Who Is Making Money in the iPad App Store?

By Steve Smith

In its latest TV spot for the iPad, Apple boasts more than 60,000 apps now available for the tablet device. That is good news and bad news. Certainly, it speaks to the robust developer economy that has sprung up around the iPad.

At the same time, iPad apps now suffer from the same challenge their iPhone counterparts have encountered for over a year—discoverability. Apps from magazine brands may get lucky and show up in one of Apple’s on-air spots, which is a surefire road to App Store stardom. But in most cases even recognizable brands struggle to get noticed.

In fact, in the newest “Iconic” ad for iPad, Vanity Fair’s  November 2010 Marilyn Monroe cover (see below) is featured. As of Jan. 27, the VF magazine app is the 13th top-grossing iPad app in the entertainment category. But most magazine brands on the iPad are struggling against countless no-name contenders. Two weeks ago in minonline’s Money Shot, we asked who was making money in the iPhone/iPod Touch section of the iTunes App Store. This time we turn to the top-grossing magazine brands among iPad apps.

Indeed, VF is not alone among the best earners in entertainment. People, with its weekly publishing schedule and $3.99 per issue pricing, is #2 and perhaps the most profitable magazine brand on the iPad right now. Just behind VF ($4.99 an issue) is Maxim ($2.99 an issue) at #14. And while we aren’t clear at all why Bonnier’s Popular Science+ app ($2.99/issue) is in the entertainment section, that title resides at #22 among the top-grossing apps in the category.

While there has been a lot of discussion about declining single-issue sales of iPad magazine apps, print brands continue to dominate the top grossers in the news category. Wired ($3.99/issue) is the third-best earner in the category, followed at #4 by The New Yorker ($4.99/issue), Time ($4.99/issue) at #7 and The Economist ($5.99/issue) at #8. Farther down the top-grossing list in news, we find Newsweek ($2.99/issue) at #16 and New York magazine ($4.99/issue) at #22.

Just as magazine brands have a strong showing in news, the major women’s service brands also rate high in the App Store’s lifestyle section. O, The Oprah Magazine ($3.99/issue) is #3, with the recently released Martha Stewart Living ($3.99/issue) at #4 and the new Real Simple Recipes: No Time to Cook? ($4.99) app at #6.

One of the earliest magazine app entrants, GQ ($4.99/issue), is at #8. Notably, the much-hyped Richard Branson/Virgin Web-only magazine Project ($2.99/issue) is only the 11th best-selling lifestyle app.

Finally, in the sports category, the weekly Sports Illustrated ($4.99/issue) is the top-grossing app in the category, followed by the newly released iPad version of Golf Digest ($4.99/issue) at #3. The ESPN brand has numerous apps in the sports segment, but the best earner is ESPN iScore Baseball Scorekeeper at #4 ($9.99), largely because the specialty app has several $19.99 in-app modules that users can buy to upgrade the functionality. ESPN The Magazine ($9.99) is #8.

Citing Apple’s iTunes App Store as evidence of sales success comes with several qualifications. Volume varies widely across the categories, and the time span for measuring top-grossing apps is unclear. Still, if we look at the overall top earner list in the iTunes store, we see that some print brands appear to be making serious money here. People is ranked 34th among top grossers in all categories, and Martha Stewart Living, O, Wired and The New Yorker are all bunched among the 85th and 100 best earners among iPad apps.


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