A Publisher’s Dilemma: To Tablet or Not To Tablet?

August 6, 2013

A discussion of digital editions isn’t complete without considering the potential they hold for the iPad and other tablets. We’ve touched on this in previous posts and while this is certainly an innovation to have on your radar in the context of your digital strategy, current trends indicate that it’s something to consider very carefully before proceeding.

David Hepworth points out some of the challenges that publishers face when translating print ideas to tablet success. Namely, it’s costly and quite involved—and as we’ve said before, to do it right, it can’t be a simple replication of content and design. It must fit the medium. Hepworth questions whether or not investing the resources to do it right has merit, when you begin to wonder why the tablet version isn’t just its own website.

His point isn’t exactly that you shouldn’t try, but more that the tablet publishing market will take time to mature, just as traditional print did. And he also hones in on the idea that tablet editions are a way of getting more value from your print publications.

Perhaps extracting more value from print is the approach to start with. Particularly when you look at how certain publishers are experimenting. We’ve discussed how Future, the UK publisher, is expanding their audience overseas with digital editions, but they’ve also tested the iPad market.  In one case, they launched a digitally native magazine, Tech., and closed it seven months later because it didn’t perform to their expectations. The publication was a spin-off from an online media brand, TechRadar

The publisher summarized Tech.’s primary challenge by saying that a print magazine is its own best advertisement for a digital edition. They were trying to sell something that people had no real conception of. 

What’s the lesson here? As you grow your digital editions in the context of your content marketing strategy, keep your eyes on what is happening with iPad and other tablet versions. There will be many who boldly forge ahead and blaze that trail—and you can learn from their successes and their mistakes. You may, at times, feel compelled to try it for yourself—but by watching and waiting, you will see what makes the most sense for your market. If you do determine that you want to take your publication there, you will know when and how to make the effort pay off.