Dedicated magazine apps for tablets may look good, but they could be headed straight into the void.
So begins an honest and straightforward look at the current state of magazine apps on tablets, by industry thought leader Jon Lund.
“I fear the app-based tablet approach to magazines leads straight to oblivion, at least for individual magazine titles,” Lund writes in last week’s Gigaom article.
It’s not that the technology doesn’t work. In fact Lund cites the almost too-perfect experience of reading a magazine on an app, with its monolithic restrictions, and longs for a more organic experience that may be messier and less directed, but more satisfying.
Other factors working against these magazine apps include:
- Too many apps. The average user has 41 apps on his or her smartphone, but only uses up to eight each day (Nielsen Research). The magazine apps get lost in the shuffle on most devices and suffer from neglect without highly dedicated readers.
- Lack of social skills. Digital content gains readers by being found and being shared. A magazine app lacks the accessibility and openness needed to gain this social ground. It can’t be shared, liked, linked to or indexed by search engines inside the app.
- Digital replica paid circulation lags far behind printed title numbers in terms of percentage of total circulation. Even a tech-heavy audience like the ones who read Wired chooses a printed subscription over its digital counterpart more than eight to one.
Lund is quick to assure publishers that there is room in the market for high quality digital content.
“I believe the future for producing quality content for niches is both bright and promising. But it has to be presented openly, socially, in flow — not in closed tablet apps,” says Lund.