It's a bold statement to be sure - but can anyone really debate the facts?
We're not talking about social, dynamic magazine Apps like Zite or Flipboard, mind you - we're speaking about those "replica" Apps developed using either a PDF-style App wrapper tool, or in some cases, a much more strenuous (and in many ways less satisfying) Adobe InDesign "Plug-In" Solution. These are the Apps that try SO HARD to retain the look and feel of their print ancestors with the anachronistic odd animation or page flip to apply a little "street cred" to its new, hip status as a Tablet App.
It just ain't working - and the data is now there to prove it. According to the latest statistics from the Alliance for Audited Media, Digital App "replicas" of traditional magazines account for (at best) around 12% of total subscriptions. And that data is heavily skewed by a few monumental outliers like GameStop's gaming magazine and a few tabloids. Removing these key magazines from AAM's numbers, and you're looking at an average well under 7 or 8% of total subscriptions - and in some cases much lower.
And let's not forget - Apple's Newsstand is now almost 3 years old.
To add insult to injury, those publishers using Adobe InDesign Extension Tools to manage their App experiences - such as Adobe's own Digital Publishing Suite, Mag+, or a countless slew of other analogous tools - are finding the ongoing workflow of properly managing a print and digital issue to be extremely costly, resource-intensive, and creatively prohibitive.
You simply can't make Flipboard from an Adobe InDesign file - no matter how hard a publishing team and their software vendor may try.
So where does that leave the countless magazine publishers who are still cranking out InDesign file-led Apps or PDF "wrapped" experiences at a breakneck pace? Unfortunately the chasm is just too great between a digital replica and a fully dynamic, social-led magazine experience. The numbers just aren't adding up - and most crucial to magazine publishers - the advertisers are simply not thrilled by the opportunities and circulation numbers being presented.
While we have been working with magazine publishers to develop a number of highly interactive HTML5-led Ad experiences to help generate higher Ad revenue from advertisers, the challenge has been integrating those Ads into less than thrilling App environments. After all, an Ad really shouldn't (well, really cannot) be the most exciting page in a digital magazine.
For most publishers a fully bespoke Tablet & Smartphone App (based on the content and spirit of their print title) is a bridge too far - both conceptually and economically. And while a fully native, personalised experience (a la Zite or Flipboard) is no doubt the best option, HTML5 magazines can be an enticing second tier choice. With iPad Web usage shooting through the roof, HTML5-powered magazines and tailored tablet Web experiences may well be the new "cheap and cheerful" option for publishers.
If anything, this can help bring much needed parity between the exciting Ads being created for Tablet Magazines - and well...the tablet magazines themselves!
As things stand, publishers simply cannot continue throwing time and money at contractors or constantly expanding the head count of their editorial teams to meet the resource demand (i.e. the resource haemorrhage) of Adobe InDesign-led tablet app solutions. Nor are they really saving anything shipping a PDF off to an App "wrapper" solution provider.
It is time for a new magazine paradigm to emerge - one that embraces the live, dynamic, and social aspects of tablet content consumption. It isn't rocket science - and everyone we speak to (both multi-title publishers and content owners) knows this to be true. Publishers either need to invest in a bespoke App solution that truly allows their audience to consume and participate with their product in new and exciting ways - or they need to think long and hard about the Web experience a tablet user is receiving when visiting their site.
Fully Native or enhanced Web-based HTML5. It's time to DO something. Now.
The "halfway house" duo of InDesign and PDF solutions is simply not working - and that cold fact has been staring us all in the face for far too long.
Tablet Magazines as we know them are dead.
Long live the new Tablet Magazine.