The iPad has already become a key platform for at least one magazine's mobile site. Only three weeks after launch, the Applet tablet accounts for more than a quarter (26%) of the mobile devices accessing Wired.com.
Overall, mobile devices account for between 2.3% and 3.5% of the site's traffic. For the past year, the vast majority of Wired's mobile visitors have been iPhone owners, with 10% using the iPod touch and 15% to 18% using other devices.
"But with the launch of the iPad on April 3, it seems that many iPhone users have picked up iPads -- and are finding them a good way to browse this site," according a Wired.com post Thursday. But Wired parent Conde Nast and other magazine publishers betting on the iPad to spark a digital renaissance of the industry shouldn't get too excited.
Wired said the increase in iPad users was matched by a corresponding decline in iPhone and iPod users, presumable as they trade up to a bigger screen-rather than defecting from another mobile platform. The overall share of Wired's mobile users also remained about the same in April.
"One conclusion we can draw: iPad users are using it to browse the Web, and they're doing it a lot," stated Wired. That's welcome news for advertisers and publishers but not necessarily surprising given the disproportionate share of Web surfing on the iPhone compared to other devices.
Wired also acknowledged that the iPad has claimed a significant share of its traffic despite the site's videos, which used an Adobe Flash-based player, don't play on the iPad. To help remedy that problem, it launched an iPad-compatible home page on Wednesday. But Conde Nast and other publishers couldn't be faulted for not wanting to make their magazine sites too user-friendly on the iPad.
That could interfere with their carefully constructed app strategies. Conde Nast has already launched a $2.99 iPad app for the April issue of GQ and subscription-based apps are coming for Wired, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, Glamour and other titles. Mobile applications to date have exploded in part because they've offered a superior alternative to the mobile Web for accessing content and utilities.
But with the larger form factor of the iPad, and potentially upgraded 3G and Wi-Fi coverage from AT&T (a big "if"), the mobile sites will stack up more evenly against equivalent apps. That could make it harder for publishers to get the higher app prices they're looking for on the iPad than the iPhone-or charge at all. Of course, as the potential for the mobile Web is expanded on the iPad, so it is for apps.
Finding the balance between free mobile Web and paid app versions of content is something publishers will have to figure out in the coming months as they test different payment models, pricing levels and media offerings. But apps may not have it all over the mobile Web like they have up to now with the iPad providing a more level playing field.