"There is no way around this fact: the first batch of magazines adapted to the iPad failed to deliver", says Frédéric Filloux on Monday Note, citing the figures of two important American magazines, Wired and Vanity Fair, which show a downturn in circulation. Not only did they lose circulation, but their iPad versions don't reach more than a small percentage of print copy circulation -- 3% for Wired and 1% for Vanity Fair.
Citing a Women's Wear Daily article, which uses Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, the article underlines that several high profile magazines show the same pattern: iPad downloads are in sharp decline everywhere.
Filloux picks out four main causes of this decline.
First the magazine on paper was compelling. "With the product available at the right combination of time, price and location at nearby kiosks, having it on my iPad suddenly lost its appeal", he said.
Secondly, in Filloux's opinion, the supposed convenience of back issues stored on the device is oversold. "Due to the rigid browsing experience on a tablet, very few will be tempted to leaf through back issues stored on their device".
Third, the time for downloading the issues is too long. And fourth, "asking the consumer to pay the same price for an electronic product with a debatable advantage is a bad idea".
Filloux argues that the current experiences still produce some helpful lessons.
1. "Don't try and replicate old concepts": the iPad content must be produced in an adapted way to the new medium.
2. "Make up your mind": news content for nomad devices should come in two flavours, one dedicated to tablets, and another lighter version for the mobile phone's small screen, which relies on low-speed cellular networks.
3. "Encapsulate the web": with the web, we take for granted things such as multi-layer reading, search and recommendation engines. Unless tablet publishers find a way to offer unique e-magazine-like experience, these features will be missed.
4. "Price wisely": don't expect a wide adoption for the e-version of a magazine priced at the same level as the paper version.
A first good answer, at least to one of the problems raised, could be the app Flipboard, which was named Apple's iPad app of the year. With Flipboard, readers who find articles shared on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Google Reader can display them in an easier to read and more beautiful magazine layout.
"The beauty of the print, the power of the Web", as they say.