USA: Most popular iPad downloads so far: the free media apps

Time 1101100412_400 The first day of public iPad use showed strong consumer interest in content-related apps for the tablet device. Among the top 10 free downloads were apps for iBooks, Netflix, ABC Player, Weatherbug, Weather Channel, The Wall Street Journal, NYT Editors' Choice and NPR. In contrast, among the current top 10 apps for the iPhone, eight were game or entertainment related. According to the Poynter Institute, among paid iPad apps, only one media offering made the grade: Time Magazine's April 12 issue (on Steve Jobs and the iPad), which sells for $4.99. On the iPhone, the only comparison is the recently price-reduced WolframAlpha app which came in at number two, though it is a reference tool, not a news app.  It's too soon to tell but it's not going to be so easy to sell iPad issues for the same price charged for print, it seems. And understandably so!

Anyway, another popular tablet edition over the past weekend was Popular Science magazine's (also priced at $4.99, but already lots of complaints from users that it's too high).  The thousands of iPad applications available so far also include editions from GQ, Outside magazine, USA Today, the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Top iPad apps chart The majority of magazines and newspapers for the iPad are downloaded through iTunes and more than 125 million iTunes account holders can order iPad editions of their favorite magazine or paper with just a few taps on a screen, instead of pulling out their credit cards and signing into multiple web accounts. But even as they polish up their iPad offerings, some publishers have been trying to band together to create their own payment systems and strategies to circumvent iTunes' grip on sales of digital content. Is it worth sacrificing the seamless iTunes payment system to gather data about a relatively small number of early iPad magazine buyers though?  Clearly, not all publishers feel the same about this.  But when Josh Quittner, editor-at-large for Time magazine asked Steve Jobs how much subscriber data Apple would permit magazines on the iPad, Mr. Jobs reportedly just responsed "some".

MK-BC160A_SUBSC_G_20100404180233 Now one can understand why the four biggest American magazine publishers and Murdoch's News Corp. got tgether last Fall to start Next Issue Media.  Former Time Inc. senior executive, John Squires, now Managing Director of Next Issue Media, told the WSJ that the company was formed so that the newspaper and magazine businesses don't turn out like the music business, where Apple has come to dominate distribution and sales.  Its purpose is to create a digital storefront, package subscriptions and standard content templates for newspapers and magazines to be read on the iPad and other tablet devices.

In the meantime, there are few other alternatives.  However, Sporting News, which is selling subscriptions for the iPhone and iPad through Zinio, which converts print publications for reading on digital devices. Zinio is currently offering about 2 400 publications for sale to be read on the iPad, through its own accounts to circumvent iTunes. Zinio shares information on subscribers and splits revenue with the magazine publishers. Newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times use their own subscription accounts for their iPad versions, so they keep all revenue and customer information. Amazon.com also sells books on the iPhone and iPad through its own system rather than iTunes.

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