Thursday 4 March 2010

iPad opportunities 1: A new life for Art New Zealand

Over the next week or so I'm hoping to get out a series of three or more* posts on possibilities I can see for the visual arts world to use Apple's iPad in their in-gallery and publishing work.

Apple describes the iPad as a 'magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price'. Smart people who I've heard talking about it suggest that it's the killer product that will bring your dad and grandpop into the world of mobile devices, and will potentially tip us into a whole new phase of online publishing. There's screeds and screeds of commentary on the device; the Guardian has a good round-up. So let's run with the idea that the ipAd is going to skae things up for a couple of posts.

Magazine publishing is a place where I can see the iPad fitting into my life. The argument for magazine publishing on the iPad is that it's likely to hit the sweet spot between an enjoyable reading experience (beautiful design, large, well-lit screen, improved interface for browsing and page turning) with portability and enhanced opportunities for advertising (an ad that plays a movie, or that links you straight to the relevant offer on the company's website) and bonus lower cost.

Here's my current magazine reading situation:

I have a subscription to the print version of the New Yorker that I am unlikely to give up. This subscription has great value to me. I read nearly every article. It fits into every bag I have. Looking at a ratio of weight to interest factor, a print copy of New Yorker is the best thing I could take with me on a one-day trip to another city.

On the other hand, I have a subscription to the print version of Idealog. Although I only really enjoy a couple of the articles, and find the advertorial annoying, I have it because it was offered at half price on Twitter, and $20 a year is apparently what I'm happy to pay for this content.

Everything else I either read online (if I want the information right now) or rent from the Library at 50 cents a copy (if it's for recreational reading). Wired is one of these cases - and they've already announced that they'll be publishing to the iPad in the northern summer.

Would I change my habits if I had an iPad? Would this take the place of the haphazard online and borrowed reading? Possibly, especially if, as some predict, the iPad triggers a new wave of niche or limited-life serials.

1. A new life for Art New Zealand

Art New Zealand, to my mind, is the kind of niche publication that should be eyeing up the iPad.

I might once have had a subscription to ANZ. We certainly have a huge back-run at home, but once you hit number 100 it starts to get a little sketchy. Either ANZ gets more valuable in hindsight, or my interests are largely historical (I was a heavy user of back issues while studying), or the content doesn't ring my bells any more. I think this last is most likely. There are various blogs and websites I can follow to get more timely reviews or updates as to what's on show, and the longer format writing is only occasionally of interest to me.

But I still think I'm part of the target market for intelligent (but not theory-laden) art writing. I was, for example, an avid reader of Art World Magazine, the Australian art publication that unfortunately went under last year, and never protested at the cover price.

It's important to bear in mind that ANZ is hardly a large corporate endeavour. Rumours of its demise or sale circulate regularly. I have absolutely no inside or official information, but I just wonder how long it will be able to continue on the way it does.

So - why switch to online publishing? First, there are cost savings. Obviously, no more print or distribution costs. No more storage costs. On the iPad, the number of colour pages required won't matter, because they won't cost more - so your mag looks better (loads of big, juicy, zoomable hi-res images of artworks). Design and layout costs may be reduced; I reckon companies are likely to spring up who will do what Wordpress themes do for blogs and Newspaper Club does for newspapers.

But where will the money come from? Almost all the advertising in ANZ currently is by galleries - many of whom have websites, and who would presumably benefit from being able to link through (especially those whose exhibition programmes aren't locked in in time for print deadlines).

Some content could be offered free; deeper content (maybe introduce quarterly auction reports?) could be offered at a subscription cost. Or - don't charge any reader. Offer benefits alongside the content, but working with advertisers to do cool stuff. Brighter minds than mine will be at work on this.

Of course, Art New Zealand is only an example of an existing publication that could turn iPad. John Hurrell's CNZ-funded reviewing blog (currently being redeveloped on a different platform) is another. And then there's the publications that don't exist yet - the most exciting contenders of all.

*Three being how many ideas I have right now. You never know, I may find some extra ones along the way.

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