NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Magazine and newspaper publishers have been pitching their new iPad editions as print, only better, because the iPad allows interactivity and other digital capabilities.
But now as iPads finally reach real consumers' hands, everyone is watching to see how people use them, what media they consume on them and how they engage with the ads. The results will help determine just how tightly publishers can link ad sales for their iPad editions with traditional ad pages -- with big ramifications for marketers and for print.
Some publishers want to keep iPad and print-ad sales closely connected, even twinned. Conde Nast, which has introduced an iPad edition of GQ and hopes to introduce iPad editions for Wired and Vanity Fair with their June issues, is only making iPad ads available to marketers who buy ad pages in print. The more print ad pages that marketers buy, the more features such as video or interactivity they can buy.
"The initial cost is basically buying a page in the magazine," said Lou Cona, exec VP of the Conde Nast Media Group, which hopes to also introduce iPad versions of Glamour and The New Yorker later this year. "And then there are different levels of sponsorship and production, depending on how creative folks want to get with the new medium."
It's a neat way of yoking the iPad in service of print editions. And ad buys integrating different media platforms are nothing new. But some ad buyers don't think buying print ad pages should be a prerequisite for advertising in iPad editions.
"A lot of the publishers are talking in that language," said Michael Hayes, exec VP-managing director at big media-buying agency Initiative. "In the early discussions we've had with them, they are looking to bundle print and their tablet edition together as one buy."
"My guess is that's going to last a few months," Mr. Hayes said. "We will look to unbundle it. We may do both, but if there are two different audiences and we're trying to do two different things, we'd want to do it separately."
There's a whole continuum of approaches, of course, befitting a platform where no one's sold ads before. Marketers can sponsor issues of Rodale's iPad editions, and each issue's free 10-page preview, by either buying more regular ads or buying the sponsorship on its own. Procter & Gamble's Gillette brand secured sponsorship of the April and May issues of the Men's Health iPad edition by increasing its other ad spending with Men's Health.
And others, such as USA Today, are just selling iPad ads completely separately. Its iPad edition, which is already available, will be free to consumers for three months, courtesy of a sponsorship sold on its own to Courtyard by Marriott. "These effectively are going to be very different media," argued David Hunke, president and publisher of USA Today. "There are aspects of the iPad and that technology that are going to add what I would describe as a third dimension in delivering ad messages which I hope translates to adding value for clients. But we're going to have to see all that. And certainly ad buyers are going to want to get a feel for it."
Courtyard by Marriott, the only advertiser readers will find in the iPad edition of USA Today during the three-month sponsorship, agreed that iPad ad opportunities shouldn't depend on buying print ads. "For us it probably makes sense to have some flexibility with that," said Gini Gladstone, senior director for Courtyard marketing. "Because we're buying less print and more digital over time, it would be difficult for us to say 'Let's bundle those together.'"
Pricing against print
Many publishers also think ads in iPad editions should cost more than ads in print -- because the iPad is print, only better. Publishers can expect at least some pushback there too. "I doubt that agencies will pay the premium that magazines are going to be asking for," said Gary Armstrong, the former Wenner Media executive who is now consulting for media brands on iPad development.
"There are too many variables and not enough guarantees of the demographics. And right now they can get that audience elsewhere."
Let iPad ads earn any premium by demonstrating results, said Paul Silverman, exec media director at Team One. "What I'd like to see happen, and what we'll be pushing our media partners on, is pay for performance," he said. "We actually want to see the performance and pay for it as such -- as opposed to upfront."
But there are arguments working in the publishers' favor. "I actually think publishers should charge way more for ads on the iPad than in print," said Gene Liebel, partner at the digital agency Huge, which works with both publishers and marketers. "You've got roughly the same format as print but you've got way more measurement, way more targeting and the ability for cost-per-click tracking and even transactions that can happen."
Regular digital media doesn't offer the engagement that magazines provide, Mr. Liebel added. "When we're comparing the relative value of different media, we're factoring in the value of that engagement."
For now, as consumers are just getting their hands on iPads for the first time, everything remains to be hammered out. Conde Nast is in research and development mode right now, Mr. Cona said. "What we are saying today and going out with today, like any other product that would be in R&D, is subject to change based on what we learn."