Are iPad magazines too expensive and too niche? Depends who you are asking..

Saying that David Hepworth is a man with a bit of a track record in publishing is a bit like calling Einstein something of an egghead. He played a major role in re-inventing publishing in the 80s and 90s and today is behind an excellent niche magazine company. So when he talks the industry listens. And today he has been mulling over iPad magazines.…

We have now reached a fascinating point in the genesis of iPad mags. The innovators who have swallowed the ‘this is the future of magazines’ mantra wholesale (like Conde Naste) are already out the blocks. And now companies with print titles in the tech space, like Future Publishing and Haymarket, are readying their iPad versions of existing titles.

So with Apple expected to have sold five mllion iPads by the end of the year and Android tablets likely to be one of the big tech stories of 2011 publishers can smell a critical mass.

The big question, and one that is perplexing David Hepworth, is do you invest in an iPad mag now or wait and see what happens. Or as he puts it

If you listen to the futurists you have no choice. If you’re adventurous you go for one of those all bells and whistles remakes such as Wired.

he then adds

Problem is things like this are insanely expensive to produce, aimed at a user base which is a fraction of the magazine’s universe and by the time it’s proven (or not) as a medium the publishers will be thousands of pounds in the hole. The only people guaranteed to make money are the developers. The only people to make money out of the Gold Rush were the people who sold the shovels. It’s an old joke but it still holds good.

He may be looking at a different set of figures to me but I am not sure that iPad mags are insanely expensive to produce any more. Surely if you have the content in the mag, you only need to add a little video and few clever graphics (which shouldn’t break anyone’s bank) pay the developer and then you are off.

The price of producing iPad mags is falling so quickly that very soon a whole slew of indie publishers will have iPad mags ready to roll and once again the mainstream publishers will have missed the boat.

The nightmare scenario for publishers with big media brands is if a new wave of indie publishers emerges who offer their iPad magazines for free. Dennis Publishing already offers its iGizmo iPad magazine for nothing (and it has been very successful), which makes it less likely that mainstream publishers will be able to charge £4-5 for users to download them.

We are almost a tipping point too. Glam Media, which monetises blogs, already have a division for monetising iPad magazine content. They may even offer a complete service and repurpose the most popular blogs as magazines. Glam gets a load more ad inventory which they can then sell as a network offering brands huge reach on the format. It will not only work but will also mean that the rates that existing publishers are charging for their iPad mags will be squeezed too.

Indie publishers have another big advantage too. They don’t have the massive overheads (or shareholder expectations) of mainstream publishers. They will be able to produce this content cheaply.

Hepworth also points out

I don’t feel in my water that people will inevitably use their iPads to read complete magazines on. At the moment they’re using magazines to try out their iPads with, which is not the same thing at all.

I do think he has a point and that there is a novelty value at the moment which is obviously spurring the early adopters on, but that hasn’t stopped huge sales of books on the iPad and the Kindle. I don’t think people will be paying for iPad magazines in two years time, so like the web ad revenue will become crucial. That means magazine publishers have a shortish window of time to establish themselves as iPad magazine brands.

If I were David Hepworth, looking at rising paper costs, dwindling print sales and websites that are tricky to monetise, I’d be all over the iPad.

Why media brands have gone crazy for blogging platform Tumblr


There’s an interesting feature at Mashable which lists about 30 or so media brands that now have blogs on the platform of the moment – Tumblr. They range from serious stuff like Newsweek through to more edgy blogs from the likes of Vice and Buzzfeed. There’s also a few Brits namely Future Mags’ Total Film and The Economist.

Anyhow today we sat in the Sutro Digital office and tried to work out why media brands are all over Tumblr. It is especially curious as 1 The blogs aren’t monetised in any way and 2 They generally aren’t stuffed with links to the media brand’s mothership.

So why the proliferation of Tumblr media blogs?

1 Tumblr is oh so hip. Blogging platforms haven’t been cool for a while, Tumblr has attracted a young, creative and quite probably very influential audience.

2 Tumblr gives media brands a chance to engage with their fans on more neutral territory – There’s a real community in Tumblr, more so than its rival of sorts Posterous. Tumblr users have welcomed media brands’ recognition of their space on the web and have been forthcoming in reading the blogs and engaging with the owners.

3 The Tumblr blogs take readers behind the scenes – The blogs show images of news rooms, content that didn’t make the main mag/website, informal videos of staff. If you are a media junkie this stuff is compelling.

4 The blogs are image and video lead – Last week Nick Denton was talking about how he feels that video and images are the future of blogging, perhaps more than words. Tumblr blogs look great as they tend to be designed to make the most of striking images. Media companies create a lot of images and Tumblr is the perfect place for them.

Personally I am not entirely sure how long the trend will last. Tumblr is not the new Twitter, and besides there is a strong argument for media companies placing that ancillary content on a site where millions could see it – Facebook. It is however clearly a trend to keep an eye on.

Incidentally I searched in vain for brands doing anything interesting on Tumblr. Which is odd because the Sutro team has got some great ideas for branded Tumblr blogs. If you are a brand who want to experiment with Sutro Digital in this space give me a shout. Check out the Sutro site

The best iPad app just got a lot better


Nope, not Flipboard or even FlickFootball, my fave iPad app is the RSS reader Pulse which is ever so pretty (thanks to its clever use of thumbnails), is very easy to use and even enables you to create your own Posterous blog of your top stories

The main drawback was that you could only have a limited number of sources. Now that number has rocketed to 60 which is enough for me If you have an iPad it is well worth paying £1.99 to own it.