Publishing via apps versus websites

There’s a provocative debate on the website Paid Content about whether publishers should focus on delivering their content via websites or iPad apps. In the latest installment, author Ashley Norris opines, in part:

The price of producing iPad mags is falling so quickly that very soon a whole slew of indie publishers will have iPad mags ready to roll and once again the mainstream publishers will have missed the boat.

And…

I don’t think people will be paying for iPad magazines in two years time, so, like the web, ad revenue will become crucial. That means magazine publishers have a shortish window of time to establish themselves as iPad magazine brands.

Interesting. In my opinion, publishing’s future is all very much in flux. Apps are much like magazines; you enter them and you’re in that publisher’s world. And you develop strong loyalties to certain apps (they’re “sticky”), unlike the typical website-cruiser, who can flit off to another site at any second.

Business idea: a tool for stringing together one’s various prized Bookmarks and iPad apps into sort of a slideshow that you could easily be escorted through. As it is, the two formats aka platforms (websites and apps) are getting confusing. I have maybe 30 places I tend to visit via a group of Bookmarks I maintain that I call my “Morning News” and about 10 apps (“CBS Evening News” et al) I get to when I remember to — two different (un)walled gardens.

I recently heard a publisher opining on a blog to the effect of, “Why would I do an iPad app when it only reaches a tiny portion of my target audience? I’m better to stick with a website. It can reach everyone, at least if it’s standards-compliant (i.e., no Flash, etc.).” True, the 5 million iPad users are an engaged and affluent bunch. But they’re still a subculture, for now. The rest of the year should tell us a lot about the spreading ubiquity (or not) of tablets in general (the iPad and all the Android tablets). I’ve believed all along that they will become the dominant publishing platform for former newspapers and magazines, with the only wild card being the timing. Still, the tension between publishing on a website and on an app will remain. I think a standards-compliant website, viewable on an iPad and other tablets, is the best strategy, at least for the next few years. For that matter, a reader can use the iPad’s “Add to home screen” option to create an icon for a favorite website. Most users would view and use this icon as the functional equivalent of an app anyway. I know I do.