On paper it’s hard to argue with the numbers we’ve been hearing from magazines and newspapers who’ve made the leap into iPublishing. As fiscal shots in the arm go, they can’t have come at a better time for the ailing industry.
According to Wired magazine, its new app had garnered 73,000 sales within days of launching. Then there’s The Times. Apparently, three days after launching it had sold 5,000 subscriptions at £9.99 a pop – in so doing garnering £49,950 in revenue for News Corp.
We probably shouldn’t be too surprised that these publications are reaping the rewards. But, while the Thunderer of Fleet Street and Wired are sitting pretty right now, there is a downside for a sector too. And that’s the spectre of censorship that goes hand in hand with submitting your product to be sold through iTunes.
While Jobs & co would baulk at rejecting contentious contents from the Times, smaller magazines are in a much more precarious position. For openers, witness the fate of style magazine Dazed & Confused.
So bowdlerised is the iPad version thanks to the likes of iTunes’s no-nipples rule that waggish staff have taken to calling it the ‘Iran edition’. And apparently other fashion and yoof culture journals have been forced into similar moves.
For what it’s worth, I think Jobs means well. After all, he’s on record as saying that the world needs quality magazines and newspapers. And he’s apparently pleased that the iPad can play a part in supporting and sustaining them after the battering they’ve been taking from the move online.
If that’s really how he feels about it then he ought to be aware that press freedom is at the heart of a healthy magazine industry. Once a third-party seller is allowed to start dictating what gets published, we’re on a very slippery slope indeed.
What’s more a healthy press is also a diverse press. And as long as smaller iPad magazine app publishers are forced to dilute their product to meet highly idiosyncratic guidelines, some of best niche interest magazines like Dazed are going to be so blanded out they'll be unrecognisable.