Digital Magazine Sales in a Slump

[responsive]gqipad[/responsive]The average large consumer magazine now brings in the same revenue through its digital edition as one full-page ad in their print edition, according to D.B. Hebbard of Talking New Media.

“The reason is that the growth in digital editions is slowing,” Hebbard suggests. “Is this because iPad sales are slowing? Or because there are too many PDF-based replica editions in the digital newsstands (or as one reader claimed, there are too many native digital editions available)?”

Hebbard claims there is a simpler answer.

“I think most magazine readers like their print magazines – and why shouldn’t they? Print is a great medium and will outlast us all (even if it does continue to shrink),” Hebbard notes.

And while adoption of the tablet as a device has been swift and deep, the predicted digital magazine revolution hasn’t materialized. Our own reader survey showed a clear preference for printed magazines, and it seems industry sales figures back that up. Advertising figures tell a similar story, as digital magazine aren’t getting the ad revenue many publishers were counting on as they retooled their publishing models.

“For Vogue, and many other consumer magazines,” continues Hebbard, “the revenue currently being generated by their digital editions has yet to even equal that of one full-page ad (assuming it is sold at rate card rates). If one had asked publishers four years ago if they would be satisfied with that level of sales for their digital editions they would have said ‘No.’”

“As depressed as many publishers are about their digital edition sales, the condition of the Apple Newsstand, and the extra work it takes to create compelling digital editions, most publishers would not want to dump their digital publishing efforts. They just want them to enjoy more success and get more readers using their digital devices to read periodicals.”

Still, Hebbard continues, these small digital sales may be just enough to keep circulation figures up, which is so important for setting advertising rates. Whether or not a digital reader is worth as much as a print reader is still up for debate, but overall circulation numbers generally don’t take that into account: Eyeballs are eyeballs, whether by screen or by paper.