I was very skeptical as I watched my own (big magazine fan) and others usage of content on the tablet.
We now hear of Conde Nast slowing down on ipad development and with circulation piddly everywhere ( Wired made their most recent edition free) the writing is on the wall.
Tablets will hasten the demise of magazines and not save them because…
1)Competition for Attention: When a magazine appears on an ipad it happens to be one of many icons in a sea of icons that I can select from including Angry Birds and Books on Kindle (when offline) or Facebook and Twitter when online.
2) New definition of Content: Professional content creators have always thought that it was their content that was cool. Taking nothing away from their skills I believe they made their money through a) a tight chokehold on distribution, b)the ability to bundle many articles into a magazine and charge for the bundle and c) limited content creation options for others.
But now a) we do not have to buy a magazine to get an article, b) postings by friends or passonistas are as valid as those edited by experts and c) the only chokehold is what the future has around the throat of legacy publishing.
It is time to recognize that there is a new mindset for digital magazines as shown by Flipboard and others and it is not just porting over printed content with some multi media add-ons and the ability to retweet and share.
The future does not fit the containers of the past.
The magazine is a great way to bundle things in print but a magazine on a tablet is just not going to make it.
Update: So what should Magazine Companies do?
1. Double down on print by making the magazine a truly tactile artifact (like Monocole) which people are willing to pay for or pay more for (subscription/advertising split will skew more to subscription)
2. License their content particularly evergreen content to marketers who are working to buttress their “owned” media properties. (If you think your content is so cool why is it that only you are allowed to distribute it?)
3. Recognize that their circulation data is just a tip of the iceberg and there are many other forms of data that can be linked to home address which can be monetized. Advertisers want audiences not spaces.
4. Revisit culture. Stop being scared of founders, ceo’s and some ghost of the past. Magazine companies think they are some temple where one has to be believers. No. Hire iconoclasts and challenge the dogma.
5. Partner with technology companies by doing either joint ventures or riding along with them. They have the tools, the talent, the speed that magazine companies do not. On the other hand magazine companies have some complimentary skills such as a different set of talent, ability to promote and scale (old media still can scale very well and its not just network effects that scale)
6. Go to schools in Journalism and Communication and pay them and their students to invent the future with a clean sheet of paper. If they had magazine company assets what would they do in digital media? Not how would they put a magazine online! Don’t bet only on the McKinsey’s and Bains who smart as they are often in this space are of questionable expertise.
7. If you do not change the mindset of the people or the people you will not manage to change….More on change in my previous post.