Wired is making the iPad edition of its May issue free to download for 30 days starting today, courtesy of a sponsorship from Adobe that the magazine hopes will help show off new sharing and shopping functions.
It's the latest promotion in which marketers give consumers free access to content that's normally walled, metered or otherwise paid. All month, for example, Volvo is underwriting free access to baseball games streaming on Apple devices, while Lincoln recently offered free passes to 200,000 of the people most likely to encounter the New York Times' new digital paywall. It's nothing new -- Philips Electronics sponsored free access to the Times's previous pay scheme in 2006 -- but it seems to be growing as proliferating content charges create new opportunities to do it.
Wired doesn't want to do this sort of thing all the time -- it wants readers to pay for its content, after all, complementing the revenue stream from advertisers -- but the new functions arriving with this issue made it a good month to encourage sampling. It's also been almost one year since Wired introduced its iPad edition with the June 2010 issue amid frothy expectations last May.
"In a lot of ways we've been much more focused on building a better app in the last year than talking about it," said Howard Mittman, VP-publisher at Wired, which is published by Conde Nast. "Now it's time for us to come back out and say look at these investments."
In some ways Wired is catching up. IPad app editions for magazines including Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Mechanics and ESPN the Magazine already allow sharing on Facebook and Twitter. Editorial e-commerce inside iPad editions, as opposed to functions that yank readers out of the app, is less common but still available from titles such as O: the Oprah Magazine.
But Wired's iPad app has been particularly closely watched, largely because its editorial interests and its audience overlap so much with the early buyers for Apple's iPad. Its debut issue on the iPad sold more than 105,000 downloads, still perhaps the highest total, and certainly one of the highest, for any regularly priced magazine issue on the iPad.
The Wired app now lets readers post links to its articles on Facebook and Twitter, even if they haven't been posted on Wired's website yet or, in the case of app edition exclusives, won't be. The links lead back to specially created web pages that will encourage consumers to download the issue.
That still isn't as social as Wired believes its iPad edition should be. "'Social' is real interactive, comment-able experiences, so that user feedback and feedback from our community creates a two-way or three-way conversation between the users and between the users and us," Mr. Mittman said. "When we crack that code, which is our endgame, that's when community happens."
The e-commerce function adds "Buy Now" buttons to pages such as editorial product reviews. Touching "Buy Now" pulls up Amazon within the app, framed in the new issue by a Mastercard sponsorship. Wired receives a cut of any resulting revenue through a standard affiliate deal with Amazon.
Magazine ad pages traditionally occupy a position early in consumers' purchase process, building awareness and desire for products, but adding e-commerce also gives magazines a spot much closer to the consummation of a sale, according to Mr. Mittman. "We create demand, we deliver an app to get the product into our consumers' hands," he said.
Wired has also been reducing the app's file size, which has been criticized for creating long download times and eating up device memory. "That continues to see improvement," Mr. Mittman said.
Still in the works after almost a year: details for advertisers about the number of people who interact with their ads and the ways they did it. "Metrics have always been and continue to be an enormous priority for us," Mr. Mittman said. "With each round, we're learning more and more about the user experience and layering on what we need to communicate back to advertisers. We're not there yet with enough data to release anything out to the ad community. But it's very much coming and it's an enormous priority."
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