iPad based magazine subscriptions in a slump

iPad magazine sales seem to be in a bit of a slump. Many magazine publishers have made their content available on iPad as it's an easy way to read content without having to have paper copies littering your home or office. If it's more convenient, why are magazine sales on the iPad not doing so great?

In August, 10,500 users bought issues of Vanity Fair on their iPads. In August, only 8,700 copies were purchased via the iPad. Glamour magazine was in even worse shape with only 2,775 iPad issues sold in October. We all know that paper copies of magazines are on their way out, but shouldn't that mean that virtual copies should literally be flying off digital shelves?

Part of the issue may be the fact that Apple and publishers still haven't agreed on a universal, built-in subscription service (Apple wants to handle the transactions, publishers want to know who you are so they can do marketing based on demographic data). So for now, in order to purchase these magazines, you have to buy each issue individually. That can be a hassle. Since there are often steep discounts on the paper copies but none on the digital version, it can also be much more expensive.

As far as from a magazine stand point, maybe they need to switch gears on their own. There are several sport apps available that you have to purchase yearly. What about that type of model? What if a magazine had a few different apps with different price points? For a year subscription, price the app at the cost of a year's subscription. Then issue updates for each issue. Not an ideal situation but maybe a temporary solution to keep subscribers reading.

Do you guys read magazines on your iPad? Does no subscription model keep you from buying additional issues on a weekly/monthly basis?

(http://m.gizmodo.com/5720597/magazines-doomed-once-again-as-ipad-sales-slump?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+gizmodo%2Ffull+%28Gizmodo%29)

Footnote: 
[via Gizmodo]

Allyson Kazmucha

Editor for iMore, Potter pundit, and the ninja in your iOS

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There are 26 comments. Add yours.

Alimol says:

I love my People Mag iPag app. It is very interactive BUT I am getting tired of spending $3.99 a week on an issue. I would get the paper subscription but that would defeat the purpose of having less paper waste. Zinio's magazine app is nice but they tend to pile up.

L Vorenus says:

The biggest problem for me with magazines on the iPad is not having to buy individual issues, but that is most cases, it is partly because they are often more expensive than hard copies - though not alway, but more importantly that the magazines are little more than a PDF copy of the paper version. This doesn't make for a wonderful reading experience on the iPad where you have to zoom in and out constantly. Not only that, but the reading apps are often poorly designed clunky affairs. If the magazines were redesigned to work in a digital format then the reading experience would be so much better. As I recall, Wired is redesigned specifically for the iPad and it is so much more pleasant to read than any other magazine I've come across. Sadly the content isn't my choice of reading material!

John says:

ESPN The Magazine is a free app and I get free digital issues with my subscription to the print version and access to premium online content on ESPN.com. I've read evry issue cover to cover on my ipad and haven't open the print version since the app was introduced.

cardfan says:

One of the better written blogs in awhile. You offered your take on it with more details of your opinion. Thanks for that.
And its a good one. Annual subs would go a long way. Think if you could stop and start even a physical magazine subscription in an instant. Would you? Ideally you want that first sale to be for awhile..

MikeStew says:

The reason occurs to me just as a renewal notice came in email for my Zinio sub to MacWorld: buying individual issues sucks. First is cost. $4 or $5US per issue? Second is having to remember to go get the issue. I'm just not going to go check the app store each month. Issues download automagically in the Zinio app. I've purchased a few dedicated iPad magazine issues (Esquire's was well done), and I don't think I've ever purchased a second. Zinio, however, got my money up front (and for $20/year, it's reasonable) and they'll get it again this year.

hutch#IM says:

I read about 12 trade publications and two personal a month through the Zinio app. It is a great way to have all your Mag's in one place.

Ben says:

Subscription discounts and convenience are missing with nearly all the iPad magazines and it is a real obstacle for me. However, The Economist has just launched its iPad version, its a discounted subscription, and the iPad version is magnificent, and it lets you know when the new edition is ready.
Now why can't they all be like that?!

Jpwillis269 says:

Subscriptions I'm waiting on. Guitar World, guitar player, runners world (subscription not monthly cost) and a few tech mags that aren't on the iPad yet. The iPad is the perfect format for magazines and when they finally get with the program my wife and her bookshelves will be happy about my not cluttering the house up so much

Wayne says:

The lack of an Apple subscription model has nothing to do with it. I am currently moving from dead-tree to digital magazines. Zinio provides a fine subscription model, if the magazines you want are available. Some other magazines provide similarly fair e-subscriptions through in-app purchases in their own apps. Many trade and professional publications distribute PDF files as part of their dead-tree subscriptions. (It would be nice if they offered digital-only; perhaps they will soon.) But some publishers definitely put up roadblocks. The Atlantic, for example, has an ok app, but each issue is a $5 in-app purchase. There's no digital subscription and no way for print subscribers to access the app at no additional charge. Hopefully they'll figure this out soon.

scott says:

The thing today is you don't need a mag or newspaper to find out what is going on. All local TV has a site for free, the local paper has a site for free (not complete, but good enough for free) so it will be a hard sell to get people to buy what is out there already.

sft says:

