I blogged last week about how excited I am that some of my favorite magazines are now available on the iPad. Last week, I discovered that TIME Magazine has a free iPad app. Turns out, the app is free, but issues are not. Each issue is $4.99. $4.99! When a print subscription is $20 through Amazon!
A recent article in Ad Age Daily tries to explain why we should expect to pay more for online subscriptions on the iPad. According to Ad Age, we should expect to pay $4.99 for an issue of TIME, Popular Science, Maxim, Popular Photography, Sound and Vision, Transworld Skateboarding and Islands because publishers are suffering, there are fewer tablet PC owners, and magazines are still burdened by their huge editorial costs.
But here’s the rub: I purchased an issue of TIME for $4.99 and discovered that the content was the same as my print issue! C’mon, TIME. I pay about $0.50 for a print issue, but you want me to pay $4.99 for the same thing! If you’re going to charge me a whole lot more, I expect a different experience and additional content I can’t get elsewhere.
This reminds me of publishers that put up PDF versions of their print publications and post them to the Web site. It’s easy to do and gets the job done. Problem is, the Web is a different medium from print. Have you ever tried to read a PDF of a print magazine? Try going from page 2 to page 36 on a Web browser. Try reading a two-column page that scrolls up and down past two screens on a monitor. And now companies are putting out software that will take print files and convert them to iPad apps! Once again, ignoring the usability and user experience capabilities of the device and merely re-purposing content. How does this create value?
If publishers hope to create valuable new content on the Web and hope that we readers will be willing to pay a premium for it, they need to give us great content and a user experience that matches the capabilities of the device. On the iPad, give me additional content, HD videos, podcasts, interactive apps that take advantage of the iPad touch technology, and on and on.
So, am I really going to ever pay $4.99 for an issue of a magazine in the future? Realistically? Probably not. But I would be willing to pay for another subscription to the same magazine if I got additional value, and not just the prepackaged stuff we’re getting now.
How about you? What’s your take on publishers putting out content across platforms and devices?