Magazines on iPad, How Important Is an App?

Discussion in 'iPad General Discussions' started by AutoTraveler, Apr 16, 2011.

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How essential is it for Automotive Traveler Magazine to offer an iPad app?

Poll closed Jul 25, 2011.
  1. Totally essential

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. Very essential

    44.4%
  3. Somewhat essential

    0 vote(s)
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  4. Not essential

    55.6%
  1. AutoTraveler
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    Hi everyone, my name is Rich Truesdell and I am the owner of a new iPad 2 16GB WiFi. (It's the first Apple product for me.) I am also the founder and editor of an online-only magazine called Automotive Traveler, which as the title suggests is about cars, travel, and great road trips.

    Our magazine is browser-based rather than app-based. We've developed a universal viewer that works inside your browser to view each issue which is stored on our server, like a web page, but different.

    The difference is that each page is an actual magazine-style layout so it is fixed. Each page in Automotive Traveler Magazine and on AutomotiveTraveler.com is laid out like a double-page spread in a magazine (horizontally/landscape-style). The size of the font used in the layout is selected so that on devices with screens eight inches and up, you should be able "read" the entire "page" without the need zoom or scroll. If this seems hard to understand, just click here.

    (I believe that our presentation is enhanced by viewing Automotive Traveler using a full-screen browser. The first thing I did after setting up my iPad 2 was to install the full-screen browser Terra.),

    Right now we're trying to determine if we need to develop a dedicated app to reach a wider audience. Right now we have almost 50,000 unique visitors to the magazine and its companion website each month but based on our analysis, less than one percent are using an iPad as opposed to almost four percent viewing on an iPhone.The rest are viewing the content on netbooks, laptops, and desktops with less than 10 percent using Apple operating systems (but that percentage is growing which is one of the main reasons for this post).

    Right now we're finalizing the next issue that will publish on Wednesday but are already deep in planning the following issue that will publish in May as we ramp up to a monthly publishing schedule. I'm writing to get feedback from iPad owners and suggestions as to how we can improve our presentation and to determine from iPad owners the need to develop a dedicated app.

    I'd like to use something already developed, off the shelf, instead of having to develop one from scratch. I like things simple so what I am looking for is a solution that will offer me an optimized full-screen presentation that will allow a swipe function while allowing me to embed active links, and to be able to open separate video windows. Is anyone aware of an existing solution that you think might work for us. (I am open to hearing pitches from iPad app developers out there reading this.)

    Because we plan to remain a free publication that ultimately will be fully supported by advertising, we're staying clear of the battle between Apple and the big publishing houses over subscription revenue and subscriber data. With that being said, what are the thoughts here of having a free app and a 99 cent per issue price for a paid version? I see many magazines doing this.

    While I look at the short-term situation with more than 10 million iPads sold here in the US, I'm looking at the bigger picture, long-term, when there will be an installed base of more than 50 million tablets (iPads as well as competitors) and what we need to do to reach a meaningful number of readers to not only be attractive to the advertisers that we need to support us, but essential to their overall marketing plans.

    I hope that many of you will take a few minutes to view the current issue of Automotive Traveler as well as the six previously published issues. If you like the content, please let me know. If there's something that you think we should be covering, I want to know that as well. If there's areas for us to improve -- I know that we're at the beginning of the process and our success long term will be driven by our readers -- please, give me your comments.

    To make things easier, I have included a poll below and I hope that you will participate after taking a look at Automotive Traveler. If you would like to make contributions to Automotive Traveler, in either the car or travel categories, please contact me directly via E-mail. I love working with new or aspiring writers and I hope that you'll agree that after viewing Automotive Traveler, that it is content that stands apart and above our online competitors, that it is much more like reading a "real" magazine than just another website or blog.

    Have a great weekend,

    Richard Truesdell
    Co-Founder and Editorial Director, Automotive Traveler Magazine, AutomotiveTraveler.com
    E-mail
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2011
  2. NumbLock
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    Very, but I didn't write totally because, let's face it, the success of your company isn't 100% reliant on the app.

