Are iPad-only publications the new black?
If not quite the Year of the Tablet, at year's end 2010 might yet turn out to be the year of tablet-only publication. Then again, timing is everything. In the next few weeks, as the holiday season advances, many more people will be buying and ultimately unwrapping iPads of their very own. Apple, red hot, has been trading close to its 52-week high since Black Friday. Gartner predicts that Apple iPads could displace about 10 percent of PCs -- even as global PC shipments increase -- by 2014. Also, according to the Gadgetology survey by Retrevo, Apple's iPad and other tablets were the most popular items on the minds of electronics consumers for the holidays. So what does that mean for publishers?
The blog for Richard Branson's Project Magazine, a digital magazine built for the iPad focusing on entertainment, culture, business and design, launched Monday afternoon while the app itself launches at the iTunes store on Tuesday for $2.99. The digital "cover" of Branson's Project features Jeff Bridges, of the cult Tron remake -- way to grab the techie crowd. Content downloaded via the Project reader app will be updated during the month.
Are app-only magazines and newspaper the new black? The plan is ultimately for the Project app to migrate to the iPhone as well as Android. Nimble, unfettered by polybagging and binding methods, a tablet-only periodical has a low cost-to-market (no endless series of renewal letters). The news of Branson's Project comes on the heels of Rupert Murdoch's tablet-only mass market digital newspaper, The Daily, scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2011 for $0.99 a week.
Moreover, former Newsweek publisher and AOL board member Mark Edmiston's Nomad publications for mobile devices is launching a few new apps this week. The first 30 days will be free. According to Poynter's Rick Edmonds, the pricing strategy is that readers will be asked to pay $6 per 90 days or a 12-month subscription of $24. These narrowly focused, well thought out titles -- Wave Lines, on recreational surfing; Real Eats, on sustainable food; Wide Screen, on film -- are Nomad's first releases (with a dozen more in development for 2011). And editors and contributors will be asked to promote their own work and their "brands" through social media (the new circulation building?).
Rather than the glossy paper of yesteryear, tablets (and smartphones) are increasingly becoming the digital publisher's fundament. But it particularly is The Daily's pricing, its lean staff and, quite frankly, Rupert Murdoch's tacit backing that have all led to more than a little "Is-This-The-Future-of-Journalism" talk. To the degree that these tablet-only and mobile enabled publications can alight the conversation in social media like Facebook and Twitter, they will generate their own marketing.
Welcome to the lean, mean 21st century.