What’s On

Publishers adapting to digital world

Publishing companies like Hearst Magazines, Condé Nast and Time Inc are pursuing diverse strategies to drive up digital sales, and have all seen major growth in reader numbers as a result. 
Hearst Magazines charged an average of $10 for first year subscribers to its print titles last year, which could be measured against the $19.99 for digital subscriptions.”This represents an opportunity for the magazine business to become more leveraged toward consumer revenue and a little less dependent on advertising,” David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, told the Wall Street Journal.
Hearst has 800,000 digital-only subscribers, serving as a much-needed fillip given that US magazine adspend is set to contract by 4% in 2012 and 5.1% in 2013, according to Warc’s latest Consensus Ad Forecast. “I hope that this is the demise of $6 and $7 and $8 and $9 print subscriptions,” John Loughlin, Hearst’s executive vice president and general manager, said.

On its part, Condé Nast is offering “bundled” digital and print subscriptions for $99. This compares with fees of $69 to subscribe to publications like Vanity Fair and the New Yorker via a single channel. In reflection of the possible benefits this provides, a print subscription commanded $39 two years ago. Condé Nast now has 1.5m digital readers, and 500,000 who solely subscribe through such a route.

Moreover, print subscribers also opting to take up a digital package logged a renewal rate some 25% greater than their counterparts not paying for both online and offline access. “We’re using this new platform and the clear demand for all access to our content as a way to redefine our subscription offerings at a higher price,” said Bob Sauerberg, president of Condé Nast. “The industry is trying to take a step forward because we’re all trying to get more money from the consumer.”

Time Inc, by contrast, sells print, digital and joint subscriptions for the same amount, a strategy it says has followed on from a decision not to reduce prices in the past, as many rivals did. “Just because you can get it on the tablet doesn’t mean that you can price up,” Laura Lang, the chief executive of Time Inc, said. “You actually have to have content that people get excited about… What I love about tablets is, it gives us a chance to make more relevant content, which people will value.”

Empirical Media, the consulting and insights group, has found that two-thirds of people reading magazines on tablets are male, while over 50% fall into the 18–35 year old age range and 36% boast a household income topping $100,000. Jim Friedlich, president of Empirical Media, said: “As market penetration continues, the demographics of the tablet user will be largely indistinguishable from mainstream magazine and newspaper readers.”

Reproduced with permission from WARC.