Scribd: Publishers Are Wasting Time, Money, Effort In Creating iPad Apps

Although magazines like Wired are reporting strong results for their early iPad efforts, for most publishers, this is still an experiment to see if they can recreate — or at least approximate — the revenue model that used to work so well in print’s pre-digital days. With publishers’ budgets and resources fairly limited, online document marketplace Scribd hopes that instead of devoting the time and fees to working with major content design firms, magazines will simply let it create an HTML5 app for them in a matter of minutes. The only price: Scribd wants a share of the ad revenues.

Forbes is the first major mag publisher to use the Scribd platform to create a digital magazine replica. In a conversation with Jared Friedman, CTO and co-founder of Scribd, told paidContent that since the free, online-only Forbes “special issue” on Warren Buffett was released on May 25th, it’s been read on Scribd’s site over 25,000 times. A print version of Vintage Warren: The Best of Forbes on Buffett, a compendium of past articles on the “Oracle of Omaha,” will hit newsstands next month.

Although better known as a free document sharing platform, Scribd has been working for the past year to build up its revenues and capitalize on the growing interest in e-books and now, magazine apps. It’s been about a year since it opened the Scribd Store, which marked a sharp change in its strategy to drive revenues. While the Forbes issue is not technically a magazine app, it certainly can act the way apps like Wired’s does, including allowing interactive content and ads. Because it’s HTML5, the downloaded Scribd digital mag would have enough cached material so that users can still read even if they’re not connected to the internet.

Scribd is currently setting up trials with several other magazine and book publishers, but the company wouldn’t identify who they are. Aside from the low-cost of simply converting content to HTML5, Scribd’s self-service functions also obviate the need for extensive contracts with publishers.

The last part of the pitch Scribd is making to publishers involves the promise of a better user experience. “Publishers are a little lost and don