“We had to find out whether people wanted something all-new and interactive, or if they just wanted the magazine in mobile mode,” Carey recounted onstage at Mashable‘s Media Summit in New York City Friday. “The industry overshot the interactivity early on. What we discovered is that most people just want the product itself,” he explained, echoing the sentiments expressed by editors at The New Yorker and Popular Science.
In 2010, Hearst partnered with app developer Scrollmotion to develop richly engaging magazine apps for the iPad. The first issues of titles, including Esquire and O: The Oprah Magazine, were loaded with multimedia and interactive elements: photographs and graphic models that could be swiveled 360 degrees, illustrations that became animated upon touch. Audio and video made frequent appearances, too.
Esquire took over the development of its tablet edition from Scrollmotion beginning with its November 2012 issue. The issue still offers some of the same interactivity as previous issues, including videos and an animated cover, but certainly not as many as before.
“We were frustrated with how unstable the app was,” David Granger, Esquire‘s editor-in-chief, told me in an interview at Esquire‘s offices earlier this month. “We had a lot of complaints, a lot of bad reviews,” he said of the reason for switching to Adobe’s publishing software.
In addition to design, Carey also talked about the challenges of marketing its tablet editions. Whereas Hearst is able to work with retailers to determine placement on physical newsstands, on digital newsstands they are able to exert no such control. “We have to rely on promotion from the storefronts,” Carey explained. “If your magazines land in the upper carousel of [Apple’s] Newsstand, you sell a lot of product. If you’re nowhere on that page, you’re not going to do as well.”
Carey iterated his faith in print’s future, despite disruption from smartphones and other digital technologies. The company is continuing to launch print magazines, the most successful of which — Food Network Magazine, with a paid circulation of 1.5 million, and HGTV Magazine, with one million paying subscribers — have been launched in partnership with major TV brands.
“We’ve been able to take something that lives in a different space and apply it to magazines with great success,” Carey explained. “We get a lot of inbound interest, people who knock on our door with great brands and personalities who want to make these products.”
Print is thriving particularly in international markets, he added. The publisher launched 10 international editions last year.
Carey concluded the interview by addressing a question about a magazine’s ability to sell products more directly in its pages. “That’s the way things are going,” Carey said. “It’s a great convenience for readers, and publishers [will be able to] make money through revenue share. We want you to be able to touch it and buy it. We want to make it frictionless.”
Photo by Emily Gannett
Read more of Mashable’s coverage of the 2012 Media Summit: