The New York Times finally awakens to the fact that the magazine experience on the iPad is less than it could be. The key culprits: high prices and the inexplicable need to repurchase the app over and over again, instead of offering a subscription option:
“If you look at the Apple store,” said David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, which offers five publications on the iPad, “the most common reason that people give an app a low rating is that it lacks a subscription option. They want to subscribe, and they don’t like the idea of paying $4.99 a month.”
Many applications cost almost as much as a printed copy of a magazine . . . The New Yorker, for example, costs $4.99 an issue in Apple’s App Store but $5.99 on the newsstand. Esquire is also $4.99 an issue, the same as the cover price on the newsstand.
Subscriptions are another sticking point. A vast majority of magazines available on the iPad must be bought per copy. Customers cannot subscribe and have it delivered as they can with other publications available on the iPad like The Economist, The Wall Street Journal or The Daily, the News Corporation’s new iPad-only venture that is to begin within the next few weeks.
The Times also notes that tablets like the iPad offer a potentially huge upside for magazine savvy enough to figure out how to sell people associated content while they’re reading on the iPad. Indeed–with enough ingenuity you can turn each e-copy of your magazine into a storefront.
To which I say: publishers, are you listening? How about a revival of the subscription method of book-buying? How about Archipelago building an app that lets you subscribe to a year of their wonderful books delivered electronically, just like you can now subscribe to a year of the print books. Obviously no one wants ugly, invasive calls-to-sale being stuck within what should be a pristine, unencumbered reading experience, but if magazine publishers are figuring out how to monetize apps, publishers should be looking into it as well.