPad is now more than 3 weeks old and there are apparently 1,000+ apps available for it (plus the 180K or so iPhone apps you can run on it).  If there are a thousand iPad-specific apps out there I haven't discovered one tenth of them; I just keep seeing the same ones over and over again in iTunes.  Even with that many apps available there are two areas I feel are severely underrepresented: magazines and newspapers.

I've purposely avoided renewing all of my print magazines subscriptions for the past several months because I figured I'd switch them to iPad apps/subscriptions.  My plan hasn't worked so well.  I no longer get BusinessWeek, Fast Company or The New York Times, but none of them are available as apps either.  So what has this led to?

I now just bookmark all those magazine/newspaper web sites on my iPad and read pretty much everything I want for free.  The longer these publishers delay introducing an iPad app for their content, the greater the likelihood I will have moved on and won't ever buy it.  What a mistake.

The whole experience has also caused me to wonder if there's an opportunity for a whole new type of app.  Think of it as a combination of Fluent News and Offline Pages.  What I want is an app that automatically checks each of those magazine/newspaper sites and pushes me the full contents of the latest edition.  Without this sort of app I'm forced to do this manually, looking through, clicking on each article that's interesting and then hitting the "Save to Offline Pages" webmarklet that's installed on my browser.  Why make me go through all that effort?  Why not let me tell this new app what newspapers and magazines I want the latest from and deliver them to me?

Before you say that's what the RSS feeds are for think again.  Many of those feeds are partial.  They don't include the entire article or they make you click and go to their website to see their ads.  Fine, I'll look at the ads...but in the version that's cached in this new app I'm describing.

Isn't this ridiculous though?  These publishers are trying to control the flow and use of their content so they're forcing customers like me to come up with better ways of using it.  (Hey, that sounds a lot like the denial stage the music labels went through back in the Napster days.)  And btw, I'm a customer who is more than willing to pay for online access to this content, but by not providing apps these publishers won't let me!  These are the same publishers, at least on the newspaper side, who constantly complain that Google has stolen their IP.  Google hasn't stolen anything.  And if the publishers don't get wise to the rapidly growing iPad platform they'll probably see someone else swoop in and steal the app revenue opportunity they're currently ignoring.



Have you checked out Zinio? I don't read enough magazines to make subscriptions worthwhile, but depending on your price threshold, this could be something along the lines of what you're looking for.

It keeps your magazine subscriptions in one place and lets you know when you have new issues (the home screen icon updates with a number, like Mail, when you have unread magazines).

Joe Wikert

Yeah, I gave Zinio a spin. It reminds me of the quick-and-dirty p-to-e conversions we do in the book world. I'm looking for something that's more of a true app not just a digital rendering of the print version on my device. You might call me picky but I think that's what most people are looking for (and willing to pay for).


Yeah, I totally hear you. This strikes me as "the quickest thing we can get out immediately," not anything that rethinks what it means to have content on a new kind of device (or, really, anything that involves much thought at all).

Andy Rathbone

When somebody creates an app to scrape, repackage and republish their Web site material for the iPad, the newspapers and magazines will unleash their lawyers, not their own app.

Magazine and newspaper publishers need to have a talk with some book authors. They'll hear two things:

"Yeah, it's a drag having to pay somebody else to distribute your material."

"You'll get over it."

Let's hope they get over it quickly. If they're still not making from their own Web sites, then they're just not cut out for handling their own digital distribution.

Joe Wikert

Hi Andy. That certainly crossed my mind but when I look at the standalone apps that exist today (e.g., Fluent News and Offline Pages or Instapaper) I figure they approach what I'm describing but in multiple steps. Maybe that's the only legal way to do it but I'd like to see how they could be combined into one. If the publishers do it, great!

Ed Renehan

I think one of the most important apps available for the iPad is the Kindle App - very nice, easy interface with one's Kindle home page, and of course an easier reading environment on screen. Given the large selection and better pricing for Kindle books vs. what's available at Apple's bookstore, my hunch is that a great many iPad users will continue to be Kindle book readers. James Stewart in yesterday's WALL STREET JOURNAL makes the point that Amazon's strength is as an Internet marketer rather than a hardware developer, whereas Apple's strength is as a hardware developer rather than an Internet marketer, in broad strokes.

book publishers

Veyr much in agreement with you guys, some common sense is needed in the whole ebook/ipad industry...especially when apple's police is yelling at Ellen for talking about ipad.


It's a tough problem -- big media wants to get paid, but all of us normal people want to get everything for free. A nice format would be good, too. The apps we've seen to date have been multimedia-heavy, expensive (both in terms of $$ and storage), and a poor value compared to paper editions.

Google Reader + Instapaper have replaced most of my paid subscriptions. It doesn't have to be this way ... but until something better comes along, that's what I'm doing. The longer I practice this behavior, the harder it will be to get back into paying for content.

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