In a thoughtful piece, Jason Pontin discusses the evolving sense among magazine publishers that native apps might not be as amazing for them as originally thought. To my nose, there is the faintest whiff of sour grapes (really just a whiff), that readers did not respond as expected, and that Apple took a cut of sales. For the most part, though, the challenges illustrated in this piece are challenges faced by anyone trying to sell content. What’s the best way to use new technology to build and sustain an audience?
Pontin’s solution for now?
Last fall, we moved all the editorial in our apps, including the magazine, into a simple RSS feed in a river of news. We dumped the digital replica. Now we’re redesigning Technologyreview.com, which we made entirely free for use, and we’ll follow the Financial Times in using HTML5, so that a reader will see Web pages optimized for any device, whether a desktop or laptop computer, a tablet, or a smart phone. Then we’ll kill our apps, too.
In describing the costs associated with creating the app, Pontin uses the phrase, “untold expense of spirit,” which is just a gorgeous bit of writing.