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iPad magazine sales slowing at year’s end

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2010
News Categories: Apple, iPad, Apps + Games

Sales of iPad-formatted versions of print magazines dropped towards the end of 2010, according to a new report. Citing figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, WWDMedia reports that Vanity Fair sold only 8,700 digital editions in November, down from an average of 10,500 for August, September, and October; Glamour, which sold 4,301 digital issues in September, saw sales drop 20 percent in October and another 20 percent to just 2,775 in November. GQ‘s November sales were the worst since April, when the iPad was released, and Wired saw sales of 22,000 and 23,000 in October and November, respectively, after averaging 31,000 digital sales between July in September, down from sales of over 100,000 in June. While the report notes that publishers are hopeful the sales of new iPads over the holidays will increase sales, it should be mentioned that most digital editions are priced at or above the newsstand price for print editions, with no subscription model currently available. A report from earlier this month indicated that talks between Apple and magazine publishers over the terms of a potential iTunes subscription model were at a standstill, with the two sides unable to agree on revenue and subscriber information sharing issues.

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Comments

1

I wonder what the publishers are thinking. I don’t know if the iPad is going to prove a viable “print” media platform or not, but I do know this: the only time anybody pays news stand prices on magazines is either when they’re desperate for something to read (e.g. stuck at airport) or that single issue has something they’re particularly interested in. Unless they have insider information that Amazon is getting read to drop the color Kindle in the next few months and will play ball according to their rules, this killing of the business model before it’s even had a chance to gain any footing is pure craziness. Compromise, only sign a 12 month deal with Apple on their terms, slash the issue prices to reflect the fact it’s digital, do something. Your intellectual property won’t be worth squat in another five years when it’s no longer a viable business, and that’s what’s coming for most magazines.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on December 29, 2010 at 4:03 PM (PDT)

2

Why should I even bother with an iPad version of a magazine?  I can subscribe to any of the Condé Nast publications listed in the article for $12 to $18 a year. And a magazine (print) format is still vastly more convenient than an iPad version (why, you can read it anywhere—even the beach!).  Sure, the iPad version MAY have clever gizmo add-ons like “video,” but I can also go to the magazine’s web site on my laptop and (as a subscriber) see the same video content for free.

Posted by JonnyOneNote on December 30, 2010 at 10:13 AM (PDT)

3

Actually Code Monkey, magazines are doing remarkably well, considering the mainstream media has been sounding their deathknell for the last 5 years or so. I’m still not convinced that an electronic device is the ideal way to read a magazine.  It sure hasn’t been that way for me. (I’ve bought a few and found that the entire experience just sucks.)

News, especially breaking news, on the other hand, is different.  I’d rather read it online than in a newspaper.

Posted by Burning_Daylight on December 30, 2010 at 1:13 PM (PDT)

4

I subscribe to more than a few magazines, and only one (so far) has offered a discounted rate for an electronic version: Computerworld ($129/year print, $29/year digital). All of the rest are priced at single issue price, not subscribers rate.

Posted by Rac... on December 30, 2010 at 9:02 PM (PDT)

5

Really, this isn’t rocket science.  Offer a discount for single issue downloads and offer subscription models at the same price point for snail mail distribution.  The publisher saves a ton of money on production, paper costs, and shipping - why on earth do you not provide a subscription model similar to snail mail?  It also provides a more accurate audience number to advertisers.

I love certain magazines, but I don’t like my address being sold for a bunch of crap that I don’t want and being eco-friendly, I’m more than happy to buy a digital subscription knowing that I’m helping to save some trees.

What idiots.

Posted by Windy City D on December 30, 2010 at 9:35 PM (PDT)

6

I agree that single issue costs are a big part of the problem. Zinio has the right idea. There you can subscribe, and for many magazines, you can subscribe at closer to print subscription rates. I have three subscriptions through Zinio, and I read the mags on my ipad, although I can also download them on my PC.

When I look to buy digital content, I want to be sure that I will have long term access to what I buy on multiple devices. One big advantage should be having the ability to search through and save old magazines a year later for a specific article. Zinio has been around for years, and I have several old magazines I bought on there anytime I want to see them. I don’t want a one magazine app, I want a magazine reader that works on my ipad, PC, phone, etc. That is also why I prefer Kindle over iBooks: it also works on my desktop PC, my laptop, my iPad, my android phone and at work. I think one magazine apps are doomed. The digital future for magazines lies in cross-platform magazine readers like Zinio.

Posted by Mike Grayson on January 1, 2011 at 9:48 AM (PDT)

7

I can tell you, first hand, that I have actually dropped all of my paper issues and have switched completely to the digital issues available on the iPad. Since doing so, I have had to drop some of my magazines, but have gained others in their stead. In the end, I actually have more digital subscriptions than I ever had with physical subscriptions.

I think the reason subscriber rates are going down are 2-fold:

A) I think people really want the distributors to get their acts together, go digital and charge digital-only pricing. Until that happens (hopefully soon) we will not see a large up tick in digital subscription rates.

B) It may just be that everyone that has an iPad isn’t interested in digital newsstand media. However, those that are may just be waiting for the digital issue pricing and subscription model to take effect before purchasing their iPads… who knows…

I still think that 20,000 - 25,000 subscriptions per month is a boon at this early, early stage of the game. Every new issue I subscribe to on the iPad gets better and better. It’s certainly more than “just video” in these issues. For me, at least, it is the convenience of having all of my issues with me at all times. No matter where I am I can crack open one of my rags and just read it… it is really awesome.

Posted by Jeffrey Bonacci on January 3, 2011 at 6:37 AM (PDT)

8

The problems I have with eMags so far comes down to three things:

1) Too little content
2) Price too high
3) Gee whiz overused to the point of being distracting.

I realize that this is new, and it’s in an experimental state, but I have been less than impressed thus far.  I’m hoping once it all settles down, prices and content will be more inline with what I want.

Posted by sb on January 3, 2011 at 6:37 PM (PDT)

9

I subscribe to a couple of magazine subscriptions on my iPad that I would not have bothered with otherwise.
For me the convenience of having the magazine wherever I am is the key, especially as I am out and about and travelling with work a fair bit.

However, I do think publishers need to review their costs and subscription models. There is little benefit cost wise for a digital copy, and in most cases the cost is the same,

If the pricing is sorted then I think more people will take up digital subscriptions.

Posted by Cyberman in nr Heathrow, London on January 4, 2011 at 1:49 AM (PDT)

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