I was recently quoted in the International Federation of the Periodical Press’ Magazine World report regarding iPhone apps. It was just passed through to me so I thought I would mention it for those interested (there are a couple of good articles in there – including the cover story on Syndication). You can read the full magazine in digital page-flip format (the article I contributed to is here), although for those who don’t want the zoom-in-zoom-out-scroll-across experience… I’ve copied my comments below.
The article is on page 10, titled”Nice Little Earner”, and it explores the revenue potential of iPhone applications.
Just building iPhone apps is like making magazine-branded T-shirts – but only in XXXL. It ignores a huge proportion of the market. Browser-based offerings serve more people. However, apps certainly have an advantage with a strong built-in revenue mechanism.
Many magazine publishers are seizing on the iPhone as being the saviour of their falling-circulation-and-advertising-revenue woe, but I am unconvinced that simply replicated print editorialin digital formats will sustain magazine publishing.
Print, web, and mobile serve different needs, and publishers need to research and understand the various functions they perform. Many publishers will be able to run the three in parallel – with the print as an infrequent premium product (although it is clearly going to be phased out by many), the web as the main destination for engagement and mobile for specific use cases (i.e. commuter reading, note-taking, quick data lookup etc).
Understanding the business process and possibilities will become easier – there are so many unknowns at the moment – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that making money will be easier. However, all publishers will benefit when there is a large enough pool of available app inventory (not just display adverts, but CPA (Cost Per Action) methods, retail opportunities etc) to attract the attention and budgets of major brands. Generally, I think making something good enough that some people will pay for it, is a wise move right now. Either that, or lock in revenue upfront by obtaining sponsorship/co-branding from a major advertiser.