    That said, I am a heavy consumer of Magazine apps, and the usability of the app is as important as the content. Wired magazine does it right, GQ does it wrong. And if your thinking of making it work like a PDF of a normal print magazine, better just forget the project entirely.
  3. Mountainbikermark
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    It's all about the future not just the present. Apps are the future for both revenue and name recognition. If I have a choice between a website and an app I choose an app because they are made for my device and work within the parameters of my device. If I have a choice between am online book or magazine and an app for the title,I choose apps. I use my Kindle app for most of my reading now because Kindle works the same , very well, on my Ipad or my Android phone. I play many server based games on apps because again they are made for my device and work on it.

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  4. gforeman
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    I read a lot of mags with Zinio. Quite happy.
  5. AutoTraveler
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    Thanks for the initial feedback. I would like to say a few things in the hope that the discussion moves forward.

    First, I look at this from the content creation side first, then how easy (and universal) it is to read/view the content.

    To Numblock, what we are doing is so much more than a PDF, I was hoping that you saw that. We have designed the content from the ground up to be viewed with a computer or on a tablet in a landscape mode and provide a fully integrated reading experience without the need to zoom and scroll like how you read a magazine.

    If you take content that was produced for a conventional magazine, and view it in a viewer like Zinio, it's impossible to read it without zooming and scrolling. That's a fundamental difference in what we are doing with Automotive Traveler. We've designed the content, from the start, for the medium be it a tablet, laptop, or home computer screen that are horizontally oriented. This seems to be the issue that we aren't communicating efficiently.

    Quite honestly I don't see the obsession with having to have an app. And from the publisher side, having to develop an app for at a minimum two platforms, iPad as well as Android, is expensive, especially for a small, specialized, or boutique publisher. But that's why I came in here and am asking questions and gathering feedback.

    The other issue I have is the size of the apps. This would seem to me to be an issue at some point given that the storage capacity of an iPad isn't unlimited or expandable.

    This is a learning experienceand I appreciate the feedback. From what I can see, for some the messenger (the app) is more important than the message (the content).

    I am also looking at this pragmatically. When the Wired app first appeared, there were 100,000+ downloads of the current issue. Now, almost a year later, it's more like 25,000 for each month's issue, a 75% drop. Part of this is attributed to price (the monthly app is $3.99 an issue while a print subscription for a year is $10 delivered to your mailbox) but part of me thinks that in an effort to incorporate all the bells and whistles, the app gets in the way of the content. (Spoken like a true content creator/writer/journalist.)

    I'm interested in everyone's thoughts, especially suggestions of other magazines that you feel are doing it right.

    Have a great weekend,

    Richard Truesdell
    Co-Founder and Editorial Director, Automotive Traveler Magazine, AutomotiveTraveler.com
    E-mail
  6. autumnbaby
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    I prefer an app with my wifi only ipad.

    With apps I'm able to download the magazine issue right onto my ipad while at home and then read the issue later even if I'm in an area that does not have a wifi connection.

    If it was browser based only, I would be stuck with reading while around a wifi connection and I wouldn't be able to read it on an airplane or while traveling in my car. This would annoy me to the point that I probably wouldn't bother reading the magazine at all.
  7. Mountainbikermark
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    The future is apps. You can server base the content but again apps are the future.
    Why not have both ? I prefer apps because I'm not limited to my browsers abilities or at the mercy of the website. My best example is Redbox. The website is horrid and slow if it works at all vs the app which I'm in and out of quickly. Walgreens would be another. I can't really give examples of online books or magazines because I don't subscribe to them anymore, the last one I subscribed to, Forgotten, was on my Windows phone.

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  8. AutoTraveler
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    The last two responses (Mountainbikermark and autumbaby) point out the shortcomings of a server-side approach. I personally don't worry about it even though I have a WiFi-only iPad 2 because I also have a Nexus One Android phone with an all you can eat voice/data/text plan on T-Mobile.

