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Anderson: iPad Will Solve Magazines' Business Problem

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Chris Anderson has seen the future of magazines -- and it's on a tablet.

In an address at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' Transformation Conference in San Francisco today, Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired, extolled the possibilities for the magazine industry via Apple's iPad and other future tablet-computer platforms.

Wired staffers have been working to create a tablet version of the title for six months, with the goal of having it ready in May.

"We've been looking for a way to do it better, and the good news is that I think we found it," said Anderson.

Presently, online versions of magazines lose "the coherence and majesty of the [printed] medium," said Anderson. Tablets, on the other hand, offer impressive functionality, such as 360-degree views and iPhone-like screen sliding, plus collapsing and layering -- all of which make the user experience vastly more compelling than the Web, he said.

Additionally, the success of the iPhone, Kindle and the emergence of cloud computing have paved the way for devices that are less powerful and lighter with a longer battery life than standard laptops, Anderson said. The iPad is just such a device, and it will sell millions of units in its first month and tens of millions in the following months and years, he predicted.

"It will take less than 10 years for it to become mainstream," he said.

Also revolutionary from an editorial and design perspective is that magazine staffers -- now editing for print and the Web in separate work flows -- will be able to edit for print and tablets simultaneously.

Since Wired in particular -- and parent Conde Nast in general -- did not lose readers during the 2009 recession, Anderson has concluded that magazines don't have a product problem, but a business problem.

Enter the tablet.

Anderson predicted that these devices will move past the CPM model to become the most measurable medium ever.

"The tablet will be measuring what you did on a page, what engaged you," he said. Marketers will know "what entices people to put their fingers on the screen" -- and the layered functionality seen in the editorial product will also be part of the advertising, he added.

As for readership, Anderson said that tablet renderings of traditional magazines will draw consumers who weren't magazine readers before.

"This is a better vehicle for customer relationships. It's not a distribution platform, but a presentation platform," he said. It will "meet the Google Generation where they live."

As for how magazines will control the relationship with customers in their partnership with Apple -- and the prospects of a paid iPad model -- he basically told the audience that there are still issues that remain unresolved.

"We have many questions," he said.

Throughout his address, Anderson referred briefly to his notes on a decidedly old school legal pad. He pledged he'd return next year with his iPad.