Publishers: Being On iPad Is Not Enough

I got an iPod Touch a little while after they came out.  I didn't want to get an iPhone at the time because I still had quite a bit of time left on an existing contract, plus I didn't quite feel like there were enough compelling reasons to be shelling out an extra $30 per month at the time.  Nonetheless, it was a reawakening of sorts for digital content for me.  I really liked RSS feeds and the ability to be able to get a wide variety of sources for what was going on in the world.

RSS was a good first step, but it was augmented so much further when 3rd party applications came out and this concept of reading articles later in a standard format started to blossom.  My reading habits quickly changed from reading one article at a time to instead scan through the articles that seemed most interesting to save them for reading later.  At a good time, I could sit down and gorge myself on a 'curated' newspaper of handpicked articles to read.

Enter the publishing powerhouses a little over a year ago in the iPad space and I think things have taken a step backward.  WIRED was the first real digitally interactive magazine on the device, and while the gimmick was pretty cool, I quickly ran into a lot of road-blocks to really enjoying the magazine.  After the novelty of some of the interactive elements wore off, I really wanted to just sink my mind into the great articles.  But they were trapped in the device.  You can't select text, copy it, share it, or otherwise consume it out-of-app, and that was so limiting.  I stopped buying it after a couple of issues for a couple of reasons, but the inability to read that content the way I wanted to was a serious problem to me.  And every other magazine suffers the same problem.

These content providers think that people are going to flock to their content just because it's on iPad.  I think they're wrong.  Their price structures are not that great, but the ability to time and format shift the content is a big deal.  Bloomberg News comes pretty close, providing a feature called 'clippings' that allow you to bookmark content for later review, but again, we run into the problem of it being trapped in the app.

RSS solves a really big problem: with a wealth of good content out there, it just isn't worth the time to go hunt for it on the disparate sites that are out there.  Being able to aggregate that content is really powerful.  But once the aggregation is done it isn't feasible to consume it all, so we need a mechanism to allow the user to sift through and find all the gems.  There are plenty of sites out there to try and simplify that out there, with places like Digg, Reddit, and Slashdot, but at the end of the day, a person has to make a decision to really dig into it or not.  Once that choice has been made, again, we need a re-aggregation of the content itself.  This is where Read It Later, Instapaper, and Readability play an important part to again, aggregate the gems in a single place to consume them.

But that's something that Condé Nast, News Corporation, or any other of these big content publishing companies really don't get.  There is already a lot of great content out there, both for free and fee, but the content that will get read is the content that is most accessible.  I'm totally willing to pony up the dough for a subscription, but the first requirement is that I need to be able to read it later in Instapaper.  There's just too much good stuff out there for me to have to go through a big circus to consume content in all these disparate locations.  It's antithetical in the digital age.  Publishers:  it's not enough to be on iPad, you have to make the content accessible in the way subscribers choose.  With so many good choices out there, those who provide accessibility will get both my eyeballs and cash.

Posted on May 8
Written by Wayne Hartman