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Publishers Losing Money on Developing iPad Apps, Will Scribd Save the Day?

Publishers may have an uphill battle to face when it comes to developing on the iPad. The entire business of Editorial magazines and newspapers is focused around something tangible – it’s focused on printed content. I assume that a lot of these traditional business are interested in developing and publishing content for the iPad (in an app), but don’t know how to approach the new, digital world. They are completely out of their league.

But for Wired, they’ve already been dealing in digital content for years. They have the advantage in understanding how customers will interact with digital products. As we’ve seen with Time’s latest demo, their digital magazine may become a navigational nightmare.

In learning how customers best respond to content on the iPad, publishers are pouring lots of money into development and R&D. But if their content isn’t priced accordingly, they might not even turn a quick profit.

Enter Scribd. They want develop digital content for publishers.

“… the pitch Scribd is making to publishers involves the promise of a better user experience. ‘Publishers are a little lost and don’t understand the new tech landscape and as a result, a lot of them are investing in bulky apps,’ Scribd’s Friedman said. ‘It’s bad for publishers because of cost, but it’s also bad for reader.’”

However, this comes at a price. Scribd wants in on the advertising revenue.

“With publishers’ budgets and resources fairly limited, online document marketplace Scribd hopes that instead of devoting the time and fees to working with major content design firms, magazines will simply let it create an HTML5 app for them in a matter of minutes. The only price: Scribd wants a share of the ad revenues.”

Scribd is positioned to potentially become a serious distributor in the world of digital content. Their model is questionable however: would publishers feel comfortable relinquishing control of their content to a third-party? Scribd promises they’ll develop a perfect HTML5 experience, but I imagine publishers are weary. So I speculate.

“We’re trying to tell publishers that working with us is a much easier way to experiment with tablets and not get locked into one system,” he added, “given that we’re essentially creating a PDF document that can be read on most smartphones and your Kindle as well, not to mention, the PC.”

Ultimately people will consume digital content if it provides an enriching experience. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes, and if we’ll have more, great publications on our iPads this fall.


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