Will Condé Nast Feed the iPad At the Expense of the Web?

The iPad looks futuristic, but in some ways it keeps old media rooted in the past. Condé Nast, for example, will offer some magazine content on the Apple tablet before its release on the open Web.

We hear the luxe magazine group plans to release articles first on the iPad, at titles with an iPad edition, and then at least several days later on the Web. While Condé Nast magazines already delay the publication of some articles on the Web, and withhold others altogether, the iPad could exacerbate the situation by adding an additional tier of access and putting the Web further downstream, or, most ominously for Web readers, leading Condé Nast to an "iPad first" policy.

Wired editor Chris Anderson told us his Condé title is trying to experiment in a nuanced manner:

We've always sequenced magazine content so that it comes out at different times in print and on the web, with web delays that have typically ranged from days to weeks. I can't speak for the rest of CN or any other title, but at Wired we intend to do the same thing with tablets. I can't yet say what the range of delays will be for various parts of the magazine, but we'll experiment with different options, ranging from short delays to long ones.

The iPad Wired is the most interactive tablet edition within Condé Nast and, last we heard, isn't expected to launch until "midsummer." A simpler iPad port of GQ had been submitted to Apple, and iPad editions of Vanity Fair, Glamour and the New Yorker are also planned. None are expected to be as ambitious as Wired, and will thus be more dependent on exclusive content for promotion.

We're still waiting for an official response from Condé on whether just some content, or all, will be released on iPad before the Web — we were led to believe the latter is the case — and whether the practice is planned for one issue or as a regular thing.

But any Web delay is unfortunate, because iPad content should be compelling enough on its own to draw readers, without the need for artificial scarcity. After all, this is supposed to be a technologically wondrous device, almost magical for users. We'd download Wired's app, for example, on the strength of the sexy demo alone.

And Condé should be trying to make its websites more lively and timely, not less so; even with the iPad, the magazine group will need to greatly improve its Web business as lucrative print operations deteriorate. Condé Nast's web operations have suffered enough abuse without being further bled at the altar of the iPad.