As April 3 approaches, publishers worldwide are working nonstop to turn their magazines from paper into pixels. In many cases, they’re simply reformatting 8-by-10-inch pages into 1024 x 768 pages, and then 768 x 1024 pages. So far the magazine of the future is as exhausting as it is exhilarating, forcing art directors to work three times as hard to produce the same publication. Whether this approach will work is anyone’s guess. If people aren’t buying your words and pictures in print, what’s the incentive for buying that same content on screen? Is being able to see layouts in two orientations enough to win them over?
Lost in this approach is perhaps the greatest opportunity that the iPad affords: incremental publishing.
Instead of buying an entire issue of Golf Digest, maybe you just want to learn how to putt. Maybe you don’t want to spend $9.95 for a cookbook only to find out how to make an apple pie. A subscription to Time magazine may not be your thing, but a subscription to Joel Stein just might be. That Macworld issue seems tempting — particularly with that fabulous cover illustration! — but perhaps you just want to read about the iPad. You don’t want a whole travel magazine, just an interactive guide to Paris.
And so on.
There’s a huge opportunity for publishers to increase revenues by breaking up their content into narrowly focused apps. By keeping apps focused, they can pile on more multimedia capability. The putting lesson includes videos and diagrams that wouldn’t fit in an entire magazine, given the need to constrain file sizes. The apple pie recipe is designed for the iPad, keeping all of the content on one screen so you don’t get flour all over your new iPad, and incorporating videos and timers with every step. The pricepoint may be lower than a full issue, but the potential sellthrough may be significantly enhanced.
The incremental approach provides a way for publishers to introduce readers to their worlds, one app at a time. Each app could conclude with teasers to six others, and perhaps a discount on buying more. Maybe it makes sense to bundle these apps so that users can build their magazines a la carte. Branding opportunities abound — Joel Stein brought to you by Axe body spray — along with the potential for immediate revenue.
Just as the music industry sells individual songs instead of albums, expect newspapers and magazines to embrace a similar model. For some subjects it may be enough to pour the existing content into smaller bottles. For others, it may entail creating unique environments that are tailored to deliver and enhance the specific content. The goal: create an experience, one that underscores the value proposition of your publication as a whole.
One way or another, those who make the most of the opportunity to sell their contents incrementally will be best-positioned to make money from the iPad.