Monthly Archives: April 2010

Up … Without an iPaddle

After all the media overload this weekend about the iPad, some of you may be wondering how long it’ll be before Stone Business offers its own app to experience our magazine on The Device That Changes The World.

My advice: Do something while you’re waiting. Like, maybe, building a 1:1-scale replica of the Golden Gate Bridge from popsicle sticks.

I’ve learned to refrain from saying never about anything. But, I’m safe in saying it’ll be an awfully long while before you’ll see editions of Stone Business popping in iPad-perfect format.

Before going any farther, I should note that anyone with an iPad is entitled to their happiness. It’s an interesting product that can do a lot for its owners, although I didn’t rush to my nearest Apple outlet to buy one.

Apparently, this ultraslim ‘Net connector is supposed to revolutionize my world, which is magazine publishing. Surely I’d be rushing to totally accommodate its use, and without delay.

Well, no. While I’ve seen a lot in my 23 years online, I don’t find a lot of do-it-now with the iPad as far as a business-to-business (or, as we say in publishing, b2b) magazine like Stone Business. And, since it seems nobody wants to offer a dissident voice, I’ll speak up.

The size of the device roughly approximates the size of a printed page, which gives rise to the notion that the iPad will save print magazines. I see it more as backwards adaptation.

The printed page isn’t just the format of a magazine like Stone Business; it’s a physical constraint dictated by printing-company facilities and weight/size regulations by the world’s postal services. The development of the Web breaks these bonds, giving publishers incredible freedom to design products to better serve readers in a digital environment.

The iPad’s size tends to bring back those dimensional restraints. Sure, we can do all sorts of neat digital things through the iPad, but we can do those already. For print magazines, this isn’t a game-changer; it’s a throwback device.

It’s also not going to be a boon for one of print’s most-profitable and best advertising strategies: the full-page ad. Does anyone honestly think that full-screen iPad ads will get the same attention from readers already adverse to intrusive commercial messages online? Full-page ads also work great in print when paired with a facing page of content, which an iPad is not going to give you in a 1:1 readable scale.

The iPad’s profit potential for a b2b print magazine like Stone Business isn’t negligible; it’s less than zero. Even without those wonderful add-on features like real-time video, transferring the digital files we sent to a printing company to something readable online takes time and, more importantly, money. (Yes, it also costs something to put content on a current Web page, but it’s a completely different product and economic model.)

Advertisers aren’t going to bear this cost – it’s tough enough to sell ads now, without talking about some kind of digital upcharge  fee – so those costs come out of current revenue. Sure, we could charge for accessing those iPad pages, but demand is nowhere near break-even revenue potential, and won’t be for some time. Meanwhile, we eat those conversion costs.

I also think about our readers, most of whom don’t work in an environmentally controlled office or at the tables of local coffeehouses. Fabricators, installers and renovators work in areas often wet, sometimes dirty and often hazardous for electronic devices. There’s a big difference between cleaning fingerprint smudges and a shot of stone slurry off a surface.

Critics will moan that I’m not seeing the big picture. Maybe there’s a bit of truth in that, but I’m also looking at more than two decades of integrating print and digital. Declaring a full marriage with the iPad is a shotgun proposal … and, right now, I see the wrong end of the barrel.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

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