Oprah Magazine's iPad Edition Will Sell and Display E-Books

Hearst Magazines Readies App Editions from Esquire to Cosmo, Plus Fun and Utility Apps Not Tied to Issues

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Hearst Magazines sold more than 12,000 downloads of its Popular Mechanics iPad edition since its release on July 8 and is gearing up to release many more apps this year, including app editions of Esquire; Marie Claire; O, The Oprah Magazine; Food Network Magazine; Cosmopolitan and Harper's Bazaar. It's also working on many apps that extend its magazines' brands but aren't versions of regular issues, according to Hearst executives.

An Ad Age mockup of an iPad app for 'O, The Oprah Magazine.'
An Ad Age mockup of an iPad app for 'O, The Oprah Magazine.'
Esquire's iPad app edition is expected to be available starting with the September issue, on sale in August, and will be "more ambitious" than the iPhone edition that's already available, according to Chris Wilkes, VP-audience development and digital editions. Regular editorial sections will get reusable templates, but features will get a custom approach each month; sharing tools will become more prominent; in-app search will pull up content not just from Esquire but also sites such as Flickr and Wikipedia; and a live feed from the Esquire website will be integrated in "a much tighter way," he said. The app will arrive offering subscriptions, not just the single-copy sales that have predominated among magazine iPad editions so far.

Getting into e-book business
Capitalizing on Oprah Winfrey's huge role recommending books to her fans, the iPad edition of O, The Oprah Magazine, that's expected in the fourth quarter will let users buy e-books and read them within the app itself. The app preserve the basic magazine experience but include visual tags that let users know they can see a video message from Ms. Winfrey or interact in some other way. A module on articles will let users make comments and see other readers' remarks.

Although the Popular Mechanics app debuted at $1.99 -- lower than the $3.99 print cover price because the first iteration doesn't include the print issue's entire contents -- Hearst expects to charge print cover prices or more for its iPad magazine apps.

While some of the magazine iPad editions will hew more closely to printed page than others, Hearst sees a lot more potential in iPad advertising than just reproducing and enhancing print ad pages. Including every element as it appears in print would allow Hearst to count sales toward the paid circulation guarantee it gives print advertisers, but the company has begun to believe that once enough consumers own tablet computers, targeted and tailored advertising will be much more important.

Scale will drive targeting
"When you get a large enough install base, this is going to be all about targeted advertising," said John Loughlin, general manager and exec VP.

Hearst is already seeing its digital ad rates increase steadily, partly because of its ability to serve ads to visitors based on their behavior and demographics. Excluding its remnant ad space, the unsold inventory that publishers typically fill by turning to cut-rate ad networks, Hearst's online ad rates have grown over the past three years and have increased 15% so far this year compared with the same period in 2009. That's not just the prices that Hearst quotes to advertisers, Mr. Loughlin said, but the actual rates Hearst has been able to collect.

The other development track
Some of Hearst's forthcoming iPad apps won't, however, be monthly versions of regular issues. These "standalone experience" apps, which will be available for iPads and iPhones, will include a one-shot called House Beautiful Favorite Colors that, like the print bookazine with the same purpose, will serve as a massive encyclopedia of paint colors. The app, which is likely to cost $9.99, will let consumers browse by color groups, brands, rooms or even according to the results of a personality quiz. "It might be that House Beautiful puts a lot more of its time and energy into apps like this," Mr. Wilkes said.

Marie Clarie's Fall Fashion A-to-Z app, planned for a September release, will comprise a giant "wallpaper" of images in which users can zoom in for video, games, slideshows, product information or Facebook and Twitter options.

And Redbook's free One Stop Shop app will let users locate stores that carry featured items and check those stores' inventory for them.

Esquire is also planning a Hardest Puzzle Ever app, to coincide with its December "Genius" issue, that will include the issue's difficult puzzles and let users share their progress using Facebook and Twitter. And Good Housekeeping is developing an app called Drop Five Pounds, based on a section within the magazine but not repurposing magazine content. The app will comprise a set of tools, such as a weigh-loss goal calculator, quizzes, videos and even a feature meant to show users how they would look if they were five pounds lighter.

Hearst already sells electronic versions of its magazines on Zinio that include every edit page and ad page.

Follow Nat Ives on Twitter.

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