Friday, October 21, 2011

Newsstand app launches slow to a trickle as users await the next wave of publications

New app launches into Apple's Newsstand are taking on a familiar pattern: an immediate rush of new apps followed by a trickle of launches before the next wave of apps appears.

Whenever Apple launches a new version of its mobile operating system there is a small rush of apps that get launched immediately, then there is a lull as the rest of the developer community begins creating new apps.

The U.S. "Newsstand" and the French "Kiosque".

But with the launch of iOS 5, Apple had previewed its new OS early enough that many publishers could be ready of launch day. Future Publishing, for instance, had over 50 new magazine apps ready to go. Other publishers were able to simply update their existing apps, adding in Newsstand support which moved their publications from stand alone apps into the shared space that is Newsstand.

As of this morning there are 292 publications available inside the US version of Newsstand (iPad store) – there are a few more in the French version which is called Kiosque. This is only a few more than could be found a few days ago, indicating that the initial rush of apps is over and now we can expect a lull as both publishers and developers decide whether they want their existing publications inside the Apple app.

I would guess that the most exciting publication launches into Newsstand won't be the appearance of more local newspapers, or legacy magazine brands, but the appearance of indy magazines created specifically for Newsstand.

While game developers were immediately excited by the prospect of being able to create third party apps for Apple's platform – which was opened up to the developer community in mid-2008 - the publishing community has been more hesitant.

But journalists, independent publishers and others were immediately drawn to the idea that the launch of the iPad last year could spur the growth of indy magazines and news products. But the big hold up has been affordable digital publishing solutions. While this remains a problem, the situation may soon improve – or at least that is the hope.

Newsstand, as well as other changes implemented by Apple, could also solve the issue facing B2B publishers: how to design tablet editions that remain free for their controlled circulation audiences without offering their magazines free to everyone.

Apple has never addresses the whole issue of controlled circulation – I wouldn't be surprised if no one at the company even understands the concept. But Apple now allows publishers to offer their content free to existing print subscribers, while charging everyone else. This is actually the model that trade publications have employed for years: if you are in the industry you get the magazine free (at the publisher's discretion), but if you do not qualify then you must pay for a subscription (not surprisingly few end up buying a paid subscription).