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As publishers and new media companies try to tap into the potential offered by the iPad, many have decided that offering richer, multimedia-laden experiences is the way to go.
Take Push Pop Press, for instance. Its vision for tablet publications: turn them into interactive applications. Its centerpiece, Al Gore's Our Choice interactive e-book, was heralded as "one of the most...impressive apps you've ever seen."
Yesterday, Push Pop Press was acquired by Facebook in what appears to be a talent acquisition. According to a post on the company website, "we're taking our publishing technology and everything we've learned and are setting off to help design the world's largest book, Facebook." By all appearances, there's a reason for this: Push Pop Press' vision for traditional publications, as appealing as it might be on paper, simply hasn't taken off.
At the same time, however, one traditional publication is thriving with a much simpler model. As revealed in a New York Times article, The New Yorker is doing quite well without turning its iPad version into a feast for the senses. Approximately 20,000 of the 100,000 readers who read The New Yorker iPad app paid $59.99/year for a subscription, and "several thousand more" pay $4.99/week for single issues.
As The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters notes, "When magazine publishers began pouring their resources and hopes into the iPad, their thinking was that readers wanted something substantially more than just words on a screen. A simple PDF of a page just would not do." Such assumptions may have been wrong.
The interface of The New Yorker iPad app is closer to a PDF than it is to the type of multimedia extravaganza that other magazine apps are trying to provide. According to The New Yorker's deputy editor, Pamela Maffei McCarthy, there's a reason for this: "That was really important to us: to create an app all about reading. There are some bells and whistles, but we’re very careful about that. We think about whether or not they add any value. And if they don’t, out the window they go."
The key point: it's all about value. Traditional publishers thinking more about the iPad's capabilities than what their readers expect on the iPad are more likely to produce a tablet publication that produces more interest from industry folk than it does interest from actual readers. In many cases, attempts at impressing the critics leave readers dissatisfied.