The Impact of Computers on Retailers Selling Magazines and Newspapers

In a smart move, the Virgin organization is providing free access between Christmas and the New Year to the launch issue if Project, their digital only magazine available through the iPad. I grabbed my copy yesterday. It's pretty cool - making good use of video and some clever navigation techniques as is de rigueur for iPad magazines. I like the experience and think Project will appeal to iPad users.

After looking through the magazine, I thought about whether I would subscribe. Probably not. While the content is quite unique and the experience very iPad friendly, I am looking for an experience which takes me completely away fro the magazine experience. This is where I think we are headed.

The iPad experiences being developed today are to help people transition to the device. The real innovation will be in second generation apps and beyond, where the experience is not like today's print magazine experience. Indeed, the experience will not be anything like a magazine as we know it.

How people access, consume and share news and information has changed dramatically in the last few years. Magazines, print, online and digital on devices like the iPad, are still coming to grips with this. The world is quite different to the world in which their older style products were conceived.

The challenge for older model publishers is that the needs of advertisers are out of sync with the needs of consumers. Look at any local viral story from the last year. A decade ago, the story would have sold tens of thousands of copies of newspapers. Thanks to Twitter and mobile phones, viral stories now spread faster than any older model media outlet could handle.

This is the experience I am looking for from my iPad, connecting me with breaking stories closer to the source and with the capacity to comment, add, forward and otherwise interact with the story. This is what next generation apps will offer, making the currently cool looking Project app seem out of date quite soon.

That said, I also want the device to connect me with analysis and review - I am happy for this to be in a more traditional newspaper or magazine experience. However, given what I can get today online for free, I am not so sure that I will pay for it on the iPad.

Now, before newsagents and other magazine retailers think that I see print as being dead... no, not yet. The next three to five years will see magazines continue to be important in our businesses. Beyond that... it's anyone's guess. And that is what makes being a newsagent today exciting. We are part of a reinvention of the model.