NYT: For New Yorker on iPad, Words Are the Thing


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The New York Times reports that of all of Condé Nast’s many splashy iPad magazine apps the relatively boring New Yorker is its most successful. It now boasts about 100,000 readers, 20,000 of whom bought annual subscriptions.

“…The figures are the highest of any iPad edition sold by Condé Nast, which also publishes Wired, GQ, Vanity Fair, Glamour and others on the Apple tablet… The New Yorker, a magazine that has always been heavy on text, took a different tack from its peers. Instead of loading its iPad app with interactive features, the magazine focused on presenting its articles in a clean, readable format.”

This is part of the strategy that I’ve been advocating for in my various critiques of Condé’s approach to the iPad. In short, the best way to serve a reading audience is to focus on providing a terrific reading experience and to de-emphasize the showy, buggy and difficult-to-use extras that have become synonymous with the ‘iPad magazine app’ format. And in fact, I’m a regular user of The New Yorker app, especially while traveling, because it gives me reasonably unfettered access to the only thing I’m seriously interested in: the text.

None of which is to say, though, that The New Yorker app is anywhere close to perfect. First, it could use a code refresh as it crashes so frequently as to be unusable; in my recent experience all it takes to induce it to unexpectedly quit is to launch it and let it alone for five to ten seconds.

Second, selling 20,000 paid subscriptions is fantastic, but according to the Times as many as 75,000 of the app’s customers are, like myself, originally subscribers to the print edition. So in fact the majority of customers do not represent an expansion of the market at all. None of these numbers are to be sneezed at, of course, and even transitioning a print subscriber to the digital edition can be counted as a kind of win. But it strikes me that the whole lot of customers would be better served with an HTML5-powered app, rather than the current native app. That way, it would be significantly cheaper to service those 100,000 users and significantly easier to keep it from crashing so much.

Read the full Times article here.

  1. I’m incredibley intrigued by your idea of an html5 app, especially as you’ve been outspoken about a “back to the browser” movement for digital content. Do you see the apps as just an extension of the core experience, starting foremost on the web? Or, similarly, the app just being a portal back to the web, with one concentrated web app that plays across all devices and OS’s?

  2. Chris: the Financial Times is already doing something like what I’m talking about. They’ve packaged their content as an HTML5-powered app; it’s still downloadable to your iPad’s home screen. If you navigate to FT.com with Safari on iPad, the site will let you give it a try.

  3. I’m surprised to discover that I’m reading long New Yorker articles on my iPad rather than in the more convenient and easier to carry and hold magazine.

    Why has it worked out that way? I download the latest issue of the New Yorker one to two days before our paper magazine arrives in the mail. There’s always at least one major article I can’t wait to read.

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