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The iPad has been talked about as a potential saviour by publishers eager to find new ways to monetise their content, and a number have already launched apps for the device. 

However, while iPhone apps are useful to make the content more accessible on a small screen, is this really necessary when standard websites already work well and look good on the iPad? 

I've listed some of the pros and cons of iPad apps for publishers. I'm sure there'll be more, so please let me know below... 

Pros of iPad apps

App Store exposure

There are something like 100m iTunes accounts with users' credit card details already stored, meaning payment is a simple process. 

Having your app featured in the latest App Store charts, as is the case with various publishers' apps at the moment, gives publishers the opportunity to appeal to early iPad adopters. 

Potential for monetisation

Apps for the iPad provide publishers with an opportunity to create a product that they can monetise by charging for the app. The success of this will depend very much on the attractiveness of the pricing structures and subscription models offered by publishers. 

For example, the Wired app offers the magazine in an attractive format at £2.99, less than the normal cover price, and this is a decent proposition. In fact, Wired managed to sell 24,000 downloads of its app in the first 24 hours after release. 

Advertising can be more effective than on mobile apps

This remains to be seen, but there is potential for advertisers to be more creative with ads on iPad apps than they would be able to on a mobile. 

Advertisers can recreate magazine-style full-page ads, make them interactive, or else embed video, as this Pepsi ad on the Wired app does: 

Apps for iPads can be more creative and interactive 

The format allows magazine and newspaper publisher not only to recreate the print versions of their publications, but also allows them to make them more interactive. 

The Wired app provides video clips, makes diagrams and charts interactive, and provides different views of pictures that accompany articles. In the example shown below, readers can see the Lego Lamborghini being assembled. 

Make it look more like a newspaper

The iPad allows publishers to produce apps which more closely resemble the look of a newspaper, so readers can flick through it from start to finish as they would the print version, or else search and browse as they would on a website. 

Cons

Websites look great on iPad anyway

While apps or mobile optimised sites are very useful for reading newspapers on iPhones, this isn't so necessary on the iPad. 

For example there isn't much difference between the FT iPad app...

...and the main site viewed on an iPad: 

FT on iPad browser

This is because the iPad is made for web browsing, and the user experience on something like guardian.co.uk is good enough that you don't really yearn for a simplified version. In fact, the main benefit of apps may be the ability to read articles when offline. 

Apps may make more sense for magazines, since many magazine websites don't provide much content online anyway, and the content, ads and all, can be faithfully reproduced via an app with extra interactive features.

For instance, a music magazine on iPad could provide excerpts from albums it has reviewed along with links to purchase on iTunes, something which could be a useful source of income. 

Cost

Will people pay for content that is free elsewhere? This is the problem that some publishers may have when trying to monetise iPad apps. If the free website looks OK, then publishers will have to work harder to convince people to buy the app. 

It could harm print readership

The combination of two factors: the portability of the iPad and the fact that newspaper websites work perfectly well on the device means that some people may opt to relax with the iPad on their lap on a Sunday rather than heading out to buy a newspaper. 

Apple rules and regulations

Getting into the App Store means abiding by Apple's rules, something which some publishers might find restrictive.

German newspaper Bild has been restricted  by Apple's nipple ban, and this is something which would affect UK publishers of The Sun, Nuts, Loaded etc. 

Not enough iPads out there?

It may take some time before enough people have iPads to make the creation of apps worthwhile, at least for some publishers. A survey by Ovum suggests that volumes of sales will take time to build up, with some 11.2m devices shipped by the end of 2011. 

While a publication like Wired finds a natural audience in early adopters of the device, others may find that the target audience is too small to make the effort worthwhile. 

Graham Charlton

Published 3 June, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Adam Osborne

As a recent user of an iPad, I have been asking myself almost the same question. Do I need an app for a publication I can read online? And there in the question is the answer, much like you postulated. The main reason to get an publication app is for offline reading. I can't see myself wanting or needing the app for any other reason.

about 6 years ago

Graham Ruddick

Graham Ruddick, Managing Director at Digital Excellence

I do feel that there is a bigger discussion here. Will apps/mobile sites etc continue to exist or will they be replaced by convergence with an increasingly widgitised approach to web sites? This is more than just a 'to iPad' or 'not to iPad' conversation. The same points apply to the broader mobile world.

That mobile world is currently driven by talk about apps. This talk appears to miss the role that can/should be played by websites. My feeling is that apps are a bit of a red herring. They work quite well under three conditions:

1. There are relatively few OS platforms for which we need to create (and maintain) apps.

2. There is still a general assumption that we will not be connected as opposed to the reverse.

3. Web delivery does not give the individual range of customisation and personalisation that our customers desire.

The first condition is clearly changing, and changing rapidly. In a world where Android and iP(whatever) are going to be owned by increasingly antagonistic owners, where Microsoft and Symbian will still be wishing to stake a claim, it is highly unlikely that there will be enough commonality to help developers. Apple's general approach to locking down and their stance towards Flash are good indicators that developing for their platform will not be an easy ride. If one adds in the others then it all becomes a bit of a nightmare.

I'd like to think that the second condition will be proven to be plain wrong. It is instructive to see how much criticism Apple copped for not making the iPad 3g automatically and this seems likely to be one of the obvious changes in v 2.0 when it launches. WiFi is not yet ubiquitous but will be. It seems foolish to be betting against this when making strategic business decisions.

Addressing the third condition is something the web dev community is getting better at. Whilst widgets seem to have fallen slightly from fashion their spirit lives on.  We are increasingly seeing sites presenting content in configurable ways (look at the right hand column of LinkedIn for instance). Widgets free content from the rigid templates and sizing of a conventional site and allow it to be taken directly - from the same source - onto a wide variety of viewing platforms including many of the later smart phone/mobile devices.

The iPad apps do not offer any great advances in interactivity. Websites themselves can be more creative than they generally are, experience tells us that users drawn to the gloss and flashiness often (usually?) revert to simplicity over the long term.

The common ground with firmly established standards is the web. Businesses will choose not to develop for multiple platforms or die. There is no other decision that is sensible in the long term. My conclusion is that, in a couple of years, we are unlikely to need apps. Most access to content will revert to web channels, albeit channels that look much more like the current generation of apps. 

For the iPad this means that it will be doing what it was designed to be good at which will be great. But it does mean that publishers face the same issues that they do now. The app revenues are not scalable or permanent - they might offer a breather for the next few months for those lucky few that catch the imagination - but will not be a panacea. 

about 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Graham, 

Excellent points. I think iPhone apps for publishers (and retailers) make a lot more sense than iPad apps. The mobile web has to be the long term focus though. 

about 6 years ago

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Mike Potts

One "pro" that wasn't mentioned in the article is SPEED. Apps deliver content much faster than the web - and speed is a major factor in enjoyment/usability of any media. I know many people, including myself, that would rather pay for speed than pay for functionality or depth of content. We recently ditched salesforce.com in favour of a much simpler CRM for this reason alone, and paid more money to have it.

about 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Paul Keers

One significant potential advantage of apps over websites is that the reader/customer has chosen to access, in fact to order, the content via an app, rather than come across it via search. This provides a very significant advantage - editorial content does not have to be written in order to obtain a high search rating. Which means that cross-platform editorial can be free from the need to incorporate synonymous search terms, celebrity names, fleeting buzz words and all of the other negative aspects of search-friendly content. At the very least, puns and euphemisms can return, and plodding literal headlines can be reserved for publications which need to grab their audience via Google.

about 6 years ago

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