Why iPad Magazine Apps Suck: They're Defined By The Past, Not The Future
from the paperless-magazines dept
Earlier this year, we suggested that the media industy’s infatuation with the iPad as some sort of savior was going to result in serious disappointment. Part of the reason was that the media industry was salivating over the false belief that it could bring back the old “gatekeeper” control that it used to have, and which its old business model was built from. And, indeed, the early results of iPad magazines aren’t particularly promising. Now, it’s still quite early, and two things are likely to happen: tablet computers (and better smartphones) will become more popular and publishers will become smarter about these things over time. So I wouldn’t read too much into the success/failure numbers at this stage.
However, I tend to agree with this analysis by Khoi Vinh that suggests a major problem is that magazine publishers are focused on building apps that are too much like “magazines,” which is not how people want to use their mobile devices:
My opinion about iPad-based magazines is that they run counter to how people use tablets today and, unless something changes, will remain at odds with the way people will use tablets as the medium matures. They’re bloated, user-unfriendly and map to a tired pattern of mass media brands trying vainly to establish beachheads on new platforms without really understanding the platforms at all.
The fact of the matter is that the mode of reading that a magazine represents is a mode that people are decreasingly interested in, that is making less and less sense as we forge further into this century, and that makes almost no sense on a tablet. As usual, these publishers require users to dive into environments that only negligibly acknowledge the world outside of their brand, if at all — a problem that’s abetted and exacerbated by the full-screen, single-window posture of all iPad software. In a media world that looks increasingly like the busy downtown heart of a city — with innumerable activities, events and alternative sources of distraction around you — these apps demand that you confine yourself to a remote, suburban cul-de-sac.
To be honest, this isn’t that surprising. The problem, as with almost all new media technologies is that those who came from the earlier media worlds try to define the new world in terms of the old. It’s why original TV programs simply tried to replicate radio programs, until people realized that you could do something quite different in a visual medium. It’s why many media companies still look at the internet as a broadcast medium designed for delivering its content to the masses — rather than recognizing that the real power is in its use as a communications platform.
Eventually they’ll adjust and figure it out (or, if they don’t, go out of business). And then the solutions that work won’t be “magazines as an app,” but services that really make use of what these devices enable: communication and content on the go.