The tablet version of Wired magazine was in the final steps of preparation last month when Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) launched released its iPad last month, but the use of non-compatible Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) Flash as a key feature in the mag’s app caused the publisher’s and the tech company’s developers to race back to the drawing board. So, after a feverish few weeks of revamping the Wired app in compliance with Apple’s no-Flash rules, the digitized June issue was approved for sale in the iTunes Store on Friday and became available for sale at $4.99 — the same as the newsstand price — a few minutes before midnight on Wednesday.
At a demo for the Wired app, Condé Nast editorial director Tom Wallace was quick to get the controversy between Apple and Adobe out of the way. “We’re happy with Adobe and Adobe is extremely happy,” he said. “The partnership with continue at least through the summer and probably into 2011.” He conceded that the process for preparing the Wired was complicated by Apple’s decision to ban Adobe Flash from its apps. “But only a little,” Wallace was quick to add.
The release of Wired for the iPad represents the ideal for what Condé Nast wants for its digital magazines — at least at this early stage. Over the past few months, the publisher has created iPhone and iPad paid apps for GQ and, most recently, Vanity Fair. Those apps do satisfy certain goals Condé Nast has said it wants from its digital replicas, including counting towards paid circ under the Audit Bureau of Circulations measurements.
The Wired iPad app promises to go a few steps further in terms of bringing more digital features like 360 image views to advertisers, in addition to the video and links to marketers’ sits that is currently offered to premium ads on the other apps. “We’re in the early days of this, and we’re still experimenting with how users experience it,” Wallace said, noting that the publisher’s R&D group is already planning enhancements for the next month. At the outset, the Wired app does come with a number of interesting bells and whistles. The app offers a number of ways to find content, including a “stacks” feature that lets users view magazine articles according to length. Like the previous apps, the bottom of the screen sports a “scrubber,” which allows for fast left/right scrolling through the pages.
But the best aspect, at least for those with a wifi-only iPad, is that the Wired download comes as a complete package with all photos, videos, audio and animation, allowing users to continue their experience with or without an internet connection as they peruse the mag. That encouraged the editors and creative team to give 41 of the 61 editorial pieces an interactive component.
Howard Mittman, Wired’s publisher, also noted that there are nine premium advertisers in the issue. While it wasn’t clear that the expectation of the June iPad issue — with Toy Story 3 on the cover — drove greater interest from advertisers, he did point out that mag pages were trending upward.
Ultimately, the work on Wired has helped focus the R&D team and editors on what they want digital magazines to be. “There is a certain physicality to a magazine that we’re trying to preserve here,” said Scott Dadich, Wired’s creative director. “The magazine is not a website, and the website isn’t an app. So when it comes to designing features for each, we’re careful to see where overlaps occur and where they wouldn’t.”
In trying to ensure the three formats remain distinct, Wired’s Wallace said that there was little concern that some readers would want opt to just read the website for free on Apple’s Safari browser than pay to download the digital magazine through iTunes. “That assumes that the audience for the web overlaps the person who buys the magazine,” he said. “That’s open to debate, but we think are some differences in the reader who comes to us from a search engine and one comes to Wired because they seek out the brand.”
That idea that there are specific audience behaviors that can be reached through different vehicles also animates the thinking for the next big iPad app release this fall for Glamour. In addition to Wired, GQ and Vanity Fair, the R&D team is also working with The New Yorker, whose audience skews a bit older than the affluent, educated men and women who read VF, while Wired is almost 70 percent young men. “This structure will give us a broad overview of our audience and we expect to learn a lot of this summer,” Wallace said.
At this point, the executives didn’t want to make any guesses for how well the Wired iPad app — the iPhone version will also be different and will be ready later this year — will do, though they said that GQ has so far sold 63,000 apps across both the iPhone and iPad since November. But because Apple doesn’t separate out how many are for the iPad, it’s a bit uncertain. Hence the reason for waiting a bit before releasing another version.