    If I'm in an area with no WiFi, I access the web on my iPad using the Nexus One as a WiFi hotspot. On a plane, I'll pony up for GoGo on a long flight as I'll almost always have work to do and will need access for my laptop. I haven't yet traveled on a plane with my iPad 2.

    Have a great weekend,

    Richard Truesdell
    Co-Founder and Editorial Director, Automotive Traveler Magazine, AutomotiveTraveler.com
    E-mail
  9. Mountainbikermark
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    Maybe it's me but it sounds like you are trying to talk yourself out of developing an app.

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  10. AutoTraveler
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    Mark, that's not entirely true. Even the big publishing houses haven't figured this out yet with Wired being a good example. As others have pointed out, having the content residing on the iPad is an advantage, it is offset being able to access the content on any device and it not taking up valuable memory.

    What about if we made a off-line viewer available, so the content would be available even if no wireless connection was available? Would that address your issues?

    Richard Truesdell
    Co-Founder and Editorial Director, Automotive Traveler Magazine, AutomotiveTraveler.com
    E-mail
  11. Martlet
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    I got that as well.

    I didn't care much for your layout. I'm also not a huge fan of Zinio. I much prefer a Flipboard or Zite style app. You can touch and expand articles, pictures, etc. A magazine in that style would be an easy buy for me, providing I had an interest in the content.
  12. Mountainbikermark
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    Think Google maps on Android. You can view via live feed or if you know you will be away from signal of any sort you can download the content in advance for later viewing.
    Tablets are in their newbie period now, but again the present and future is apps. When the iPhone first came out it changed the way we do things on our phones. The tablet is changing the way we mobile compute. Again, nothing wrong with the present method but don't dismiss the possible revenue enhancement an app would provide. In under 5 years the mobile phone world as we knew it is gone. I see the same future for mobile computing, probably in less time if sales of the ipad2 are any indication and the fact that Moto was so afraid of the iPad they released a, well that's another topic for another day , but never the less websites are the present for their reasons whereas as the tablet world expands so will the memory storage, speed and abilities. Heck my children's iPods were top of the line when they came out with a whopping 8 gig of memory, a few years later that is the very bottom of capacity. The iPad 2 has double the ram of the one just 1 year prior. Memory storage may be an issue now but it won't be in another year I bet.


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  13. NumbLock
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    Excellent!

    But I don't agree with this 100%. I see the app as equal to the content. The advantage of getting the app right, is you should only have to do it once, nail it, then focus on what you love to do - creat great content!

    For me, a crappy app makes great content less enjoyable - or even not enjoyable at all.
  14. NumbLock
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    Download Wired, it's free this month (sponsored by Adobe) to see how to get it right.
  15. Mountainbikermark
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    Get the app right, the rest takes care of itself


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  16. peled
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    I am happy with my PDF magazine. Wierd is nice , but to download 400M for each Magazine, on a tablet with no USB - is too much.
    PDF is much smaller. You can re-size the page.
    from the publisher point of view PDF is not good. It will be circulated free on the net an hour after being published. No way to protect it. With the application you may sale adds .
  17. AutoTraveler
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    Thanks everyone for the suggestions. They are coming from a different perspective than my own.

    I'm still conflicted on the app vs browser strategy. The app gives me complete control over the integrity of the presentation. But as a small publisher, the cost (from the developer quotes I've gotten) is prohibitive and gets worse if apps need to be developed for additional platforms like Android.

    The browser/viewer approach is universal, works on any device but I realize that it looks best (and was designed for) screens at least as big as the one found on an iPad, a minimum of 10 inches. Does anyone really read magazines on smaller devices, like an iPhone? Maybe younger people do, but it's my belief that if you're over a certain age, say 40 or 45, this is simply not the case. Am I wrong?

    It's obvious to me, as the content creator/publisher, that if this is seen as a PDF, we're doing something wrong in the way we are marketing Automotive Traveler. Although we output the page layouts from Scribus (and InDesign open source clone) to PDF, there is a lot going on before you see the presentation in our viewer. This has to do with things like how the content is searched and how we will be presenting video in the months to come.

