I’ve just been reading an interesting article over at Alltop about how Richard Branson is intending to launch an iPad-only magazine next week. It raises some interesting issues in my mind.
As you all probably know, my publisher is All Mouse Media Ltd. It may at some point expand into magazines the comic-publishing arm is well and truly established. This makes me interested in why Branson would launch a new magazine that exists solely on one digital format.
The iPad is not the only handheld reading device. It competes with the Kindle, the Sony Reader and probably countless other devices that all want to do the same job for you: serve content in a hand-held format. Surely by limiting himself to one device, he is artificially limiting his market share, and thus the amount of money he can make from this new venture?
But then it hit me: that’s the point.
He’s limited his market on purpose. He’s using the magazine to test the idea that the iPad is the future, or that it has achieved such dominance that it can be a market unto himself. You can’t do that by launching a web magazine with a digital copy, or a print magazine with a digital copy. Your data gets swamped. Similarly, if you want to test the viability of the iPad as a distribution platform, you do it by launching on that device.
Branson has the resources available to launch a magazine that he can kill at any point. He seems to do things like this a lot; moving into areas of business where people say a new venture can’t last (trains, cola, radio, TV, etc) and testing whether that’s true or not. This is just another extension of his standard way of working.
So I’m going to be watching this development with keen eyes. If it proves successful, it could show where the market is going in the future. Print is almost certainly going to become more of a niche market than it already is within the next five to ten years, so it’s time we found where we’re all going to be getting our entertainment from in the future.