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I was just flicking through Apple’s app store checking out reviews on magazine apps because I have clients who are interested in this sort of thing.. who isn’t these days. Wired magazine went from the reason to get an iPad to something to avoid, although I’m hoping they’ll fix this. I’m sure they’re running around with their big team of smart people figuring out all the problems.. which brings me to the point – that seeing how critical customers are of these apps that have a team of people behind them.. how do you even consider doing a small niche magazine with what amounts to pretty much no team.

If you watch the original video about the iPad Wired app before it’s release, it showed a bunch of people working away for what appears to be 3-6 months to get this new platform moving. They have help directly from Adobe.. in what way can an independent compete? I’m sure there was a fair amount of time spent on design and user experience rather than just building, and also on building their workflow so they could publish simultaneously with the print edition in the future. It’s scary that with the democratisation of the app world, small teams or individuals can put products in front of customers right next to the products of major corporations, and be judged equally harshly. There’s tons of crap in the app store, probably because pretty much anyone can be a developer whether they have the skill or not..

on the shoulders of giants.. so it’s not like doing a magazine has to be a start from scratch affair, but it’s far from familiar. I’m sure anyone who is tasked with designing an iPad (or any similar format) magazine will be looking through everything out there so they can avoid potential mistakes, and of course get ideas.

So, what is the new costs in producing a digital version of your magazine? Sure distribution is a whole different issue, printing is no cost, but it seems the consumers stop their thought process there. I think the general public have misunderstood what is involved in innovation. You understand that new products are more expensive because the company is trying to recover R&D costs.. this being a new platform it may be that to start with what you save on the printing and distribution you spend on developing a new platform.

There’s a disturbing amount of reviews on all kinds of apps that moan about paying even 59p for an app.. “fun but should be free” and plenty of other similar comments. So what is my time worth if not 59p? What if it’s not one person but a team developing something?

Quality will surely suffer if people have such terrible issues of giving the developers less than the price of a piece of fruit (after Apple takes their cut). Sure if you have half a million customers you get lots of bananas, but if you don’t, the potential to make money is severely diminished. As with any product you have to invest and take your chances with losing your investment.

Just as an aside, if a customer pays 59p for your app that you have spent time to build and now have to maintain.. what level of support do you expect from a 59p purchase? Would you write a letter and expect a reply and an apology, as well as your problem to be fixed and possibly a refund? Are programmers that ubiquitous that they no longer command any respect for the time it’s taken to learn their trade? At a stretch, if you spent £1500 on Adobe’s creative suite, where they have a monopoly and near enough licence to print money.. their software is industry standard but it’s far from trouble free, then you compare this to a company who’s primary business is probably not software (talking magazines still).. where is the balance in that?

I can’t get my head around people happily spending £599 on a device then complaining that something costs so little.. the 59p apps are 1/1000th the price of the device.. when did you last buy software that cost 1/1000th the price of the hardware (and if you want to say open source/free software exists, I’m not here to debate if that’s right or wrong right now). If you own this premium piece of technology, chances are you have money. Actually the word here is PREMIUM.. you’ve got some cutting edge expensive gadget, you think the world owes you?!

I must admit, it’s quite easy to say this whilst thinking “mm. . that looks interesting but it’s £2.99.. I’ll wait” but I think the difference is I’m not saying it’s expensive, I’m just saying I don’t want to spend £2.99 right now. I’m sure it’s probably worth it if I did. As a freelancer my time is supposed to equal money, so I sometimes look at things in terms of how much time I have to work to pay for it. If I get more than a few minutes pleasure from something costing that much then chances are it’s a net gain.. I work for say 5 minutes and have 10 hours of entertainment, I’d consider that huge value for money. Either my economics doesn’t make sense or there’s huge issues in the value of time in our consumer society.

 

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