I have several subscriptions on my iPad. I used to get the economist and national geographic delivered to my home. Now I use Zinio for nat geo, car and driver, automobile, and bloomberg business week. Of those nat geo and car and driver are interactive with slideshows, videos, etc. Nat geo especially is very well done. All on subscription. I also now have the economist app which means I get my print economist issue sent to my dads addreess so he can read the paper version while I just read them all in the app on my iPad.
I would think apple needs to introduce something like iMags (similar to Zinio but better) or for subscription based individual mag apps for them to really take off. Even as it is now however, I love the iPad for magazine use.

deviladv says:

Magazines, to paraphrase Mr. Jobs, are competing with free. Magazines used to be a place for value added, in depth content. Well that, like newspapers, has been overtaken by the web. I've noticed some of the comments above either site a magazine that's free or exceptionally well done for a minimal price. When you Google for your entertainment and content online for free, why would people pay for it?
Plus content is getting shorter and so are our attention spans. We want to read blogs not magazines. Magazines are becoming a niche and not as big as they used to be, they better suck it up and evolve and live with their new market.

Bob Marley14 says:

Why would a consumer, which already pays an annual fee for a paper subscription, pay double just to have a digital subscription on iPad?
With People Magazine, I pay for the paper sub and get it free on iPad.

Joshua s. says:

The lack of a subscription model has kept me from purchasing my mags on the iPad. I couldn't wait for wired to release for the iPad. . . . .when it did however they wanted $5 per issue when I could get the paper copy for less then a buck. In anticipation of the iPad app I didn't renew my paper version of the mag but then decided that the e version was to expensive, as a result I now don't receive either. I can't wait for a decent subscription model that allows me to rcieve the same types of discounts that I could with the old paper system.

Morgan says:

Bought Project, read it. Won't buy it again. I may not even bother with others Using an iPad is not like browsing in a waiting room. There's a lot more to see and do. Magazines have to compete with too much on the platform, and they feel confining when compared to moving from site to site with rss. They'll have to offer more depth than the rest of the web. Maybe Granta will make it, but Murdoch sounds like an also ran.

Mark - London UK says:

Being a new iPad user, it's clear that the iPad medium is perfect for electronic publishing, but when most paper magazines and periodicals can be had at very reasonable rates if subscribed over a calendar year, why would I want to pay more for a digital version?
Given the more expensive price tag, the fragmented purchasing process and there are good reasons why people are not buying into the digital publishing revolution.
If Apple can devise a very simple and no brainer subscription service, allied with more realistic pricing then it will take off.
People have to understand that people won't pay a premium for digital content when it's cheaper in most cases to have it in the physical form.

jimbo says:

I agree with others that the Economist does a great job with its magazine and its iPad app.
@sft
No offense intended, but uses like you/your dad's -- effectively obtaining two subscriptions for two people in two different locations while only paying for one -- will eventually kill the golden goose. Yes, yes, you can quibble that you are entitled to one iPad download per print subscription, and who cares where it goes -- but, frankly, that is weak sauce.

joeblow84 says:

Too expensive. End of story.

martuca says:

I think Zinio has the right model. I think mags like Men's Health, GQ and others would do well to offer their mags there. I simply refuse to pay for individual mags anymore on the iPad. Too expensive and uncalled for.

RichD says:

I get Macworld and iPhone Life thru Zinio and really like the user experience. I get Mac Life thru another site and it's not as well done. BTWthese are subs and Mac Life and iPhone Life are paper/digital subs.

rj5570 says:

Would love to see Scientific American on the ipad. they do have an app, but its in Spanish? why? its Scientific AMERICAN! Anyhoots, would be nice to read that mag on iPad.

SockRolid says:

@ deviladv - You nailed it with these two sentences:
"Magazines, to paraphrase Mr. Jobs, are competing with free."
"Plus content is getting shorter and so are our attention spans."
And I would add that all the fancy News Corp and Virgin magazine apps are just eye candy. All the animation does is get between the reader and the content. Even if that turns out to be what readers really want, which is doubtful, all of it can be achieved by using HTML 5 + Javascript + CSS. In a browser. No need for native apps. People are used to getting news and opinions online for free, which comes back around to your first point.

Nomis says:

I have downloaded quite a few magazines and newspaper apps now. None seem to actually bother trying to go forward with the technology. Just PDF style content. I also know a lot of people who buy different news papers and don't buy papers everyday when commuting. Unless I am missing something, all only offer monthly subscriptions, so I haven't ever bothered past the free month. I would if I could buy daily editions, as mentioned "content is getting shorter and so are our attention spans" so to be tied in for a month doesn't make sense.
Why would I buy a digital magazine when it's cheaper to buy the hard copy, they are not exactly selling us
the idea which is so what short sighted as we all know where it's all heading!

scottae316 says:

Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook already have yearly subscriptions for the magazines and newspapers on these devices. Yes, you can purchase a single copy, but unless there was some specific content you want or needed, it does not make sense. The yearly subscriptions are discounted also. I know that these are not full copies, but for reading on the commute to and from work it is fine. You would think that Apple and the publishers could work it out. I know that Amazon does provide subscriber information to the publications, but they have that information if you subscribe to print also.
I also object to paying more for digital there are no print, paper, or physical distribution costs. So why should it cost as much?

Kathy says:

The ipad magazine prices are ridiculously steep. My opinion is they should be a fraction of yearly subscription prices. Even purchasing 1 month at a time should be a lot less than the newsstand price.