iOS5 Newstand: Magazine Subscriptions And Free Apps (not really)By David Dietle
I am among the many no doubt millions of people who threw away the shackles of the old iPhone operating system for the new, shiny iOS5 and man is it OS-y. A major reason I installed it was to see what this Siri thing was all about… Oops there, she only works on the iPhone 4S. Oh, and the “backup” I had to do 3 times before the install actually happened, at 2 hours a pop because my goddamn computer is slow and ran out of storage halfway through… but that is another gripe for another day.
iOS5 also came with a new app: Newstand. It’s the digital version of that thing you look over when you are waiting in line and Kim Kardashian is thrusting various parts of her life in your face so you read it because it’s there and you’re bored. Do you care if Taylor Swift has a secret to flat abs? No, but reading it keeps you from acknowledging the geriatric in front of you is buying prunes, Depends and condoms.
So I decided to check it out because I was bored, and the iPhone has a pretty hefty library of free crap. I am a tech geek, so I immediately hunted down the one tech title they had. It had 1 and a half star. Hmm. I figured it must be a turd, but let’s give it a look anyway. It turns out, the people reviewing it actually thought the magazine was okay, except that the “free” app was just a way to read the subscription-only magazine. That was a bit shitty, so I moved on. How about Good Housekeeping? “That’s an old title, my wife reads magazines like that sometimes, maybe the free app will have something interesting” I thought.
Again, the free app had some crappy reviews. And, again, the “free” app is a useless piece of crap used only for viewing the subscription-only digital version of the magazine. With no free issue to test it out. Just pony up the, what, $20 a regular print subscription costs? No? Wait, you want $55 for it?
Here’s where logic breaks down. Let’s explore the difference between digital and “real” copies of magazines. If you want to make, say, 1000 copies of a print magazine, you need 1000 magazine’s worth of paper. Now, some of that may come from recycling because Go Earth and stuff, but we’re still chopping down trees for paper because recycling is a pain in the ass and it’s always easier to just kill something. Then there is the fact that you have to pay postage to send them out, there’s mailmen… The list of why magazines suck is endless.
But guess what it takes to produce 1000 digital copies? In this case, 1000 people to download it. With that kind of savings, the digital version should be way, way (way) less. You see, magazines do all of their layout and copy editing these days in, you guessed it, computers. So guess what they have before they go to real presses? That’s right kids, digital copies.
Now, no one in the multitude of reviews I read of Good Housekeeping suggested that they should have free, unfettered access to the magazine through the app that was advertised as being free, simply that they didn’t even get a single sample to give them an idea of what they were getting into. For 225% the cost of the print version. Sure, some people are on the magazine’s and Apple’s side, although they read suspiciously like someone who works for the aforementioned companies:
And really, is being a dick to potential customers a good business model? I am pretty sure the “f*ck you because we said so” method of working with paying customers failed as soon as people realized they had options. And with the number of free websites serving up free information for free, it’s a tough sell to get people to pay ridiculously inflated prices for what are basically imaginary magazines that cost nothing to copy.
To not sound like a dick myself, I was going to point out that I was able to use my new iOS5-provided iCloud to move those screenshots from my phone to my PC. Except I couldn’t, so I had to email them to myself. Look, Apple, Magazine people: Folks are pissed because you said they could have a magazine for free, and what you gave them was essentially an empty plastic bag and said “you can read it if you pay us.” The bait-and-switch got people killed in the old days; these days it just costs you customers, especially because some loudmouth on the internet is going to share it with everyone. For free.