When the iPad came out last year, it was touted (amongst other things) as creating a revolution in publishing. The same kind of revolution that the mp3 and iPod brought to music. Whilst publishers have putsome considerable money behind developing tablet-based versions of their publications, the sales are not being realised. Wired is probably the most successful iPad magazine. And so it should be, as the iPad generation are by very definition Wired readers. The first edition in June 2010 sold 100,000 copies. The circulation is now down to 25,000. That’s good compared to others though. Vanity Fair and GQ sell just 10,000 copies each month, and Glamour just 3,000 copies. In short, when it comes to iPad editions, the novelty has worn off.
To put the circulations in in perspective, this blog (which is a relatively minor one) is read by more people each month than read Glamour. OK, this blog is free, but therein lies one of the problems for iPad magazines. The subscriptions are too high. Like it or not, people do not value digital publishing in the same way that they value paper-based publishing. There’s lots of reasons for that. It’s high res, highly portable, very robust and the batteries do not run out.
There is a big difference between mp3′s/iPods in the music sector, and iPads and magazines. The CD was essentially a carrying device. It was a means of getting digital music from one place to another. When the mp3 came along music itself didn’t change, just the means of moving it around from one place to another. However with magazines, it’s different. The paper is more than just a means of transportation, it is the medium. And with paper-based publishing comes a significance and permanence that digital just cannot offer.
There are opportunities for magazine-type publicitions on tablet devices, but things have to change. Aside from the subscription models, the content has to take advantage of the digital device itself to become more content rich and more engaging.