In just a few days the iPad will be 18 months old and Jann Wenner will release Rolling Stone's first app -- nothing too flashy. Given Wenner's reputation as the biggest naysayer of tablet editions, it would appear we're entering a new era of the iPad magazine. So far all of the other big publishing houses have put their cards on the table. Over the past year and a half, publishers have spent millions on in-house and third party iPad teams, trying out all kinds of ideas like interactive feature packages, deep video integration and even completely personalized editions. On Wednesday, Newsweek announced the hiring of Melissa Lafsky as its iPad Launch Editor in order to redesign their app that will "will enhance the strong design landscape of the magazine." But Adweek reports this week that some magazines are deciding that a "tricked-out app isn't the highest priority," deciding instead to downplay extras that one Hearst executive said were "often more likely to be distracting, cause confusion, and occasionally irritate customers."
Funnily enough, this sounds a lot like the approach that Wenner wants to take. We don't yet know what Wenner iPad approach will look like, but based the details he's announced for the Rolling Stone debut, it sounds he's trying to do something different. Instead of diving right into the magazine, Wenner's testing the waters with a companion app, The Beatles: The Ultimate Album-by-Album Guide, which will feature 30-second samples of Beatles songs, the ability to download the tracks through iTunes and not much else other than pictures and text. Next year, Wenner will launch what paidContent calls "full digital magazine replica apps" for Rolling Stone and Us Weekly, and we'd guess from the use of the word "replica" that these digital editions will probably keep things simple. As giants like Heart scale back, Wenner's comments last year about the rush to the iPad being "just sheer insanity and insecurity and fear" sound almost prescient.