Netly: The Third Screen

I want to read the New Yorker on my iPhone. Does this mean I can?

Posted on: October 20, 2009

iphoneSmart move by Conde Nast today: The magazine publisher of Wired, Vogue, the New Yorker and others announced it would start porting over entire magazines—not vertical slices or website apps, like other publishers have done thus far—to the iPhone. First up is the men’s mag, GQ, which Conde says will be ready to go in December, for $2.99 an issue—$2 less than the newsstand price. Nat Ives has the scoop in Ad Age, and Peter Kafka has a good take at AllThingsD.

Conde is doing a number of things right here.

1. It called bullshit on the notion that appgazines should enjoy the same crap CPMs as websites. I’ve been saying this all along, because if you stop and think about it, you’ll see that these new products ought to represent the best of both the print and online worlds. If someone subscribes to a digital magazine, and reads it—and it’s delivered on a lovely color tablet—the full-page ads ought to generate the same CPM as print. Indeed, Conde figured out that these new mags should be even more valuable since these new ad formats will also provide engagement metrics (pageview/clickthru and so on) to the whole dilly. So Conde is valuing this media as print CPM PLS online CPM.
2. It’s creating its own platform for making digital magaziness. I’m assuming reusable templates for magazine pages and something that will help advertisers hack together their own ad pages. But who knows? The point is, if this works, they have a model in place that will, one assumes, scale and encompass all its titles, and advertisers.
3. It’s preparing for the new Apple Jesus Tablet. If you think this is just about the iPhone, you haven’t been paying attention. This is aimed at Whatever It Is that Apple is rumored to be announcing in Q1. That said, I am haunted by a conversation I had a few months ago with a very senior guy at Apple. “If I thought the iPhone was all you guys were coming out with in this space, I wouldn’t be so interested,” I said. Senior Guy replied: “Then you’d be making an enormous mistake.” I read this to mean, build for the iPhone and your product will be even better on whatever Apple comes out with next. Which is what Conde is doing.

I have a few questions, though. For starters, I can’t wait to see the product since I know that simply porting over, say, the PDFs of your pages ain’t going to cut it. Unless you’re able to perform some serious mojo—extracting the text and reflowing images and so on to make everything more readable on the tiny screen—PDFs don’t work. I’d also like to learn about how much extra production will go into each issue—Conde just fired a bunch of folks. How many will it need to hire back to retrofit GQ for the small screen?

Does this mean that Conde won’t be in the much-discussed, yet-to-be-seen magazine coalition that Time Inc. is said to be organizing? Not necessarily, I guess. There’s no reason why you can’t pursue both at the same time. And clearly, Apple taking 30 percent is so much better than the alternative: Roughly 50% of the cost of making a magazine is related to printing it and distributing it. So if you could immediately convert your rate base to Apple users, and let Apple handle the transaction, you’d be rolling in clover…

And finally, if my old pal Chris Anderson, editor of Wired is out there… I’d love to hear what you think about all this. I’m wondering if the fact that Wired isn’t the guinea pig an indication of where you stand on the question of separate digital magazines… I believe you’re an unreconstructed Googleite, after all, and may believe that the best iteration of Wired on a third-screen device is, open and browser based rather than delivered by subscription. Also Chris: Links or no links?

1 Response to "I want to read the New Yorker on my iPhone. Does this mean I can?"

Hi Josh,

It’s a good point as to whether or not people want to zoom around and view PDF-like pages on an iPhone. I’ve always used the analogy that it’s somewhat like cutting a 3.5 inch hole in a piece of paper and asking someone to read a magazine through the hole.

In our soon to be released iPhone version, some of our publishers will have the option to let readers choose the text-based version or navigate the image-based version. It’s the first time readers have been able to choose and we’ll be curious to see what they prefer.

You can view a beta of it on an iPhone or iPod Touch here: http://bit.ly/3cofCg

Thanks,

Marcus
Nxtbook Media

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