Publisher-Developed IPad Apps: Kind of a Mess, Actually

"There was untold expense of spirit."

Mr. Pontin. (

Once upon a time not so very long ago–we’re talking two years ago, tops–expensively developed, beautifully realized iPad apps were all the publishingindustry rage. But like so many torrid love affairs, the passion that burned hot burned fast, and now there’s nothing but ashes and regrets and songs sung by Morrissey. In a dear-John letter to his own magazine’s appTechnology Review editor-in-chief Jason Pontin describes the period bluntly: “What went wrong? Everything.” It’s all downhill from there.

After a long recap of the struggles faced by the industry as a whole, Mr. Pontin turns his attention inward and does not gloss over the apparent disastrousness of Technology Review‘s own app project:

We sold 353 subscriptions through the iPad. We never discovered how to avoid the necessity of designing both landscape and portrait versions of the magazine for the app. We wasted $124,000 on outsourced software development. We fought amongst ourselves, and people left the company. There was untold expense of spirit. I hated every moment of our experiment with apps, because it tried to impose something closed, old, and print like on something open, new, and digital.

They’ve now cut their losses and are redesigning using HTML5, so it’ll be free and easy-to-read on any device. We imagine that wireframes were ceremonially burned in the process.

Publisher-Developed IPad Apps: Kind of a Mess, Actually