Very intriguing article, but it makes one wonder about the landing pad being at the launch site - normally the main booster is a good ways away from the main launch site and moving rapidly away (that's why the floating landing pad was 500 miles downrange from the launch site)...this would appear that SpaceX would carry enough fuel to turn the booster back around (from mach whatever) and fly all the way back to the launch site (would seem to be alot of fuel) - I would have expected landing on a floating landing pad or construct such a landing area on an island(s) that isn't too far from the parabolic fall area of the booster (i.e. where the floating pad would be).
Looking forward to more details....
I can't give you hard numbers off of the top of my head but there are a lot of variables. Different missions require different trajectories and payloads vary in mass significantly. The DSCOVR mission was actually a light payload, but it was a "deep space" mission requiring a very high velocity which is why the landing point was so far out to sea. So to quote Elon Musk, the first stage was "hauling a**." But there are a lot of missions where the stage is lofted more vertically or is traveling much slower when it separates. For those trajectories, there is about a 30% "payload hit", that is to say that for any payload massing 70% of the F9's maximum capability, they can include enough fuel to RTLS. If I recall correctly, landing on the barge incurs about a 15% payload hit on those more typical trajectories.
So for SpaceX, it comes down to economics. They have a barge on the east coast and are building one on the west coast for missions that don't have the margins to RTLS. But it saves them money to RTLS because then they don't have to pay crew for support ships and everything else involved in operating the landing platform. And landing on land (once approved), will always be less risk since the weather will be the same as the launch weather and there won't be 30 ft waves bouncing the landing pad around. So if conditions are good to launch, they will also be good to land.
As far as using an island or building a stationary platform goes, that isn't ideal for several reasons. A lack of available islands being one, but also it's location would always be a comprise because of all the varying trajectories. By using a barge (aka Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship), you can place it anywhere in the ocean for all the exceptions to RTLS, rather than only catch a subset.