Earlier this week I wrote that Adobe was subsidizing the May issue of WIRED for the iPad in a move that might spell trouble for digital magazine offerings. It looks like that may be the case. Condé Nast employees have confirmed that the publisher is slowing down and taking a more conservative approach to releasing their publications to the iPad.
According to an insider at the company:
Developing an iPad edition is now more a matter of each publisher’s discretion than it had been before, a Condé Nast insider said. The company doesn’t want to invest significantly more time and resources in the platform if the ground isn’t sufficiently fertile yet for a broad swath of readers and the advertisers that need big reach, the insider said. “They don’t want to go the way of the web again.”
Based on my trial of the free May issue of WIRED for iPad, it’s clear that a lot of development goes in to the production of the digital edition above and beyond the print version. There are animations and embedded videos and even the ads pop off the page making for a very rich experience. Condé Nast is likely fearful of blowing a smaller publication’s budget such as a smaller title like Golf World because of the likely higher production costs.
The biggest problem, I believe, is Apple’s in-app subscription model that takes a 30% cut from publishers in a market that is fledgling. Publishers are essentially at a stage where they are stuck supporting two businesses – print and digital – and two costs centers. Magazine executives are crunching the numbers to figure out how they can make the jump from paper to digital, cover the higher production costs, give Apple their cut and still turn a profit.
Given that WIRED is $3.99 per issue normally, with no annual subscription plan yet, it’s easy to see how demand for iPad magazines might be slow.