    In stepping back and looking at this from a global perspective, not only does it seem that I'm trying to bridge the gap between traditional magazines and the web, but between netbooks, laptops, and desktops with tablets like the iPad.

    Even though Apple is on track to sell up to 50 million iPads this year (I assume this is worldwide), their overall household penetration will remain less than 10% here in the US, at least through the end of the year. As a content creator I'm trying to position myself as this market evolves and expands, reaching the maximum number of readers. Overall, it's no secret, that porting magazine-type content to tablets hasn't been all that successful. Wired, which many people cite as a good example, hasn't come close to the sales when it was first introduced. Is the size of the app impacting its success. This is certainly an advantage to a browser-based approach.

    That will change once pricing models meet reality. Many people would much rather but a subsidized subscription for $10/year (83 cents an issue typically) than pay $3.99 per month for virtually the same content as an app. This is the battle the big publishers are fighting right now. They saw what iTunes did to the music industry, and don't want that to happen to them. Have you seen the size of the CD section in your local Best Buy? It's virtually gone.

    Will the iPad replace traditional magazines as a way of delivering magazine-style content? I'm not sure. Many older readers, those for who magazines were an important part of their lives, find it hard. But the handwriting is on the wall as it was just announced that for the first time ever, eBooks now outsell traditional paperbacks. That's more because of Kindle and the Nook along with other eReaders but I think the iPad will be an increasingly important part of the picture.

    I hope to keep the discussion going, hopefully getting more people involved so I can get a better handle on the process.

    Richard Truesdell
    Co-Founder and Editorial Director, Automotive Traveler Magazine, AutomotiveTraveler.com
    E-mail
  18. Martlet
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    I think I read a lot. Depending on my schedule, I probably average a book a week. I also have I also have 9(?) magazine subscriptions that come to my house.

    A year ago I bought a nook just to give it a try. I never thought I could get past not having the "book" feel. Boy was I wrong. I love the convenience of the nook, and don't think I purchased a paper book since I bought it.

    I read a few online magazines, but haven't purchased a subscription to one yet. Since I bought this iPad (my first tablet) I've found I am getting behind in my magazine reading. I'm now starting to look for online versions. I'm not ready to make the switch as I did with books, but I absolutely believe I will eventually, if the format is nice. It only makes sense to carry all my media on my iPad. I can't see it taking the place of my Nook, but I can easily see it replace my magazines. I'd prefer a central reader like Zinio (which I don't care for), but I'd purchase the right app. Wired is a great example of an app done right.

    As for my iPhone, you're mostly right in my case. I wouldn't purchase something to read on my iPhone, but I do use it for reading at times. I love the nook app. It syncs across devices. I can read on my nook, then find myself stuck in a waiting room the next day, take out my iPhone, and pick up where I left off. I can go to the camper on the weekend, realize I left my Nook a home, and pick up where I left off on my iPad.

    I've already decided to buy a few magazine issues that I don't currently subscribe to see if I like them.
  19. AutoTraveler
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    Martlet,

    I find it so interesting that you distinguish between using the Nook for books (I assume it's not a Nook Color) and the possibility of using the iPad for magazines. I would think that you would do books and magazines both on the iPad, possibly with the Nook and Kindle apps for the iPad.

    What am I missing?
  20. Martlet
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    E-ink has a much different "feel" to it. It's easier on the eyes and is less distracting. I allows me to fall into a book easier. This is particularly important since I normally read before bed.

    Magazines are different. They usually aren't soothing, have large color images, glossy pages, and are typically more information driven. You usually don't fall into a story, even a short magazine story. They are often fact or opinion driven, full of short pieces and bright pictures. That would look pretty on E-ink. I wouldn't make the Nook my primary magazine reader for the same reason I wouldn't make the iPad my primary book reader. The medium is just wrong for the experience.

    Magazines on the iPad can look great if done right. Touch an image and have I fill the whole page. Links right in the article to be viewed immediately. Videos embedded. The opportunities are endless.

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