It Is Time to Put Tablet Magazines Out of Their Misery?

deaddigitalThis year there will be no “Tablet Magazine of the Year” at the ASMEs.

2016 just might be the year tablet magazines get to die already, according to Aileen Gallagher in Medium.

“Magazine editors from around the country (or, really, New York City and a couple other places) are meeting today at Columbia University to determine the winners of the 2016 National Magazine Awards. And for the first time since 2012, they will not have to pretend that tablet magazines are worthy of celebration,” Gallagher writes.

“The American Society of Magazine Editors, the professional organization that administers the National Magazine Awards (known as ASMEs or Ellies), first gave National Geographic the Calder elephant in the Tablet Edition category in 2012. National Geographic won the category, re-named “Tablet Magazine,” in 2013, 2014, and 2015,” Gallagher explains. “ASME retired the category this year.”

Perhaps, as Gallagher writes, this is a “quiet acknowledgement” of the publishing industry’s failure to create innovate table magazines. And with close to 45% of the adult population of the U.S. owning tablets, certainly the market was there, waiting and willing.

“The magazine industry, desperate to bolster flagging circulation, utilized this exciting new platform by … offering mostly replica versions of the print magazines. Innovation, costly to begin with, was bad for business,” she notes.

They were hampered in part by the Alliance for Audited Media’s rules that forced publishers in essence to duplicate their print magazines in order for digital editions to be included in base rates. They could add digital innovation on top of existing content as it appeared in print, but they were hamstrung to do much more than that.

All of this has led to hugely disappointing digital title sales, and leaves publishers with hard decisions. Innovate, an expensive proposition for only 5% of total readership, or do the same old thing that doesn’t appeal.

As Gallagher notes, “there’s zero incentive to try anything else.”

If this is the end, at least it was fairly quick. Not painless, by any means, but quick.