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Rolling Stone magazine will release an iPad app companion this week for its The Beatles: The Ultimate Album-by-Album Guide book this week, as its parent Wenner Media prepares to launch full digital magazine replica apps on the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) tablet next year for its flagship title and US Weekly.
The Beatles’ book, which came out this summer, represents Rolling Stone’s first foray into apps, though replica versions of the magazine are available on Nook, Fire and Zinio. The Beatles app costs $9.99 — the same as the print version — and is not currently available on Android.
The app contains the same content as the print book and has 122 pages with over 60 photos. However, it was redesigned for the iPad and as such, is not considered a “digital replica.” In addition the app contains 30 second sound samples (via iTunes) for every song and the ability to purchase each song through iTunes.
It also features interviews from Jim James of My Morning Jacket, James Taylor, Stevie Nicks, Liz Phair, Steven Van Zandt, Liam Gallagher, Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, Graham Nash, Bob Weir and others, as well as a guide to the best non-album tracks.
The release of the app on December 1 in the iTunes Store comes after several months of changes on Rolling Stone’s digital side. It also represents a significant embrace of the app economy several months after Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone and publisher of US Weekly and Men’s Journal told AdAge’s Nat Ives that publishers were “prematurely rushing [to create tablet versions of their titles] and showing little confidence and faith in what they’ve really got, their real asset, which is the magazine itself.”
Still, he was sure to say that he wasn’t trashing tablets, just he didn’t see digital replicas replacing the physical magazine any time soon.
The company’s renewed digital push really began in earnest in the spring of 2010, when Rolling Stone finally took control of its website back from RealNetworks (NSDQ: RNWK) last summer — now it’s finally putting the contents of the entire magazine, along with over 40 years worth of archives, online.
The decision to issue the Beatles book as an app package comes amid a flurry of deals by magazine and newspaper publishers to repurpose print content in e-book form. Earlier today, for example, Hachette Book Group said it was teaming up with Bloomberg BusinessWeek on e-singles drawn from articles that have appeared in the magazine.
The app release also reflects Wenner’s deliberative — some would say tentative and cautious — approach to digital content. Ultimately, since the revenue is still mostly derived from print, digital will provide the incremental boost in terms of attracting paying readers and advertisers. After all, as Wenner has said, what’s rush? Still, given its need to reach younger music fans in addition the baby boomers who grew up with Rolling Stone, the magazine’s digital presence is increasingly crucial to retaining its relevance.
As evidence of its new digital momentum, for October, USmagazine.com’s comScore numbers showed 10,374,000 unique visitors, or about 2 million less than Time Inc. rival People.com. It’s the second highest traffic number in USmagazine.com’s history, up 17 percent versus September, the company said. Also, total pageviews are up 9.1 percent to 214 million.