‘iPad magazine content shouldn’t look like scanned printed-magazine pages’

I’ve been binge-reading my way through my (scary) backlog of Instapaper’d articles and RSS feeds. Deciding to read, as it were. More on that concept in the next Galavant Times.

Meanwhile, this quote from a longer digression on advertising-in-stuff-you’ve-already-paid-for (Double-Dipping) by Marco Arment struck me:

 On the iPad, I find that the magazine-like layouts get in the way and make the reading experience more difficult. iPad magazine content shouldn’t look like scanned printed-magazine pages.  

Are incredibly complex and expensive-to-develop iPad apps necessary, or would simpler ones suffice? Are enough customers really demanding the expensive features — especially those with big per-issue costs, like all of the multimedia “extras” — to make them worth their costs, or would most of the readership still pay the same amount for just the text and a few optional photos in a nice, reusable template? That’s how most websites publish their content, and we’re all fine with it. In many ways, such a structure could result in much better apps: adjustable fonts, text selection, highlighting, and many other reader-friendly features become much simpler to implement in such an environment. Higher quality, lower cost.

I subscribe to the New Yorker. And I absolutely loathe the format of their archives – a user-hostile “e-magazine” format that is hard to read, difficult to navigate, and ugly. The New Yorker isn’t the only one to do this – print publications are enamored of the idea of “e-editions” and “e-magazines” that replicate the print format online.

(See also: ‘This approach privileges print and its design conventions, imposing them on new platforms’)

Another trend, as publishers herald the iPad as the saviour of all (old) media (companies): those whizz-bangy ooh-look-a-pigeon apps alluded to above – in which the “extras” distract from the actual reading experience.

But the piece isn’t just about simplifying the reading experience; it’s also about the economics of that complexity, and of print vs digital-only media:

Ads are supposedly necessary to subsidize the publications so they can be sold at an acceptable cost to most readers. But if ads didn’t need to be sold, the staff and operations related to ad sales could be cut, reducing the cost of delivering each issue.

If the publication went digital-only, the entire infrastructure for printing and distribution could be cut, too.

If all readership is on the website and an iPad app, how much of the layout staff is necessary?Web publications don’t need custom layouts for each post…

Emphasis mine:

With a smaller staff, and with most resources allocated to content generation, how much management and support staff could be cut? And would the huge offices in prime Manhattan locations still be necessary?

For a reasoned counter-point to Marco’s argument, see Blast Radius on the cost of reinventing The New Yorker as “a modern, digital-only version”.

Newsstand Is Promising, Yay! But Enough with Issue-Based Publishing – global moxie
The New-World Economy of a Modern Magazine, or, A Single-dip – Blast Radius 





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