The Guardian has an interview with Future Chief Executive Stevie Spring. Future is a major magazine publisher based in the UK. I was interested to hear how she believes the iPad could change the industry:
We’ve had a whole decade of people paying, believing that if they paid for the pipes they got the poetry free; [they think] ‘I’ve paid my £15 or £20 for broadband so I get access to a library of content’. The iPad gives us an opportunity to retrain them. Content production is not free and good content is worth paying for.
I am all in favour of more people paying for content. However, there are a couple of aspects of this line of argument which concern me. One is pure scepticism – how many print readers will actually be willing to transition to paying for online content just because the iPad is a convenient way to consume it? The problem is that while print has an unique appeal, once you are online it is easy to find equally good content for free, in the case of the consumer magazines in which Future tends to specialise.
The other concern is a deeper one. I get the sense that Spring is talking about content delivered as apps, since this is a proven business – people will more willingly pay for an app, apparently, than subscribe to a web site.
However, content delivered in an app is one step forward, two steps back. The step forward is possibly richer content, with the full power of the local machine. The steps back are that it is not part of the world wide web – not searchable or linkable.
Finally, there is the Apple problem. Is this a Future where we have to be Apple customers in order to enjoy its publications?