Esquire Gets Animated For iPad App Debut

Esquire took its time, but it finally released its iPad mag app last night on iTunes. While the Hearst mag has been selling digital issues of Esquire for $2.99 through its free iPhone “shell,” the monthly iPad edition costs $4.99. Aside from the larger images and text, the big difference between the iPhone and iPad Esquire apps is the use of animation — October cover subject Javier Bardem “greets” readers with an animated walk-on — as well as other moving images throughout the iPad issue.

When I spoke with Esquire editor David Granger in June about the iPad plans, he talked about the company’s desire to do more than simply replicate what it has on the iPhone, hence the long wait.

Hearst and Condé Nast are both in the midst of rolling out a huge wave of apps. They’ve both taken a different tack. Condé Nast has emphasized getting Audit Bureau Circulation-approved digital replicas of its magazines, including the best-selling Wired, Glamour and the recently released New Yorker, among others. Aside from strict representations of its mag titles in tablet form, Condé Nast has also been creating apps like Gourmet Live, which is not tied to an (existing) magazine brand.

Hearst has tried to be more experimental and is not worried about having its app issues count towards its paid circulation. Both Hearst and Condé Nast are partners in the digital storefront JV Next Issue Media, which has been slowly getting off the ground with a new office and hires for its development office in Silicon Valley this week.

Next Issue has projected that digital magazines could net its members $3 billion in subscription revenue by 2014, which will still be a drop in the bucket compared to what print subs spend today. So it’s easy to see what Hearst doesn’t feel the need to conform to ABC (NYSE: DIS) rules just yet.

Instead, it hopes that the addition of catchy animations and other bells and whistles associated with digital magazines will help plant the idea of what a digital magazine can be.

Hearst has also experimented with pricing. As publishers wait for Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) — or some other tablet maker — to provide an adequate subscription solution, Hearst and its peers have tended to create free “shells” that users can download as a gateway to buying an issue. Esquire has tiered pricing for its iPhone back issues. Users who pay $2.99 for a newly released digital replica can get 11 more issues for $9.99; five additional iPhone issues cost $6.99 and two more are $4.99. It also charges $1.99 for some individual back issues. No word yet on whether Esquire will follow this same route on the iPad, but it’s pretty likely.

If you’re still not sure whether its worth $4.99, here’s Esquire’s iPad app promo video that will try to convince you: