Don’t stop the presses: Why the iPad won’t save magazines

At the Toronto iP3 Forum, Transcontinental's digi VP Dominique-Sébastien Forest explains why he's taking a wait-and-see approach to developing iPad-specific apps for Transcon's magazines.

Statistics that analyze the consumption behaviour of early iPad users shows that it is a utility-driven and not a news-based medium, said Dominique-Sébastien Forest, VP new media and digital solutions group, Transcontinental Media.

Speaking from the iP3 Forum in Toronto on Monday, Forest explained that more than 3 million units of Apple’s iPad have been sold in the past two months, and the user base skews male, aged 35-plus. About 44% of iPad users are gamers, 14% use the gadget for entertainment and 7% social networking, said Forest, quoting Flurry statistics.

It is in part for these reasons that Forest, a self-described early adopter of technologies, will not build applications specifically for the iPad – despite tons of interest from advertisers, he said.

‘I’m all about getting in early, but I’m not going to enter it too fast,’ said Forest on developing iPad apps for Transcon titles, which number 40 magazines and over 120 websites, some of which are publication-based such as, and others that are web-only, for instance

Instead, he explaind, Transcontinental magazines will continue to use new technologies to complement magazine content, such as mobile recipe and meal-planning apps, or an app that sends up-to-date hockey scores to mobile phones.

Since a magazine is normally consumed once a month by a reader and the iPad is something they interact with multiple times per day, the question publishers need to ask themselves is: ‘Am I trying to force usage that doesn’t exist?’ Forest said. ‘Do I need an app, or do I just have to convince people to come to my website?’

However, major US magazines have invested heavily in creating iPad versions of their books. The GQ iPad application cost about $75,000 to develop ($2.99 to purchase for users) and has had about 1,000 downloads, said Forest. Wired magazine has been the most successful, boasting 80,000 downloads of their iPad app in a week – nearly surpassing weekly newsstand sales (85,000). But Wired’s PR campaign cost $15 million to promote the app, retorted Forest.

While he’s not saying publishers should not build for the iPad, he does believe publishers should question investing in creating editorial content for a medium that’s currently being used mainly for gaming (the most popular application is Scrabble, and in another stroke of Apple’s genius cross-promotion, an iPhone can be used as a letter-holder during games). Especially since a decent app costs between $50,000 to $75,000 to build, he said.

‘If you’re a publishing shop, you need to stop thinking ‘how do I extend the medium?’ and instead think ‘how to I embrace the medium?” Forest said.

The iP3 Forum was a one-day summit examining everything ‘i’: iPad, iTouch and iPhone. Forest’s presentation, ‘Why The iPad is Not the Future of Magazines,’ closed the business stream of the conference, which featured a technical side as well.