Conde Nast Taps Brakes on Churning Out iPad Editions for All Its Magazines

Company Still Committed, but Why Rush for More Tablet Editions Before Pubs Can Find Big Audiences?

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Conde Nast is tapping the brakes on its drive to deliver iPad editions of all its magazines, according to company employees, acknowledging that conditions aren't quite right yet to deliver the ideal app editions at the kind of scale that advertisers want. If publishers want to introduce new iPad editions right now, Conde wants them to be sure they're justified.

That hardly means Conde is done with the iPad. It remains committed to creating iPad editions for its titles, with an undisclosed one planned to arrive in May. And it has created many other kinds of iPad apps tied to its brands that don't attempt to deliver an entire print issue's experience.

But Conde Nast enthusiastically planned for the iPad even before the device was out, telling employees in February 2010 that it would introduce iPad editions of Wired, GQ, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Glamour. Since then Golf Digest, Self and Allure have followed.

Now, however, publishers and executives feel a lot less reason to add more titles without a particularly compelling business case.

"It's a shift," one Conde publisher said. "The official stance was we're going to get all our magazines on the iPad because this is going to be such an important stream. The new change is maybe we can slow it down. In my opinion it makes Conde look smart because we have the ambition, but we're not rushing."

"They're not all doing all that well, so why rush to get them all on there?" the publisher added.

Conde Nast President Bob Sauerberg downplayed any evolution in the company's thinking but acknowledged a growing effort to improve sales. "There hasn't been any fundamental shift in our plans, commitment or enthusiasm regarding apps," Mr. Sauerberg said in a statement. "From the onset, our strategy has remained fluid and responsive to the marketplace. Given our industry lead, with digital editions from eight of our titles on the iPad and more on the way in addition to a good deal of learning under our belt, we are increasing our focus on distribution and sales efforts that will encourage scale."

Developing an iPad edition is now more a matter of each publisher's discretion than it had been before, a Conde insider said. The company doesn't want to invest significantly more time and resources in the platform if the ground isn't sufficiently fertile yet for a broad swath of readers and the advertisers that need big reach, the insider said. "They don't want to go the way of the web again."

Conde titles without iPad editions include W -- whose app edition had originally been expected in February -- Vogue, Teen Vogue, Details, Architectural Digest, Brides, Lucky, Golf World, Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler. Many of these titles are now eyeing releases in the third quarter, the fourth quarter or even early 2012.

Many have also introduced iPad apps that aren't iterations of their regular print issues, an area of increasing interest for magazine brands. Vogue is selling a 99-cent Vogue Exclusive iPad app, for example, that focuses on particular subjects. After editions revolving around Vogue cover subjects Lady Gaga and Rihanna, the Vogue Exclusive edition released Thursday revolves around the Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ad buyers point out that iPad editions across the publishing industry still lack both the scale that marketers want and the metrics to help gauge ad effectiveness. "As this platform is still in its infancy, it's important that we marketers and sellers continue to explore, experiment and innovate in delivering unique experiences to consumers from a content and creative perspective," said Robin Steinberg, exec VP-director of publisher investment and activation at MediaVest USA. "In addition, it's critical we are able to evaluate and measure these opportunities in order to create business models demonstrating best values."

"It's not a one-size-fits-all model, it's about delivering the right experience the consumer demands on these devices," Ms. Steinberg said. "Today, the replica or enhanced replica model doesn't deliver the financials as the scale is too small and there is very little to no accountability for advertisers to continue to support. Testing new approaches, experiences and opportunities as part of this evolution is exactly what they and others should be doing."

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