Peter Kafka

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GQ’s iPad App Does…Okay

So we’re six weeks past the iPad launch. Has Apple’s gadget saved the publishing business yet?

Nope. But it might be generating a few extra bucks.

Publishers are being tight-lipped and/or vague about their iPad sales, but here’s some directional news from Condé Nast, which launched one of the first magazine apps for the device: Condé says its iPhone/iPad version of GQ has sold 57,000 copies since its launch in December. (By comparison, Condé moves 900,000 print copies a month to subscribers and newsstand buyers.)

Fine. But what about iPad sales, which kicked off in April? Astonishingly, Condé doesn’t actually know, because it doesn’t sell an iPad-specific app. So it can’t tell if any particular app was bought with the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad in mind.

GQ spokeswoman Peri Dorset allows that the company did see a spike with the April 3 launch of the iPad. And then again with the launch of the 3G model. But that’s about as precise as she’ll get.

We do know, though, that three weeks into January, GQ had sold 12,000 copies of that month’s app, and that was just iPhone/iPods. So I’m not convinced the iPad has provided GQ with a huge boost.

Best-case scenario, for now, is that the apps provide some ancillary income. How much? GQ sells its app for $2.99, but repeat buyers can get subsequent issues (or back issues) for $1.99. For argument’s sake, let’s guess that two-thirds of GQ’s app buyers are first-time buyers. By my math, that’s about $150,000 in gross sales revenue–$112,400 from $2.99 sales, and $37,400 from $1.99 sales. Knock off 30 percent for Apple’s (AAPL) take and you’re down to $105,000.

Needle mover? Nope. But Condé also gets the chance to sell some advertisers the right to be a premium app sponsor, so the dollars could pile up, eventually. Enough to cover development costs, at the very least. Call it a decent start.

Okay, Condé rivals: Ready to share your numbers?