Monday, March 26, 2012

Ziff Davis Inc. releases new iPad edition of PC Magazine; print edition of the magazine shuttered in 2009

If I had made a list of all the magazines still missing from Apple's Newsstand you'd probably would have been surprised to see PC Magazine on that list. After all, when the company went totally digital in 2009 and shutdown its print editions, one might have thought that the management at Ziff Davis would have jumped at the chance to test the tablet platform.
But, of course, this is not the same company it was back in the eighties and early nineties. The company has been bought and sold by private equity firms, declared bankruptcy, and only last month apparently changed hands again – though to be honest, few have been paying nearly as much attention to the company now-a-days.

But the new PC Magazine app is kind of a relaunch of the magazine format for the title. The iPad edition, designed in portrait only, looks and feels like a magazine. In fact, it is maybe a bit too close to the format, the editors seemingly trying hard to replicate the old print look with its natively designed app.

Dan Costa, writing on the title's website, said "I knew our all-digital strategy was the right one, but there were things I was going to miss about working on a print publication. I enjoyed the curation of stories each month, the glossy product shots, and the ability to serve an audience of subscribers as opposed to random—albeit welcome—Web visitors and search engines."

Single editions of the digital magazine will cost readers $3.99, while a monthly subscription will bring down the price to $1.99. An annual subscription is $19.99.

The app is a work in progress, as Costa admits online. One bug I found was that the embedded audio that is supposed to accompany the Kickstarter story appears to be missing as I tapped and tapped the button for the audio but could not get it to work on my new iPad. (If you are able to get the audio to work let me know, it might have been an issue with my iPad.)

According to Costa the "next version rolls out in 30 days."

All-in-all, the tablet edition is fine. But what the digital magazine lacks – because of the demise of the print edition – is full page ads. In fact, the app description brags of a "completely ad-free reading" experience.

As a publisher I see that this is nothing to brag about. Not only is the revenue from ads going to be missing, but also one of the big draws of tech magazines. Yep, believe it or not, readers like ads - at least in certain kinds of magazines. What would Vogue be without the ads (besides out of business)?. The old computer magazines were the same: readers picked them up to see what new gadgets and software products had become available. Of course, once the computer industry matured, less and less interesting new products became available and readers had to settle for pages of virus software ads – yuck.

Well, those days are over, and today many of the tech (and media) journals are the last to make their debuts on the iPad. One can certainly understand why PC Magazine is late to the party, having shutdown its print edition. But the iPad may well see the reemergence of many other shuttered titles – if not by their original owners, but possibly by companies willing to buy the rights to the title and launch a strictly digital version into Apple's Newsstand.