Are Magazine Apps Dead?

Are Magazine Apps Dead? Are iPad apps dead, or do they still have a bright future? This debate has been raging among app creators for some time, especially in the magazine-making world. Robert Newman has gathered some top app mavens for an online roundtable discussion of the current state of the art: Mario Garcia (Garcia Media), David Jacobs (29th Street Publishing), Josh Klenert (former CD of the Huffington magazine app), Jeremy Leslie (magCulture), and Joe Zeff (Joe Zeff Design). They've collected lots of smart thoughts on the Newmanology blog about the viability of apps, the impact and quality of Adobe DPS, why readers have failed to embrace digital magazines, and whether there's a future for art directors in creating them.

This is essential reading for anyone currently working in app creation and design or who is interested in the future of magazine publishing. On the follow page we've got some good excerpts from the app roundtable, and you can read the entire article here.

On the current state of magazine apps:

Josh Klenert: I would not say the app is dead, but it might have a bullet wound to the leg. It's probably not been the silver bullet that the magazine industry hoped for 3+ years ago. There is certainly some great work being done in the space, but the scale and audience is just not there and that has a lot to do with replicating the production cycle of a print magazine. A digital product that only updates once a month is a relic. A lot of what was done in wave 1 of app magazines ignored the lessons of web over the last 20+ years. I am incredibly optimistic about magazine-like storytelling on digital devices, but binding them to print production cycles in monolithic downloads must evolve. I think that's why we're starting to see lots of robust feature-length stories told directly on the web in responsive web packaging.


On why readers have failed to embrace magazine apps:

David Jacobs: A lot of the thinking about how audiences work on the internet is flawed. For years, the thinking was "all audiences are moving online." So what happened? Web sites rebuilt themselves to be better clients for Google, and then again to be better clients for Facebook and Twitter, and now we are seeing the beginnings of that happening again--for folks to be more like Buzzfeed and Upworthy...But overall, the way audiences behave online (and on mobile) is much less predictable than anyone thought it would be. Successful products focus on accessibility, experience and flexibility. Traditionally, mobile magazines have fallen down on all three of those. By the way, print magazines, especially this most recent generation of independent magazines, completely understand this and take advantage of it. Start-up publishers are taking advantage of social networks to find their ideal audience and then sending them beautiful print products. And it's a great experience flipped around, too--as a reader and a fan of magazines, the joy of searching for (and finding) a new print magazine is not something the average tablet experience can touch.


How will the magazine app publishing scene be different a year from now?

Joe Zeff: The next generation of digital publications shifts control from the publisher to the consumer, allowing the consumer to determine what content they want and how and when they want to consume it. It's time to rip the covers off of traditional magazines and deliver a la carte publications with a la carte advertising. Apps for phones and tablets can more readily access personal information than browsers, and that makes them a worthwhile platform for innovation. Personalized magazines combine content from all over through plug-and-play APIs -- magazines, television, social feeds, Nest thermostats, Fitbit trackers, and bank statements. They are always in the right place at the right time, helping me to work, shop, decide and play. Done right, they become inextricable.

Whether that happens one or five years from now remains to be seen. But we need to keep moving in that direction in order to get there. We can't and shouldn't stop now.


Read the complete Are Apps Dead? A State of the Art Roundtable

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