In the last few weeks I've written a handful of posts about the apps vs. HTML5 debate. These included:
- The escalating cost of trying to control everything
- Figuring out when apps make sense
- Leveraging HTML5 to open up some "walled gardens", and
- More on the use of apps in publishing
Howard Mittman, publisher at Wired, one of the stronger advocates for app development, recently talked with Jeff John Roberts of paidContent. Not surprisingly, Mittman remains bullish on apps, noting that the magazine had already sold 65,000 digital-only subscriptions with an estimated annual revenue of $910,000 (after Apple takes 30%).
Those subscriptions give Wired $76,000 an issue to create an app-based magaine. That's not chump change, particularly for a new(ish) initiative, but out of that pool you do have to pay for content preparation, likely some content conversion, custom navigation and maybe some additional rights for certain content.
Even if you assume that the additional costs are only half of the incremental revenue, the publisher still has to build a $38,000 app before selling it. That's not chump change, either. Investing that kind of money in an unproven channel requires a strong heart.
In his paidContent piece, Roberts does a good job assessing whether Wired is a leader or an outlier in its commitment to apps. The answer is probably a bit of both. Although Mittman dismisses Jason Pontin's post lamenting app woes at Technology Review, the Wired publisher does allow that "skinned" apps, with tablet real estate and an HTML5 back-end, may be part of a "larger app experience."
Of course, we don't need to tear down Wired's app strategy to make the point that it doesn't work for all publishers. As Roberts aptly concludes, HTML5 might be considered a force for change in the "good-enough revolution", one in which delivering what the consumer wants may not cost $38,000 an issue.