GQ's iPhone App Sells, But Who Knows What It Means

Last Updated Jan 22, 2010 3:52 PM EST

Does the minor success of GQ's iPhone app portend a bright future for tablet-based digital magazines? Hard to say, but Conde Nast trotted out some numbers for Ad Age which indicate it might be so. The magazine giant sold more than 6,600 iPhone apps of its December "Men of the Year" issue and 12,000 of its January issue, at a low, low $2.99 a pop. It's looking at the iPhone experiment as getting a bead on the tablet future, which is about to get much more real with the launch next week of Apple's tablet (even though many magazine companies are wary of doing business with Apple).

Not having an iPhone -- I did, however, just by a Droid -- I haven't been able to test out the experience, but still wonder if one commenter to the Ad Age story has it right. He said simply: "Boobs sell. Next." On the other hand, there's a certain beauty in the price point. Charging less than $3 is almost like not charging at all. It's so below the radar screen that, like one latte at Starbucks, no one except Suze Orman thinks of it as hurting the personal budget, and if the user experience is good enough, well ...

Still, though no one would expect the GQ iPhone app to attract hundreds of thousands of users, let alone millions, I have difficulty seeing how big this market might be. As I said in a post last year about Sports Illustrated's speculative digital magazine, if a comparable experience is available for free on the Web, it's going to make the market for these ventures pretty darn small. I dare a tablet-aspiring magazine to shut down its Web site when it launches its digital magazine. Then we can have a real chat about this. (Visual ripped, with much appreciation, from Ad Age.)

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