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Rolling Stone publisher calls iPad magazine rush 'insanity'

updated 01:40 pm EDT, Tue May 31, 2011

Rolling Stone head Wenner cautious on iPad

Rolling Stone co-creator Jann Wenner in a discussion late Monday dismissed the idea of tablet magazines in the near term. The Wenner Media founder didn't rule out a digital transition but called the influx of tablet magazines, mostly on the iPad, "sheer insanity" driven by a reflexive action. Companies had to be ready to switch over, but they were confusing a short-term drop with a need to act immediately, he told AdAge.

"Because it coincided with the ad recession, they conflated the two events [the recession and the iPad] until they themselves believed that magazines are dead," Wenner said. "Up until that point they'd been rushing out to sell the iPad, a nonexistent business, and saying we admit it, we're dead. So hopefully that is all turning around. People have dialed back considerably."

He hadn't talked directly to Apple, but he saw the iOS device maker using deals with less influential major publishers and then opting to "use that as a lever" to convince larger or more resistant publishers to come onboard. Conde Nast and Hearst are both major publishers and have already moved several magazines over. Their full strategies weren't revealed because of the secrecy, which indicated they might be "embarassed to disclose" what they agreed to, the executive said.

Wenner was aware of the dangers of resisting a digital shift and said the music industry had "screwed itself" by actively fighting digital and not coming up with its own alternative rather than waiting for Apple to step in. In spite of the similarities, he insisted print was different and wasn't as "easily reducible." Very photo-focused content built for long reading was still likely to survive as print, although it had to represent genuine quality to stand out.

The company is still available on the iPad but only indirectly, through Zinio's magazine aggregator and through the articles that reach the website.

Tablet magazines are still young and have so far sold poorly, though much of the slow adoption rate has been blamed on the earlier subscription-free pricing, which cost $5 per issue. New iPad readers pay $2 per issue or $20 per year and can now get the digital version for free if they subscribe to the print edition. Data for iTunes subscriptions has yet to come out but is expected to be significantly higher, if still far lower than current print levels.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. nat

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 2002

    +7

    Uh

    It takes vision and the music industry had no vision so someone had to show them. To suggest that the music biz could have done something gives them far more credit for intelligence then they have.

  1. kerryb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +7

    Time will tell

    which publishers made the right choice by embracing digital magazines but my prediction is nobody is going to get that genie back in the bottle. I think medieval monks had the same reaction to the printing press.

  1. charlituna

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2009

    +8

    Wasted opportunity

    He says that tablet magazines are there yet. So why not step up and show the world what a real tablet magazine can be. Rolling Stone has the resources to produce a magazine with the visuals and the audio to (pardon the pun) rock folks socks off. Someone just needs to have the brains and the balls to go for it

  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999

    0

    He doth protest too much

    It is likely, given the extent to which Rolling Stone depends upon the music industry as its raison d'etre, that they would find it hard to produce a multimedia iPad experience without falling foul of or having to confront licensing issues with the music industry. Unless they planned on producing a multimedia music industry digital magazine with uh...no music?

    Comment buried. Show
  1. wrenchy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Nov 2009

    -19

    Slow adoption rate?


    iPad users too cheap to pay for digital subscriptions??








    Drrroid!

    - Sent from my Android Device.

  1. nat

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 2002

    +6

    Yeah wrenchy

    Only ipad users are cheap. And it was only ipod users that steal music too.
    Don't you tire of being stupid?

  1. The Vicar

    Junior Member

    Joined: Jul 2009

    +1

    Maybe, maybe not.

    The evidence so far strongly suggests that table magazines aren't working. That could possibly be the model -- but if so, unlike what was the case with music, Apple is part of the problem, not the solution.

    iTunes and the iPod made it really easy to buy, rip, organize, and listen to music. Apple apparently fought hard to get a reasonable price point and uniform pricing, because that made the service attractive to users. Result? Apple suddenly because hugely powerful in the music industry, and their program and devices are so popular that Windows users can't stop complaining about them.

    When it comes to the magazines, though, the only story I've seen about them other than statistics about iAd (and notices that they aren't selling) was the one to the effect that Apple was refusing to let publishers give their print subscribers free subscriptions to the digital versions, even if the publishers were willing to give Apple money. In other words, Apple doesn't want to make the whole thing easy, and they are putting their control above ease of use. Until Apple starts trying to make digital magazines easy for the user (as well as for the publisher; they've been trying on that front) it doesn't really matter what they do.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    0

    usual garbage

    We hear how great Apple is for not rushing into a market, but planning and prepping and making sure when they do enter it, they are doing it right. Apple didn't just jump in with a phone because everyone said "Apple needs a phone". They waited until they had something worth bringing to market.

    Now we hear a publisher basically taking the same stance, and we're hearing how the best solution is to jump in head first, because it's all about who shows up first.

  1. zl9600

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Oct 2003

    0

    Talk about "usual garbage"

    So, Testudo, developing/launching a device that might represent several hundred billion dollars if not more over a decade or so vs. publishing your content to said device... Same thing, huh?

    Seems like you're actually the one adding to the garbage here. I hear Asus is hiring.

  1. jwdsail

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2000

    +2

    Wanna see my picture on the cover..

    Wanna see my picture on the cover..
    wanna buy 5 copies for my mother (YEAH!)
    wanna see my smilin face
    on the cover of the Rollin Stone!

    ...

    Ok, I'll give up the physical cover, the 5 copies, etc... but can I still have Cocaine Katie? What? She sounds like fun ;-)

    ...

    And, if Apple would update QTVR+Sprites, I think we'd see much richer content, that could actually be more easily created by mere mortals.. And, much like Desktop Publishing on the early Macs, tablet magazines may need to be a grass-roots development until the market shakes out what people are willing to put down real cash for.

    And yes, I'm going to keep beating my QTVR dead horse until the club is pried from my cold dead hands tyvm.

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