The iPad Will Not Save Publishing

I was reading an article on dismal GQ Magazine sales figures on the iPad (albeit for an older copy) and I really started to think, I can see the iPad being benefical for news consumption but can the same be said about magazines?

It is natural for publishers to flock to digital mediums, with far lower distribution and the total elimination of printing costs. Selling magazines on the iPad makes even more sense, for publishers may even turn a profit on cover prices. They must be foaming at the mouth! However the internet is a graveyard of failed web-magazine startups and traditional media transitions. Unless there are some huge culture and distribution changes the iPad will hardly be different.

Why? There are two reasons that come to mind.

  • Moving to the internet made sense not just to reduce distribution costs but because publishers could still collect the demographic information necessary to tailor content and provide relevant advertising. The problem with the iPad is Jobs et. al. are very unwilling to share this information and in many ways prohibit a publications relationship with its readers, the real essence to success; and

  • We are a still a tangible society.We like to see and feel things. Why do you think so many web magazines fail? Many made that transition with music but magazines are different. Most magazines sit on a coffee table and we browse through them when we have a few minutes (unlike news consumption). Not only is the iPad trying to change distribution but the fundamental way in which we consume magazine content. I’m not sure if the masses are ready for this change and, even if they are, publishers will have lost that relationship and lose either way.

Maybe, instead and as a stopgap the iPad is providing a way to monetize the older, back catalogue content which until now has not been entirely profitable for publishers.