Many Tablet Publications Are ‘Hopeless’, UBM’s Levin Says

United Business Media (LSE: UBM) CEO David Levin has taken many publishers to task for trying to shoehorn their existing publications in to iPad.

“I think it’s a hopeless approach, actually,” Levin told paidContent:UK. “The business models are still hokey.

“Publishers have got a long way to go. Some big brands are getting some bits of it absolutely right – but, at heart, all of the broadsheets don’t have a functional business model yet. It’s all experimentation while the core business shrinks. There’s not yet one publication that’s in a great place.”

Levin said the FT‘s cross-platform freemium model was the best iPad business method, whilst The Times‘ iPad app was strong. But he criticised publishers for replicating old print brands in the new device…

“This is wonderful one-to-many, but you’ve got the ability to talk back and social media. The product isn’t the same product (as print). Most iPad apps, you can’t even email the page, you’ve put yourself in a perfect walled garden where you can’t share the content.

“The first wave of people saying ‘I’m going to take my magazine on the web’ was a disaster because you use the web differently from a magazine. Now, everybody’s saying ‘I’ll take my magazine or newspaper on to the tablet and the use cases are all identical except there’s touch and video – but they still haven’t embraced social media.

“Everybody presumed this was a replacement for print but they hadn’t really seen it as a vehicle for things like moving image.”

Of course, Levin is speaking from a particular vantage point at UBM, which, by virtue of being a B2B publisher, can begin to reconsider buyers of its publications as cross-platform professional communities, regardless of the print title from which they originate.

“I’m less worried about ‘do you distribute a magazine?’ than the broader question of ‘how do you create value for a community?‘,” Levin asks. “If you do that, you’ll be able to monetise it.”

Some UBM products including drug directories and a Chinese consumer magazine, FashionBaby, have iOS apps.