Digital Magazines Toy with Reduced—or Eliminated—Pricing

quickfixEarlier this week we talked about the slump in digital magazine sales, and how the predicted glut of digital revenue in the magazine industry hasn’t panned out. Further evidence of the irrational exuberance of the digital business model is the fact that many publishers are slashing—or even eliminating—the prices on their digital editions to gain new readers.

D.B. Hebbard in Talking New Media reports on two such stories.

“Early last year, The Hockey News, published in Toronto by Transcontinental Inc., launched a Newsstand version,” notes Hebbard.

“Launched in early February, the publication was able to show around 1,500 digital circulation in its mid-year publisher’s statement last year. But by the end of the year, The Hockey News could claim only around 2,300 digital circulation, about 2.6 percent of total circulation,” Hebbard continues.

With hockey season right around the corner, the magazine has updated its app and dropped its subscription price significantly, Hebbard reports, from $39.99/year to $29.99.

Will it help? “That’s hard to tell, but experimenting with pricing is one of the options publishers have to see if they can motivate readers,” Hebbard explains.

Free is another option if you are struggling to gain readership, as is the case for the Apple Newsstand app The Modern Producer.

“The tablet-only magazine is published by Jordan Valeriote who maintains a music studio in Ontario, Canada,” explains Hebbard. “He says on his website that he started recording friends for free in 2006 and a couple years later decided to ‘go all-in’ and became an independent producer and engineer.

“I decided to go free [with the magazine] because my test with paid issues/subs was simply not working. I’m losing money. So now I’m trying the other model – free magazine in order to build a large reader base and then earn revenue from advertisers,” Valeriote explains.

Maybe price is a barrier in cases like these, but at the relatively low cost to entry, we think it’s far more likely that people just aren’t that interested in reading digital magazines. The value of digital content is often diminished by the sheer volume of it, and devaluing it further by dropping the price only leads readers to believe that digital content isn’t worth much at all.

You get what you pay for?