Magazines and the iPad

Commentators have been debating whether online news and opinion articles should be put behind pay walls to help the struggling publishing industry, but developments like the introduction of the iPad by Apple will make many of these discussions moot.

With the iPad and other tablets, publishers now have a new option with loads of potential, with the ability to send out electronic versions of their print magazines with colorful ads. Then, by adding interactivity and video, the ads can become more engaging and much more effective. This story from the WSJ offers a glimpse of what’s to come.

Time magazine has signed up Unilever, Toyota Motor, Fidelity Investments and at least three others for marketing agreements priced at about $200,000 apiece for a single ad spot in each of the first eight issues of the magazine’s iPad edition, according to people familiar with the matter.

At Condé Nast Publications, Wired magazine is offering different levels of ad functionality depending on how many pages of ads a marketer buys, according to a person familiar with the matter. Advertisers that agree to buy eight pages of ads in a single issue of Wired magazine will be able to lace video and other extra features through the iPad version, say people familiar with the matter.

Magazines largely are planning downloadable iPad applications that are near-replicas of the stories in the print versions, but they are demonstrating the new-media bells and whistles for advertisers: add-ons like videos, social-networking tools and navigation that take advantage of the large screen, touch technology and Internet connections of the tablet computer.

Time Inc.’s Sport Illustrated has been showing advertisers three video-heavy ad prototypes, including one for a Ford Mustang that includes an arcade-style driving game using the tilt-and-turn capability of the iPad. With a few touches to the screen, readers can pick paint colors and wheel styles for cars they might want to buy.

“Some of the things you can do are just mind blowing,” says Steve Pacheco, FedEx’s director of advertising. “You are taking something that used to be flat on a page and making it interactive and have it jump off the page.”

Magazine publishers see the device as crucial to their future as they scour for new ways to make money, with print advertising still under threat. Digital advertising has been a disappointment for many publishers, but with the iPad they feel they have a technology that best marries the splashy look and size of a full-page print ad with the cool interactive features of a digital ad—and the ability to count how many people saw it.

As I’ve argued before, a pay for delivery model makes much more sense for advertisers when compared to a pay wall. Pay walls can severely hurt a publication’s popularity, as many users will not be interested in paying for content and most bloggers won’t link to a story behind a pay wall. But, I suspect many users will pay for the convenience of being able to download a beautifully laid out magazine on a device like the iPad. They’ll even pay for a black and white version on their Kindle. Imagine having all your favorite magazines loaded up on your device when you board your flight, along with the books you’ve been waiting to read.

These changes are inevitable, and I expect most publishers and large brand advertisers to jump on this trend.

Aaron Baar of Marketing Daily agrees that the iPad will be transformational for the publishing business.

Q: Is the iPad the savior of the publishing industry?

A: We do believe it will be transformational for newspaper and magazine publishers. Whether it will save the business or not is a different story, but we definitely think it will put a new face to the way consumers can actually interact with print content as well as advertising within print content. It kind of gives the industry a breath of fresh air.

The iPad “provokes” customer responses. Naturally, part of that is because the format os relatively new. But the interactive qualities will mean this effect will have considerable staying power.

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