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Apps Won’t Save Publishing May 13, 2012

Posted by Peter Varhol in Publishing, Technology and Culture.

What is it about the publishing industry that makes it so resistant to radical change?  Despite the clarity of changes surrounding the environment in which publishing operates, there has been little effective effort at transforming publishing in response.  According to one source, newspaper circulation and revenues continue on a downward trajectory.

There have been some successes at the edges, with a few digital models working adequately.  But MIT’s fabled Technology Review honestly recounts its unfavorable experience with its digital app, demonstrating that simply porting your paper (or HTML) version to an iOS or Android app is both expensive and unsatisfying for both readers and advertisers.  Ultimately, Technology Review dropped its app entirely.

There is certainly some question as to whether Technology Review approached the app question correctly, and whether it executed the strategy well, but this unusually frank commentary provides a picture that is probably pretty typical of the thought and effort a traditionally print publication might put into an app version.

I don’t think publishing professionals are any less smart than those in other industries that have had better success in adapting.  But there does seem to be a lack of imagination on how to leverage one or more digital platforms as both a reading and advertising platform.  Or how to find significant revenue streams outside of the advertising realm.  Until this happens, I think we had better prepare ourselves for the day when we as a society can’t afford an independent news and information service in the digital realm.



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