Buy a digital magazine? No thanks, I’ll just stream the feed. This seems to be the trend in online publishing, much the same way music lovers have flocked to streaming radio instead of buying their music content.
“The first inkling we had that digital music sales had hit a plateau occurred in January when Nielsen reported that sales dropped from 1.34 billion units in 2012 to 1.26 billion in 2013. The culprit was quickly identified as music streaming,” writes D. B Hebbard in Talking New Media.
And while online content sales are down, app sales are on the rise, continues Hebbard. Some say this might be good news for subscription-based digital publishers that offer streaming content, but Hebbard warns that the picture isn’t necessarily rosy.
“Some see this as a good sign for digital publishers but that might be shortsighted as one of the biggest trends in digital publishing is subscriptions services – whether in eBooks through Amazon or Oyster, for instance, or in magazines through Next Issue or other digital newsstand services,” Hebbard cautions.
“One might say that [there] is a difference between a subscription service and a streaming service but it is hard to really see it from the perspective of a consumer – both deliver unlimited (except for the size of the service’s library) content at a set monthly price,” Hebbard continues.
“Both music streaming and publishing subscription services make it easy for the consumer to access content without buying anything specific – but more importantly, this transaction occurs without direct content with the record label, publisher.”
And that lack of contact, if the publishing industry follows the same trend as the music industry, could mean “that lower net sales are right around the corner,” Hebbard warns.
Meanwhile sales of iPad tablets continue to slide, down 9% last quarter to $13.3 million, according to the BBC News. While the market for tablets, created by Apple, now has some competition in Google Chromebooks and others, it hasn’t taken over the public consciousness the way smartphones have.
What this means for digital publishers is yet unclear, but one thing is certain. As digital publishers strive to create content that is viewable on any device, they would be advised to take the next step and make sure their business model is just as responsive. Big change comes in small packages and this one could be a real sea change for the industry.