Will Digital Magazines Die or Deliver on Apple’s iPad?

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Too Much of a Good Thing?

“Just because we now can include motion doesn’t mean that we should always include motion. It is important that it works with the bigger story.”

For all the flashy demos and gushing prose about the digital magazine ushering a new age of pulpless print, the skeptical consumer can’t help but wonder whether all the commotion is really technology for the sake of technology. Are publishers adopting this tech solely because they can – and because everyone from Conde’ Nast to Steve Jobs can make a buck pushing it?

No, according to Henry. The digital magazine will flourish because it provides an experience nothing else provides. “It becomes a much more rich experience than static print, where it’s: here’s an article, here’s a picture,” he says. “It also becomes a much more dynamic experience than what you would be able to get from a Web site.”

Even so, he admits there are limits to where motion makes sense. “It has to be content that serves the story, or serves the bigger picture. That’s really, in print, what a good photograph does. It serves the content, it doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, it works within the whole experience. In the same way, just because we now can include motion doesn’t mean that we should always include motion. It is important that it works with the bigger story.”

will digital magazines die or deliver on apples ipad viv magThe Cost of Excess

Besides general frivolity, a number of other factors could also prevent motion from overtaking every digital magazine you read. Perhaps the most pressing: Who’s going to pay for it all?

As Henry’s own behind-the-scenes videos show, the Sex Fears feature for was far more than a simple photo shoot. Although he wouldn’t pin a specific price on the production, Henry concedes it was more like a “small commercial” in both time and money spent. And a single all-digital issue of VIVmag goes for $6.

As cash-strapped magazines sink under the waves nearly every day and article factories string writers along for $15 a story, that may not be a budget that flies far in 2010. Unless advertisers line up to subsidize motion advertising with more money – and perhaps more intrusive ads – motion ads could be relegated to mere novelty with other technologies too expensive to justify their own existence, like holographic magazine covers.

A Hazy Future

The list of potential challenges for the digital magazine goes on and on. Will users continue to pay for a prettied up version of digital content they’re used to getting for free? Will they accept a monthly format for something they could get daily – or hourly? Will they pay $500 for the hardware to do it?

Ultimately, all the answers lie with Apple’s iPad. Although a slew of imitators have already stated their intentions to join the market, Apple’s swing at the market will unquestionably swing with more force than any other. If Apple cannot make the digital magazine take wings, it wasn’t meant to fly.

We’ll start to see the future of digital publishing unfold on April 3.

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