Publishers: Why There is No Pot of Gold at the End of the App “Rainbow”

Publishers have been sold a bill of goods as apps are fatally flawed as the vehicle for publishers drive readership and monetize their digital content.

Unless you are The Huffington Post or The New Yorker the chances of your publication being discovered by the hundreds of millions of people browsing the app store is slim to none (and ‘Slim’ just got up and is walking out the door.) Sure you’re publication is “available” to be discovered, but the harsh reality is you’re probably only going to be found in an app store if YOU personally direct a reader there.

The other major flaws with an app strategy for publishers are:

  • Putting Too Many Obstacles Between Readers & Your Content. In our instant gratification society, the more barriers you put in front of a reader, the greater percentage of them you’ll lose before they get to your content. The app approach requires a reader to: 1) go to the app store…2) search for the app…3) enter a password….4) download the app…5) download the specific issue. How many publishing apps are you willing to do this for?
  • Publishers Don’t Own the User Data. Even if you got a reader to jump through all of these hoops to download your app, good luck getting them back for the next issue. Since @apple,@google, @amazon etc own the subscriber data, you’re left out in the cold most times when it comes to being able to promote to your own subscribers.
  • People are Choosy About Their Apps Because They are Memory Hogs. Most users load their devices with so many videos, pictures and apps that the storage space they have remaining is very precious to them and they are very choosy about what they download. Requiring them to download an app + issues that are hundreds of megs (or gigs) greatly limits how many will actually do it.
  • Lose 30% of All Revenue. All sales made through your app must pay a commission of roughly 30% (depending on platform provider) to the app store owner.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for your app strategy to pay off, you’ve been sold magic beans and it’s time to move on.


Larry Genkin is the founder and CEO at Of Eleven Media.