Future has closed weekly iPad magazine Tech. seven months after its launch, raising questions over the viability of original magazines designed for tablet devices, TheMediaBriefing can reveal.
Launched in November 2012 as a "weekly international iPad magazine aimed at busy technology enthusiasts," the TechRadar offshoot title sold for £0.69 for a single issue or £19.99 annually.
A spokesman at Future tells us: "tech. was a great product but wasn't delivering in the way we anticipated it to, so we took the quick but difficult decision to close it at the end of last month. It's part of our policy of active portfolio management".
It turns out this was a challenge too far for Future, which has achieved 50 percent year-on-year increase in digital magazine sales. But why?
tech. was unusual because instead of being a digital version of a print mag it was a spinoff from an online media brand, technology website TechRadar. That means no print legacy but also no print brand to build on.
That was one of the potential hurdles, as TechRadar publisher Merritt told us in December:
Legacy print titles have readers who know the mag, what role it plays and really the challenge there is transitioning them from one format to another. The (print) mag is its own best advertisement for the digital edition. Our challenge was getting people to buy something that they’d never heard of and had no real conception of.
Tech and gadets is a tough space to publish for. You'd expect a technology title's target audience of digitaly-savvy early adopters would be more amenable to a digital-only brand. But that audience is also extremely well-served by free technology sites on the web, as Merritt identified six months ago:
The competing media isn’t other magazines - if only! - it’s free websites, apps, feeds, Flipboard, aggregators and so on, all constantly updated. So it required a lot of thought to, I hope, get the value proposition right and be something that would resonate with our target reader.
The problem for publishers is that while the tech space may be unusually well served with free websites, the barriers to setting up a website for any market are so low. What makes a magazine digital magazine intriniscally more valuable than a website if you've never had a print version to become fond of?
Is there any hope for digitally native editions?
If Future, with its strong track record in digital magazines and in-house FutureFolio tablet publishing platform, has trouble launching a completely digitally-native magazine brand, is there much hope for other companies and brands?
Are print readers the only potential audience for digital editions? Is it possible those audiences who have grown accustomed to getting their information from free websites may never develop the habit of picking up a digital magazine?
This experiment hasn't worked, but these are all questions Future needs to consider. The company last week admitted it expects to miss its full-year target of £9.5 million EBITDA despite a 24 percent increase in digital revenue, meaning an accelerated cost-cutting programme.