More People Recognizing That Media iPad Adaptations Feel Like CD-ROM Media

from the don't-recreate-paper dept

Earlier this year, we pointed to an excellent Danny O’Brien blog post comparing the media’s mad dash for the iPad as a “savior” to the media’s similar mad-dash to CD-ROMs as a savior. I’m reminded of that after Tom Teshima pointed us to Michael Gartenberg’s review of Wired’s well-hyped iPad app, where he, too, notes the similarities to CD-ROMness:

In the mid 90s, a friend of mine was involved in a project to recreate magazines like Time on CD-ROM for the multimedia PCs of the era. The results were pretty cool, but the CD-ROM versions of the publications hardly replaced their print counterparts. Content has since moved from optical disk to the web, and now the allure of tablet devices has created a market for specific newspaper and magazine apps — the number one paid app for iPad is a digital version of Wired, which sold about 1,000 copies an hour the first day it was launched. While it’s a much better effort than some of the other efforts, more than anything Wired for iPad shows the weaknesses of media apps and demonstrates how the tablet remains a still-imperfect medium to deliver this type of content.

Wired’s efforts, like the CD-ROM efforts of the past, by has some cool features. A video clip of Toy Story 3 graces the cover and there are various interactive features, but more than anything else, it feels like a scanned in copy of the paper mag. Although navigation is better than most iPad magazines, it’s still never clear when a screen should be scrolled down or just swiped horizontally.

Gartenberg notes that the iPad version is, in some ways, a worst of both worlds. It’s not like the website, which is easily shared or emailed or discussed with others. Most of that functionality is effectively missing, which is really quite limiting for folks who are used to sharing the news as a part of experiencing it. Second, it doesn’t allow physical notations or markup the way an actual paper magazine does — or, again, the ability to easily share the magazine with others. You could share your iPad, but that’s not quite the same thing…

He then goes on to point out the ridiculous economics. We’ve already seen other media publications come out with crazy pricing, but Wired unfortunately followed suit, and it makes little sense given the economics involved (which, Gartenberg points out is ironic, given editor-in-chief Chris Anderson’s last book on “Free” in business models:

Even worse, the price point is hard to swallow. Charging the full cover price for a digital magazine makes no sense when I can subscribe to the paper edition of Wired for a year at a much lower cost per issue — especially given that there’s no paper, ink, shipping or distribution charges. Given the lack of flexibility, I’d assume there would at least be some incentive to get me to make the digital purchase, and even more so in light of the fact that the bulk of the content is already available online at Wired’s website for free. It’s ironic that Editor-in-chief Chris Anderson famously wrote a book called “Free” — the Wired iPad app is the perfect case to try out some of those business models.

Of course, the obvious retort is the damn thing sold like hot cakes when it was released. The real question, though is how sustainable will that really be in the long term? As more people realize how much they’re paying, they may wonder why. And I’m still confused as to why publications like Wired hype up all these special features for the iPad… but don’t offer the same functionality on the web — which they easily could.

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Comments on “More People Recognizing That Media iPad Adaptations Feel Like CD-ROM Media”

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Bill W (profile) says:

I bought it once ...

but I won’t do that again at that price. I had two reasons to buy. First and foremost was the Toy Story 3 article. My daughter and son-in-law both worked on the movie. Second was just to see what all the hype was about. I think it’s a very well done app and quite flashy but I’ll not pay for it again unless they lower the cost.

So far the only digital subscription I’ve bought is for Smithsonian on Zinio.

Michael Kohne says:

There's nothing wrong...

There’s nothing wrong with trying out a pricing strategy and changing it later. And it’s pretty obvious that it’s much easier (marketing wise) to lower prices than to raise them.

If you think you can sell a thing, then trying to sell it at a higher price point before lowering to what the market will bear is much better than trying to increase the price later on. I expect that the current price will NOT be sustainable, and they’ll have to either lower it or put in something more to get people to buy it.

PaulT (profile) says:

“Charging the full cover price for a digital magazine makes no sense when I can subscribe to the paper edition of Wired for a year at a much lower cost per issue — especially given that there’s no paper, ink, shipping or distribution charges.”

Yep, number one reason why digital media is taking such a long time to truly replace physical in so many areas. Whether it’s music, video or books/magazines, most people place a lower value on the non-portable, non-resellable, unmodifiable digital version yet content producers keep trying to charge the same or more. This despite the fact they save most of the manufacture and distribution costs.

I can cut a digital magazine with rich content like this a little more slack than I can an album or movie, as such a magazine requires some actual extra work to prepare. But in an age where paper-based non-fiction media is dying because the information is available for free on the web, what sense does charging more for this kind of subscription make? Not much, even if you’re of the opinion that iPad owners are hipster morons with more money than sense (only partially true).

Anonymous Coward says:

experiments in pricing of digital goods

Somewhat related :

Marvel Comics is about to publish an Iron Man “annual” book in bookstores and digitally on the same day (they usually make digital copies available a few months after the paper version came out.)

Interestingly, the paper version will cost $4.99 while the digital version will be split into three $1.99 chapters, effectively pricing the digital copy at $5.99.

I love the idea of not having to drive for an hour just to get my comics, but if the money I save in gas is trumped by the price of the digital version, a time will come when I’ll stop buying comics altogether and get my fix of muscular drag queen soap opera fun at the local library, in trade paperbacks.

John Doe says:

What people realize subconciously..

The attempt to charge the same or more for digital goods that companies charge for physical goods is really an attempt to get a raise. They are distributing the product for almost free but not passing on any of the savings to the consumers. Consumers are smart enough to realize there is a savings and expect to get some of the savings. Companies think consumers are too dumb to know this but instead it is the companies that are too dumb to realize that consumers aren’t falling for it. In fact, after 20 years of the internet, companies still don’t get it and apparently never will. So who are the dumb ones?

John Nemesh (profile) says:

Apps are the new CD-ROMs!

The other thing I noticed right away…shovelware! Remember all of the crap titles that were sold when CD-ROM first arrived? Useless piles of data with horrible interfaces and a couple of grainy videos thrown in to show they were “multimedia CDs”! Blech!

The same profiteering mentality is present in the app stores, with THOUSANDS of useless apps…fart noise generators, slideshows of scantily clad women, quote generators, games that wouldnt entertain a 3 year old, and on and on and on…

I REALLY look forward to the market maturing to the point where GOOD software is released on a regular basis, and the CRAPPS that these idiots keep developing are ignored and buried, killed by a flood of REAL apps that the shovelware vendors cant compete with!

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