Why publishers don’t like apps

Technology Review’s Jason Pontin, in a frank assessment of publishing and tablet apps:

A recent Nielsen study reported that while 33 percent of tablet and smart-phone users had downloaded news apps in the previous 30 days, just 19 percent of users had paid for any of them. The paid, expensively developed publishers’ app, with its extravagantly produced digital replica, is dead…

…I hated every moment of our experiment with apps, because it tried to impose something closed, old, and printlike on something open, new, and digital.

Last fall, we moved all the editorial in our apps, including the magazine, into a simple RSS feed in a river of news. We dumped the digital replica. Now we’re redesigning Technologyreview.com, which we made entirely free for use, and we’ll follow the Financial Times in using HTML5.

Many argue that native apps are our future. Some industries where processor speed is key (e.g. gaming) will stay native for quite a while. However, as this article illustrates, the first wave of tablet apps for publishing are a failure. I expect Newsstand to be a failure. Publishing understands the openness and fluidity of the web is the way to go and I think many more industries will follow suit to HTML as well.