Revenue starved publishers are getting excited about the iPad. Even before Apple's latest product had a name, magazine conglomerates were discussing their plans to deploy tablet-friendly versions of their publications on the device. This week, we're learning some of the details of Condé Nast's plans for the iPad.
And while it's great to see traditional publishers taking some initiative in a burgeoning digital space, there are more than a few reasons to think that many of them are jumping the gun at the chance to charge for content on a new device. Here are five.
1. Apple and Adobe do not play well together.
Condé Nast developed an ambitious iPad friendly version of Wired magazine (complete with integrated videos, interactive ads and special iPad only features). But it won't be implemented on other properties because it was developed with Adobe Flash and Apple still isn't supporting Flash on its mobile products. Similar integration problems are likely to arise again, and Apple has made no indication that it is willing to bury the hatchet with Adobe to help publishers deliver a great product on the iPad.
2. Consumers don't want to pay for content on different screens. They want new content.
Due to the Adobe problem, Condé will have “two parallel development tracks going until the relationship between Apple and Adobe is clear,” according to MediaMemo. That means that unlike the Wired prototype, the publishers' magazines will have simpler iPad specific apps that are pretty similar to what Condé already offers iPhone users. While Condé has seen a lot of success with that model — the publisher sold 15,000 copies of the January issue of GQ and almost 7,000 of the December issue on the iPhone — consumers aren't likely to pay for the same product on a different screen.
3. Apple holds onto consumer data for all applications sold through the iTunes store.
Aside from the additional revenue stream they're hoping to get from iPad-friendly apps, Condé Nast has the most to gain from culling consumer data from its mobile offerings to better serve advertising to its audience (and charge more money for that advertising). But Apple does not share consumer data for products sold through the iTunes store. Meaning that publishers are still in a pretty weak position with Apple partnerships. Condé Nast is hoping to get around this by asking consumers to register for content on the iPad and communicating with them directly. That's after already registering and purchasing these media products in the iTunes store. Which could easily leave consumers feeling like marketing guineau pigs.
4. Being first to market doesn't matter.
The iPhone may have transformed the mobile market, creating a revenue stream for many companies that had previously had trouble charging for digital content. But it's not clear where the iPad will fit in the current marketplace. One of the many concerns involving the product is that it does not replace a digital device, but rather adds another device for people to use to connect to the internet. If that is the case, it will be a long time before the iPad sees the sort of adoption rates that have made the iPhone so popular, making it a much less impressive revenue stream than many publishers are expecting. Condé Nast CEO Charles H. Townsend tells The New York Times his company wants to “take a leadership position” in regards to the iPad, but they could be setting themselves up as a case study for other publishers to learn from. Many publishers sat back and watched as smaller, more nimble companies launched iPhone apps in their area of expertise, but getting on the iPad first isn't as important as getting the delivery right.
5. First generation Apple products never work.
Granted, magazine publishers are in dire straights right now. But there are too many unknown variables involving the iPad. Sinking large quantities of money into iPad product development could be premature. Townsend tells The Times, “We feel confident enough that consumers will want our content in this new format that we are committing the resources necessary to be there. How large a revenue stream digitized content represents is an answer we hope to learn through this process.”
But while Townsend is confident, the iPad isn't shipping until April, and production delays are rumored to push that date back even further. Consumers haven't yet had a chance to prove that they want to own an iPad, let alone purchase new products for the device. Especially when the interface is similar enough to make sharing apps between the iPhone and the iPad seem like the easiest thing to do, iPad specific products are going to be a hard sell.
Image: Condé Nast