Justin Williams of Second Gear fame wrote two interesting posts about the shortcomings of magazines on the iPad. This is an area that has frustrated me to no end. With Apple’s announcement of Newsstand in iOS 5, I grew hopeful that things would change. Sadly, they have not.
Justin’s first post details a few problems with some of his favorite magazines — GQ, Esquire and Sports Illustrated.
I read a lot of magazines. They are great for people with short attention spans like myself, available on a variety of diverse topics and are usually pretty well designed. On paper that is. On the iPad? I wish I never learned to read.
I’m convinced that the people who actually write for magazines, edit them and publish them have never actually tried using their iPad versions for more than a few moments. If they actually did try to use their publication’s app as the actual means to read each issue, things would have to improve. Right? RIGHT?!
Not to complain without offering solutions, he checks off 10 pretty solid ideas on how to fix them. (The last one is to hire someone who knows iOS and understands the culture, and that’s the best idea of them all.)
In his second post, Justin goes into greater detail on how magazine publishers could create a much better experience for their iPad readers. Again, I think his last point — Hire Smart — is the best one.
It’s crazy to think that a small startup like Flipboard, which has far fewer resources than Time Inc, can build a far superior magazine-like experience on the iPad. It’s all about talent.
Software development is relatively easy. Taste and user experience, on the other hand, are hard things to teach. It’s easy to find someone who knows how to launch Xcode and throw together a few views. It’s much harder to find people that know how to do that and give it the pizazz and style that delights users.
Magazine publishers need to realize that publishing for the iPad is not like publishing for print. It’s a completely new medium, and it demands a different experience from a specific set of readers.
We are looking at the future of media consumption. If publishers don’t get it right now, then they will face the same dilemma with the iPad (and other tablets) as they did with the Internet — a business model and experience that never worked outside their print model.
For all the exciting things that are happening in the publishing world — new ways to create and present content, access to new readers through new technology and the ability to create fantastic content and apps for so little financial investment — it’s the publishing industry who so far has largely failed to capitalize on any of these opportunities.