John Ficarra, VP and editor of MAD, thinks the magazine's new app just might be the sales boost that "saves the struggling iPad."
Then again, "it may be just the thing that kills it altogether.""Another thing is, a lot of people have said over the years they wouldn't be caught dead with a copy of MAD," Ficarra joked to Newsarama. "So we figure this is a way that they can have a copy of MAD, without having to hold a copy in their hands."
The new MAD Magazine app, a free download available on April 1st, will include exclusive content, interactive stories, MAD TV videos and access to an archive of issues from the past.
The release on April Fool's Day is fitting for the publication, which lampoons everything from politicians to pop culture. But the app's iPad release also seems overdue, since most magazines have been making moves toward e-readers for years.
"If you take a look at where the magazine business is going, it's critical that you have a digital component," Hank Kanalz, DC's SVP of digital, told Newsarama. "So now we do."
Owned by Warner Bros. as part of its DC Entertainment division, MAD Magazine is getting an app after publisher's earlier release of the DC Comics app and the Vertigo Comics app for iPad.
But the MAD app will include more than just printed issues. There will be new daily content, including video from the MAD television show; stories from MAD's existing blog, The Idiotical; new and backissues of the magazine, and other app-only material.
"We'll be populating the app every month with features that will be exclusively available there," Ficarra said. "For example, on launch, we have a feature on Mad Men, which just debuted, I guess, last Sunday. So we're going to try to time it out to timely things, as well as the classic MAD articles that people haven't seen before."
The app will allow readers to "pop-up" the "marginals" artwork by Sergio Aragones and look at it closer. And fans of the familiar back-cover fold-in gag will get extra material."We're going to give a bonus classic fold-in with every issue," Ficarra said. "And what's nice is that on the app, you can fold the fold-in by a swipe of your hand. They've done a terrific job, so it really looks like the page is folding on the iPad."
MAD already features a "choose your own adventure" element in some of its magazine features, where readers get to see different endings to some of pop culture's more well-known stories. The first interactive story allows readers the chance to "Make Your Own Twilight Movie."
"On the printed page, it's fun, but in the app, they found a way that, when you pick your choices, it highlights them, so you can go back, scroll back up and read the whole thing. And it really brought a whole new level of interactivity to the MAD material," Ficarra said.
Kanalz told Newsarama the company plans to cross-promote the MAD app across all its existing digital audiences. The television show may also provide future cross-promotional opportunities for MAD, he said.
The execs said it's hard to target MAD readers because they cross so many demographics. "I think the consumer marketing term for it is the 'lunatic fringe,'" Ficarra said with a laugh.
"DC Entertainment's goal is obviously to go as wide as possible [with its marketing]," Kanalz said, "which is one of the reasons why MAD is so critical to our business, because it gives us something for everyone."
While the app is a free download, new issues of MAD will be $4.99, while backissues will be $1.99."MAD Magazine is a cultural touchstone for so many people who grew up reading it," Ficarra said. "It's shared in their memories. I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, "I remember this one article..." and they recite it to me verbatim. It's never the same article, but everyone seems to remember an article from MAD that they read growing up.
"With backissues available, you'll be able to go back and revisit those articles and issues that you may have seen when you were younger," he said.
The announcement from DC also pointed out that April Fool's Day is the "birthday of MAD's infamous mascot, Alfred E. Neuman." But Ficarra said the date does have him a bit concerned. "I'm convinced that Hank is going to call me Sunday morning and say, 'April Fool's! We didn't design an app!'"