Netly: The Third Screen

Archive for April 2010

Aside from the raising of my three godlike children, I’ve never collaborated on anything that’s made me as proud as the work I’ve done on Time Magazine’s iPad app. So please forgive me when I take umbrage at Jeff Jarvis’s recent remarks, which struck me today like fighting words.

Jarvis, a former Time Inc.-er, can be forgiven for the disgruntled, I-hate-my-ex-wife tone that creeps into his rhetoric, whenever he discusses his former employer. But I don’t forgive him for continuing to kick the fetid corpse of Web 2.0, long after the crowd itself has wandered away. It’s tiresome, dude, and intellectually dishonest given that you’re still stumping for your Google book. You need to get out from behind your CRT a little more and try to connect with the current thinking in new media.

Google is a great business—for Google. We all know that it has made Google an enormous amount of money for itself and its shareholders. And I have no doubt that Google ads and the attendant freeconomy keep bloggers like you in cigs and the occasional bottle of Midnight Train. The notion, however, that ALL media must be free, and linkable, and remixable and open not only doesn’t work for large, news-gathering organizations, it’s turning out that it’s not even what all readers/consumers want. There is no single recipe for success in the media business, professor.

Yes, the Time Magazine app costs $4.99. The rationale: The app offers 100% of the print magazine, plus photo galleries, video and other iPad-only goodies. While the pricing was not my decision, and I opposed it, I was wrong: It turns out to have been a smart move. While I’m not allowed to say how many copies we’ve sold to date, I can tell you it’s sold about 10X what I had predicted to my peers. (Admittedly, I had predicted a small number. Still, I was shocked by how wrong I was.) Advertiser enthusiasm was even more surprising—clearly, they, too, see that the tablet gives them a bigger, richer canvas than the Web. And they need to understand how to use it as much as we do.

This thing is a hit, not only for us, but for every publisher who’s been charging for a decent iPad app.

The fact is, people are willing to pay for content when it’s delivered in the way they want. And when, in a month or so, we’re able to offer subscriptions, I have no doubt that our business will grow and grow and grow as the number of people with iPads and other tablets explodes.

Finally, on the question of how Time’s app is doing versus its peers. (PED’s piece was equally misleading.) Our app was indeed the bestselling and top-grossing magazine app during the week of the iPad’s launch, but we quickly fell off the list in the second week. Why? Because our app was (until today) produced anew weekly. That meant that the counter that measures unit sales reset to zero with the arrival of every new issue. By comparison, monthly mags have only produced one issue, so all four weeks of unit sales are included under one app.

If you took all of our issues and added them together so it would be an apples to apples comparison, I’m sure we’d still be the top selling and top grossing mag app.

Big deal. It’s hardly meaningful at this point.

But directionally, in terms of what readers are telling us and what we’re learning about this new platform, we’re fairly ecstatic. While I was hedging my bets going into this “appgazine” experiment a year ago, I’m not anymore: Tablets will indeed save the day for many publishers as they complete the transition to extremely profitable digital media.



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