The iPad lost years for Apple’s media partners

The iPhone maker took newspaper and magazine companies on a detour to a boondoggle.

Apple Inc. is revamping its digital bookstore in another attempt to take on Amazon’s dominance. I can’t help thinking: What if?

Not what if Apple had succeeded the first time around, when it introduced a way to purchase electronic books with the 2010 debut of the iPad. No, Apple is the most valuable public company in the world, and its iBooks digital book store and e-reading app was always going to be an immaterial part of its business.

The missed opportunity was for Apple’s business partners, particularly newspaper and magazine companies, which Apple persuaded to turn themselves inside out to take advantage of the iPad. It turned out that Apple was leading those partners to a dead end.

Sure, some of Apple’s business partners had misgivings, but most devoted time, people and money to tailor newspapers and magazines to the iPad. News Corp., publisher of papers including the Wall Street Journal and the Sun in the U.K., created daily newspaper versions for the iPad and an iPad-only publication called the Daily.

The parent companies of Esquire magazine, Fortune and Better Homes and Gardens were among the print companies that created a joint venture to sell a Netflix-like subscription for dozens of iPad magazine titles. In hindsight, it was a waste, and Steve Jobs led them all on a costly detour.

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Editor’s note: This article is a must read, not least for the accuracy of the story.

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