iPad: Somebody Finally Gets It

February 2nd, 2010 | Posted in General

Image used with apologies to TUAW for the “enhancements”

With all the negative press and the “it’s not that impressive” comments by supposed techie experts I was beginning to think no one was going to grasp some of the potential something like the iPad has for the future of publishing. However yesterday Michael Grothhaus over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog finally put it together with his story “Where’s the iMag Store?”

Printed book publishing is not going anywhere, even though eBooks may become more and more popular. People still love bookshelves and a book is not (usually) a one time consumed media. Readers will put a book they enjoy on their shelf and take it down to reread it later, loan it to friends, etc.

Magazines and newspapers, on the other hand, are disposable media and that is perfect for something like the iPad to be the method of consumption. You subscribe to a newspaper or magazine via the iMag store, or peruse and buy a single issue. Read it at your leisure, and then either delete it or archive it for future referral. One small device has all your newspapers and magazines on it for easy and enjoyable reading.

The form factor of the iPad can’t be compared to using a laptop, which naysayers keep saying they already can use to read online magazines. If you really think it’s as easy, user friendly and convenient to use a trackpad, horizontal-orientated screen and an HTML based web revision of a magazine as it would be to use an iPad, then you just don’t get it. No awkward little pad moving a tiny mouse about, no heavy, clamshell device with a useless keyboard, no waiting for bootup, no unwieldy navigation… I am talking about a universal format for magazines like the ePub format with true multimedia interaction, easy and intuitive touchscreen navigation, and invisible, while-you-are-sleeping push delivery of your morning paper or monthly issue of your favorite magazines waiting for you when pour your breakfast cereal. No need for a constant internet connection. No need to surf about. It’s all there waiting for you, and using the slim touchscreen pad is a joy.

Likely the magazine industry will not be able to convert their same format to digital and make it work. It will have to become a sort of combo webpage/magazine with updates more than monthly and in smaller bites. They will have to conform to the new technology, but the convenience of push delivery and the ease of consumption should hopefully entice people to pay for the content. The price won’t need to be that much, considering the costs of printing, distributing and mailing the publications will be basically zero.

The key to all this is providing a method of delivery and a reading experience that will get consumers to pay SOMETHING for the content they receive. The mindset that the web should be free needs to be changed. It takes professional talent, skills and credentials to produce professional journalism and entertainment, and these creators need to be able to make a living at it. Web based advertising alone won’t do it. People need to pay something to support those doing the creating. The business model needs a reason for them to do so, and the delivery and consumption experience is the ticket.

So, will MAD ever be an eMag? I hope they will give it a try. The addition of simple animations, sound and interactive content delivered to a device like the iPad might be the trick to introducing MAD to a new generation of readers.


  1. Jeff Zugale says:

    Yes. Exactly. “Print” has been around so long that many seem unable to separate the words from the ink and paper.

    Subtract all the costs of physical printing, shipping and distribution, and what’s left? The actual expense of making a publication in that case ends at the point where currently the page layout files are sent off to the printer.

    I wonder, and I have a gut feeling it’s very possible: would MAD be able to actually *increase* the profit margin even if the digital edition was priced at $0.99 a month? I’d pay that without reservation.

  2. cybergoulion says:

    Yes, nothing better than reading your e-comic while listening to web radio… oh shoot…

    • Tom says:

      Another case of expecting a device to do more than it needs to do. Are you unhappy that your coffeemaker won’t also toast your bagel while it makes your morning joe? I suspect the iPad will play anything in your music library in the background while you read a webcomic.

      • cybergoulion says:

        I totaly get your point, I really do. But my comment is about a real complain I have regarding the lack of multitasking on my iphone. I enjoy reading the news while listening to live radio and it is such a trivial little thing that if I were to buy an iPad, I wouldn’t be able to do. A pity for such a powerful device. The real probem with the iPad is that it was so overhyped, that people was waiting for a groundbreaking new, full computer in this great form factor and… well, got the iPad. 🙂

        P.S. I don’t remember if I ever commented before, but I read your blog for quite some time and I realy enjoy it. You have at last one fan in Greece!

