The application era was seen by many publishers as something of a digital do-over. Here was an opportunity to present content in an attractive (read: print-like) format — and charge for it. The results have been mixed. Digiday has written about how most magazines are fumbling the app opportunity with unimaginative, regurgitations of their print products. One publisher, Technology Review, is rethinking its app strategy. Jason Pontin, publisher and editor-in-chief at the publication, writes the root cause of this was nostalgia for the print past defining the digital future. It was a mistake. Pontin writes from personal experience. Technology Review sold just 353 tablet subscriptions in the first year of its iPad edition, launched Jan. 2011. It now aims to eventually kill its app altogether. Of the many reasons for the failure, Pontin posits the main one might just be that apps are too print-like and not Web-like enough.
When people read news and features on electronic media, they expect stories to possess the linky-ness of the Web, but stories in apps didn’t really link. The apps were, in the jargon of information technology, “walled gardens,” and although sometimes beautiful, they were small, stifling gardens. For readers, none of that beauty overcame the weirdness and frustration of reading digital media closed off from other digital media.
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