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.