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.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: apps, ipad, magazines


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    nasch (profile), 15 Nov 2010 @ 8:46am

    Re:

    Short version: telling a good story (telling a story well?) is important. This is obvious, but what does it have to do with the article?

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.