Why Publishers Don’t Like Apps


3 of 5 stars
What’s this?

From MIT Technology Review, a summary of the publishing industry’s ill-fated dalliance with iPad apps, including first hand experiences.

“And Technology Review? We sold 353 subscriptions through the iPad. We never discovered how to avoid the necessity of designing both landscape and portrait versions of the magazine for the app. We wasted US$124,000 on outsourced software development. We fought amongst ourselves, and people left the company. There was untold expense of spirit. I hated every moment of our experiment with apps, because it tried to impose something closed, old, and printlike on something open, new, and digital.”

If the moment is not here already, then it’s getting very close to the time when we can definitively declare the first generation of iPad magazine apps to be a failure. Full article here.



  1. It’s not really surprising to me that an industry that has little to no expertise in tablets (or the web for that matter), would enter the market and fail so completely. In general I would expect outsourced software development to yield substandard products. But outsourcing development of a product for a new cutting edge device? Is it a surprise to anyone that almost every first gen iPad magazine app is terrible?

  2. @Joe
    an app is only as good as the requirements. can’t blame the developers in this case. they didn’t cause any infighting or departures (all that came about as the requirements were being written).

  3. One need only to look at the most recent issue of National Geographic digital edition (Civil War) to see a complete failure. So much “interactivity” as to be completely unusable. Slow to download, slow to load on each page, features not working and a completely disjointed reading experience. Awful.

  4. Give it some time; Do you know what the first shows on TV were when TV was just invented? Recordings of theatre performances. Similarly magazines are first trying to port their existing models to a new ecosystem. It will take some time for them to truly realize the potential and bring something that actually works great on a tablet.

  5. @Mark
    I don’t mean to blame the developers. Rather that companies that outsource software development are less likely to have experts in-house and thus are less likely to know the medium well enough to make the decisions that lead to first class user experiences in the final product.

  6. I’d be interested in knowing if the reason for this failure is the experience of reading a magazine on a tablet or if readership of magazines overall, print or digital, is falling because of so many other real time media sources that are available to us.

    I guess I’m a bit of a relic, as I’m 25 years old and subscribe to the print editions of both Wired and Fast Company. But those are the only name brand, so to speak, periodicals I read. The rest of my reading comes from blogs: tech, political, personal.

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.