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Content marketing: Can the iPad revive dead magazines?

July 15, 2010

Pretty much all we’ve heard since its mega-publicized launch in January is how the iPad is going to revolutionize the publishing industry. For the record, the jury is still out on that statement. Right now, they are deliberating on why a consumer would want to go to the hassle of downloading – and paying for – a magazine app when: 1. Chances are they have already purchased the print version; 2. They can simply go to that publication’s website for a free content experience. At the heart of the discussion is this question: What does the iPad offer to content consumers that a really good, interactive web site cannot?

But I digress. Revolutionizing an entire industry is one thing, reviving individual publications is another altogether. Condé Nast’s Gourmet, a print magazine that the company folded in 2009 due to tumbling ad revenues and slow retail and subscription sales, is being brought back to life on the iPad – an interesting move that many publishers around the world will be watching very, very closely.

The question begging to be asked is how a content experience that didn’t make the cut in its old-fashioned print and paper format should be expected to become a success on the iPad? Is Gourmet going to be rebranded and targeted toward a new tech savvy audience, or are the publishers thinking they can quickly and cheaply repackage and repurpose some of the original or unused print content, throw in a few videos for interactivity and link it to Facebook and Twitter in the hope of creating a social buzz around their new app?

If publishers believe that the iPad is going to be a quick, easy and cheap content solution, they can think again. Developer, designer, coder, production and general management costs on developing a magazine app are going to easily match – if not exceed – paper, printing and distribution costs.

Unless Condé Nast significantly invests in the title and takes the content development seriously, the same old commercial realities of falling advertising dollars and a tumbling circulation will kick in. In all honesty, I don’t think the juice will be worth the squeeze.

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