Magazine Publishers Warily Criticize Apple and iPads
Publishers assess iPad economics, launch of other devices.
If, as seems likely, 2011 is the year when tablet devices take off and reach an unprecedented level of ubiquity, magazine companies are surprisingly circumspect about their future in the emerging order.
All over the media-industry media over the last few weeks, publishers have been voicing concerns about Apple’s present dominance of the space, and its policies regarding subscriptions and information sharing. Two days ago, for example, in a New York Times report, some publishers complained that Apple doesn’t allow magazine-applications to be sold by subscription-only monthly.
In some cases-many cases-the economics simply don’t work. Consumers conditioned to spending $5 on a copy of a magazine don’t want to pay $5 for an app-version of that same magazine. And consumers conditioned to paying $12 for a year-long print subscription certainly aren’t willing to spend $5 per month on an app. Nevermind that the cost to the publisher of developing the app is significant, usually in the tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition, Apple has been proprietary about sharing data about customers, meaning that database development efforts are severely hampered, the report noted.
And publishers are said to be mystified at the preferential treatment of News Corp., which is developing an iPad-only daily newspaper and which has been granted the ability to sell subscriptions.
Conde Nast president Bob Sauerberg is quoted stating that other tablet devices coming in the next several months may help level the playing field.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that Next Issue Media, a consortium of five media companies including four magazine companies, is going to roll out an online newsstand in the next few months.
The promise of NIM is that it allows media companies, rather than technology developers, to control the sale and distribution of their media products. Publishers, the report said, hope to avoid what happened with the digital-music industry, where Apple controls the terms of the sale of digital songs.
NIM is comprised of Hearst, Time Inc., Conde Nast, Meredith and News Corp.