Friday, June 9

Music magazines on iTunes? Maybe it'll work, but not yet...

US indie music mag The Fader is one of a small number of specialist magazines starting to make PDFs of their magazines available via RSS feeds in iTunes.

Free music mag on iTunes

Will it work? Well, there's a couple of niggly issues to work out. For starters, limited merchandising space in the iTunes interface mean it's not likely that magazines are going to be actively promoted in iTunes by Apple. Magazines will need to drive their own traffic, which means many magazines will be reluctant to experiment for fear of cannibalising their print subscribers (not that this will actually happen, but it's a publisher's worst, most scary nightmare.)

There's also no navigation to magazines in the current version of iTunes. The PDFs of the mags actually live in the podcast directory as RSS feeds with PDF attachments. To the RSS feed reader element of iTunes, this makes perfect sense, but to Joe Consumer, compute it does not. Magazines would need their own spot in iTunes' left hand side navigation for much repeat traffic to come back.

PDFs, of course, can only be viewed on your Mac or PC, not your iPod, which is where many consumers consume the content they download in iTunes. There's a good chance many people will subscribe to a magazine feed, and then never come back to read issue two because it doesn't appear in their iPod or in their regular playlists.

File size is a problem too. PDF is a great format for high-fidelity rendering and printing, but it's lousy for data compression. I don't actually know how big the PDF file is for the latest issue of The Fader, because the whole time I've been writing this, it's been downloading on iTunes, and 10 minutes later, it's still downloading. Do you get excited about downloading magazines overnight so that you can read them tomorrow? Latest-release movies maybe, but not magazines. Not unless they're top shelf import mags that I'd otherwise have to wait a week or two for the airmail copy to arrive.

In summary, pushing magazines through iTunes is a great example of outside-the-box thinking, but it's not going to change the magazine publishing industry or the iTunes business for some time yet.

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