The iPad has a lot to live up to. While its cousin the iPod was expected to, and succeeded in, saving the music industry, the iPad has been handed an equally Herculean task; saving print media. One of the main selling points of the iPad from launch is its supposed ability to combine traditional print media with multimedia content to create a new, compelling experience. While several interesting demos have been shown, or have leaked, no one still quite knows what to expect when April 3rd rolls around.
News began appearing online yesterday about some of the new magazine subscriptions available on the iPad. An article in TUAW outlines some of these new prices. The Wall Street Journal will be available for $17.99 USD/month, Esquire will charge $2.99 USD/issue, and Men’s Health will go for $4.99 USD/month. Some of these subscriptions are less than current print prices, some are more. All are targeted at compelling you to consume your content in the convenience of a central location without leaving your house. All of this is a very enticing prospect indeed.
The real test for all of these models after April 3rd will be rates of adoption. The first hindrance will be the exclusivity of these subscriptions. If you or I currently subscribe to the Wall Street Journal print edition we will not have access to the iPad edition. The reverse is also true. If these companies are serious about saving themselves from the ravages they’ve faced from online news, locking themselves up behind compartmentalized pay walls is not the answer. What they should be doing is offering a total consumption subscription. Do you love the WSJ and currently subscribe to the print edition? Here’s access to the iPad edition as well. Did you buy this month’s magazine? Here’s a code to view it on your iPad. Content providers should be looking at how to extend their content and reach, not retract it.
The second hindrance will be the ability of companies to deliver on the iPad’s promise. It’s all fine and good for Steve Jobs to call the iPad magical and revolutionary but if print media doesn’t take advantage of the device’s capabilities it doesn’t change anything. If the WSJ charges $17.99 USD/month and all it offers is a nicely formatted version of the content on its web site, why would I pay more for something I can get for free? Or for that matter, why would I pay more for something Company A is offering for a price when Company B is giving it away for free? Again, it all comes back to value added content. If, instead of just rehashing freely available content, companies like the Wall Street Journal adds real value and uniqueness to each content stream, the promise of the iPad will be fulfilled. Let’s face it, the iPod saved the music industry not because it was simply the iPod but because the music industry actually grabbed the lifeline Apple threw it. Print media has to show the same willingness.
Are the pricing schemes and structures compelling enough to make you want one for your new iPad? Would you be willing to pay twice to get the iPad edition of a favorite print magazine? Will print media grab the life preserver Apple has thrown it? Let us know in the comments.