Technology Review built an iPad app, and now regrets it. Editor in Chief Jason Pontin tells the story, from great expectations to sad disappointment, and predicts that other publishers will follow the lead of the Financial Times (and Boston Globe) and embrace the web. He concludes that the “paid, expensively developed publishers’ app, with its extravagantly produced digital replica, is dead.”
We sold 353 subscriptions through the iPad. We never discovered how to avoid the necessity of designing both landscape and portrait versions of the magazine for the app. We wasted $124,000 on outsourced software development. We fought amongst ourselves, and people left the company. There was untold expense of spirit. I hated every moment of our experiment with apps, because it tried to impose something closed, old, and printlike on something open, new, and digital.
This appears to be mostly a failure of the app business model, and to a lesser extent the limitations of native app development. On the business side, the revenues never made up for the cost of development, especially with Apple taking 30% off the top. On the technology side, what’s interesting is that TR readers appear to value what Jason calls “the linky-ness of the Web” over the prettiness of the app. In other words, looks are, apparently, not everything, even on the iPad.