Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone, doesn’t think that the iPad will replace traditional print magazines anytime soon:
Mr. Wenner: Not months. Decades, probably. People’s habits will shift, they’ll make improvements in the delivery system, the screen will change, it will get lighter, whatever, and new people growing up will find that as a habit. But you’re talking about a generation at least, maybe two generations, before the shift is decisive.
Look at the music industry as an example. I think it’s split about 50-50 between CDs and digital delivery. There is a place where there are extraordinary advantages in the distribution delivery system. Otherwise the products are indistinguishable; there’s no difference in the physical products as there is here.
And yet it’s still a generational shift going on. And we’re far away from that. We have a much different and more unique product than just the CD.
Mr. Wenner started Rolling Stone a few decades ago for $7,500 with volunteer labor, but now from his perspective a publishing mogul he thinks it impossible to start a magazine without millions at your disposal. His rather myopic viewpoint leads him to believe that the same thing couldn’t happen today as he achieved all those years ago. Huffington Post anyone?
He also believes that the printed magazine is much different and unique than a CD. He doesn’t get that it is just content; the delivery mechanism is meaningless. He, and many others, also don’t get the potential for tablet delivery to be so much more than printed magazine delivery.
A printed magazine is dead content. It can’t be updated or augmented. It can reference information the hasn’t been created or doesn’t exist yet. Tablet delivery is live. A tablet magazine can be corrected (transparently), and it can be updated to reference future information as it arises. Articles can reference older articles. They can be bookmarked, commented on, tagged, and shared.
Successful iPad magazines won’t just display the paper version via a different delivery mechanism. They will deliver all of the relevant information that is available. It isn’t about moving your existing paper magazine to the iPad; it is about delivering a brand new kind of experience for the platform and the medium. And they won’t take decades; they are happening now. Mr. Wenner is just so caught up in his existing business model to see that.
But someone who isn’t will see the value. Just as Mr. Wenner successfully did so many years ago.