Is This the Future of Publishing?

By Foley, Stephen | The Independent (London, England), February 1, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Is This the Future of Publishing?


Foley, Stephen, The Independent (London, England)


Although iPad sales have beaten all forecasts, the promised media revolution has yet to materialise. By Stephen Foley

A museum might not be the most obvious place to launch a cutting- edge technology project but, then again, Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan is more famous for its sleek design than it is for any of the things available inside - and that is something you might say about Apple's iPad, too.

The media mogul Rupert Murdoch will take to the stage at the Guggenheim tomorrow to launch the first iPad-only newspaper, and if it wasn't for the fact that he has taken indefinite medical leave, Apple boss Steve Jobs would be there, too. The launch of Mr Murdoch's new title, The Daily, is hotly anticipated in the publishing industry as the latest move in his one-man crusade to persuade people to pay for news over the internet. Mr Jobs' keenness to appear alongside him should be a clue about the importance of the launch for Apple, too. Sales of the company's revolutionary tablet computer have soared past even the wildest forecasts, but it has not yet brought about the publishing revolution predicted for it when it went on sale last April. Then, it was hailed as the saviour of magazines and newspapers, after years of giving away their content for free on websites, with only meagre online advertising revenues to show for it. After almost a year, though, the story of newspaper and magazine publishing for the iPad is one of disappointing sales and frustrating dealings with Apple.

The launch of The Daily offers the possibility of a reset and, if it doesn't, then the launch of other tablet computer devices from rival manufacturers will allow publishers to put pressure on Apple from another direction.

When Apple reported its latest quarterly results last week, it said it shipped 7.3 million iPads in the final three months of 2010. Father Christmas was loaded down with iPads during his December delivery rounds, and over 15 million devices have now been sold, more than twice as many as the most bullish Wall Street forecasters had dared predict. PC manufacturers have started warning that tablet sales are eating into sales of traditional computers, and the consulting firm Deloitte predicts 50 million tablet sales this year, the majority of which will be Apple iPads. The launch of the iPad helped push the number of downloads from Apple's App Store - which includes games and other applications, as well as content from publishers for iPods, iPhones and iPads - past 10 billion.

Little wonder that publishers such as Mr Murdoch want in on the action, and many rushed to make available iPad versions of their publications in time for the launch last spring.

Magazine publishers loved the iPad: they could recreate their publications in a format that looked like the physical format, sell the kinds of glossy, full-page ads that appear in the printed copy, and charge users as much as they would for a news-stand copy.

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