        • Tom says:

          Thanks for your comments! The good news is that multitasking is not a hardware based feature but a software based one, and the iPad’s A4 processor can probably handle multitasking well enough that they could eventually add it in the future with a software update.

  3. Rich says:

    Great post, Tom. You reminded me of comedian Louie CK’s skit “Everything’s Amazing, Nobody’s Happy” skit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN0MpBQG3-E

    There needs to be a law on the books where people are legally allowed to smack “spoiled idiots” on the back of the head and “give it a second!” (makes sense if you watch the video).

  4. Jon says:

    But wouldn’t you also want your e-magazine to be available to purchase and viewable on a laptop?

  5. Mugshotz says:

    I’d like to see the print edition of the magazines and newpapers in the iPad format. Pay per magazine/newpaper or buy a subscription. Easy enough.

    Then you can have the interactive part on the web. There is an art to laying out a newspaper and magazine and this would be a great place to showcase this. I can see newpapers being all layed out and then zoom the the article. Where is says (cont.) click on that and then go to other page where the article continues.

    Maybe archived magazines can be purchased or you can buy the whole year for a lower cost. Seems so simple and so brilliant at the same time.

  6. Tamer says:

    I agree, Tom. I think the iPad will be a fantastic platform for eMags. Unfortunately, I think publishers are going to take the wrong road before getting to where they should…

    The direction they seem to be heading is towards each mag having an app of their own. That means every mag is going to have its own style, its own interface, its own navigation, and its own set of features. I understand the branding benefits of going that way, but I think the benefits of having a consolidated application based on a common publishing standard is better for the users and the industry in the long run.

    The comic book industry has made some cool strides on the iPhone, I can’t wait to see how they take advantage of the iPad.

    The iPad has reenergized my iPhone development — just trying to find the time to focus!

  7. Jose says:

    If mad decided to make their magazine available on the iBook store I would subscribe to it in a second.

    What I really want is for the comic industry to go this route as well. Books would be cheaper, and I wouldn’t have to worry about storing in physically.

  8. Mark Engblom says:

    ” The mindset that the web should be free needs to be changed.

    Good luck getting that genie back in the bottle.

    Sure, Apple has done something similar by (somewhat) taming the “Wild West” of illegal music downloading/sharing by introducing the iTunes concept…but I’m not sure there’s going to be a corresponding iTunes solution for the floundering magazine industry. The industry has always had a shaky (at best) presence on the web, with varying degrees of accessability….so to hope that 15 years of this kind of chaos is going to coalesce into a unified business model is pretty optimistic. But if anyone can bring some semblance of order and unification to the scene, it’s Apple.

    I hear you on the need for people to pay content generators for their labor…but after a decade and a half of people getting almost all of the information they want for only a click, that labor has been devalued to the point of no (or almost no) return. Witness the recent decision of Newsday to go completely behind the pay wall:


    Summary: After three months, only 35 people agreed to pay $5 a week for total access to Newsday.

    So, unless all magazines and newspapers everywhere agree to instantly go behind the pay wall at the same time, it’s hard to foresee when the eroding of creativity and intellectual property will slow down, much less reverse itself.

    • Tom says:

      Well, that’s why I said it’s the delivery and the format of the “new” magazines that will be the key. People can see TV shows for free on TV, but they still sell a ton of them on iTunes. Convenience, offline consumption and ultimately the CONTENT combined with a good price will get people to subscribe to iMags. And, yes, newspapers and magazines need to stop being morons and give away their content for nothing on their websites as well.

  9. Jim says:

    Oh, I get it… an iMad for the iPad!

  10. […] on. How do I know this? Comic Book Resources told me so. And Tom Richmond had the right idea about digital tablets. Work them for the strengths they have, not as a replacement for other media channels. Bleeding […]


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