3 ways iPad publications can provide a better consumer experience

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Last week's New York Times story on the race between print and iPad magazine editions comes to the brutal conclusion that digital magazines are "currently too big and bulky and almost defeat one of their main intended purposes, the promise of instant access to content and information." Ouch.

This news comes close to the recent, pre-holiday Audit Bureau of Circulations figures showing the significant drop in iPad magazine sales.Further, skepticism surrounding whether paying for magazine apps individually actually works arrives as publishers and Apple are still at a stalemate over the issue of subscriptions.

There is an obvious advantage to a magazine iPad edition: as a delivery vehicle they have better production, amazing graphics and offer a richer, more engaging experience. Puzzles -- crossword, Soduku -- can demonstrably pop if executed well in this format. There is also an obvious disadvantage: download times are often at an Arctic pace, an issue which is not a problem in print.

Here are three ways that iPad publications can provide a better consumer experience:

Less is more

Consultant Erin Kissane tweeted on Friday, "You are fiddling with bloated iPad apps while our publishing and editorial heritage burns." There is something in that digital cri du coeur.

Obviously, iPad digital publications need to differentiate themselves from their print editions. Doing so, however, doesn't necessarily mean throwing in everything including the kitchen sink. Sometimes less is more. There is, quite frankly, such a thing as an overly interactive iPad digital edition, an overwhelming experience. Too many interactive features actually increase download time, which brings us to ...

Smaller files

Nick Bilton of the Times makes central to his argument the case against file size of the more video and graphics heavy iPad publications. This is probably the biggest rap against iPad magazine editions. Wired's iPad app, which began at more than 500M bytes -- and has since halved in file size -- was and is almost absurd.

Lower pricing

This pricing model needs to evolve quicker. Why is it that iPad magazine editions are so expensive when they don't have the production costs brought about by having a legacy media physical distribution network?

Minus distribution, shipping and printing why am I -- or anyone -- paying about $4 per digital maagzine and dealing with those download times? Further, this is not a particularly opportune historical moment in our economic history to gouge the reader. Some magazine iPad magazine publications manage to turn in a great ad supported experience for free.

Be minimalist

Granted, the iPad periodicals space is in a nascent stage. That having been said, all three suggestions offered here on how to provide a better consumer experience involve some degree of  minimalism -- less, cheaper, smaller. Publishers, in many ways, overdid it immediately out of the gate. Time to scale things back a bit.

It is not inconceivable that the recent declines in iPad magazine sales figures may ultimately make the argument for a more streamlined approach to iPad editions.

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