I love Mondays. Here I spent several days writing a post on how I would make a magazine app, and according to paidcontent.co.uk Esquire is already doing what I was going to propose. That makes my post so much easier to write.
I was going to propose that magazines release a free app that would let users read the web content that the magazine is currently putting online for free. Then, from inside the app, the magazine would try to sell the user either individual issues or a subscription to the magazine. This is exactly what Esquire is doing in their iPhone app, and here is why I like it: Every time the user opens your app you have a chance to sell them something.
This free app + paid content is an example of the freemium model. It's the only model that I think has even a chance of succeeding in the long run, and here's why: It lets you browse the content before you buy. Have you ever gone to a newsstand and flipped through a magazine before you bought it? That's what Esquire is doing.
One small caveat: I'm not promising that this is guaranteed to work, but I give the freemium model much better odds at success than the closed models of the GQ iPhone app or the Wired iPad app. I think people want to browse the content before they buy. If they can't, then they are less willing to part with their money.
If you're going to counter with sales figures for the Wired iPad app, don't. Wait until next month and see how few people buy a second issue. We've already seen a drop in sales for GQ on the iPhone.