101's survey bolsters case for offering digital editions

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Digital replicas of print magazines of the sort produced by Zinio and NXTBook have yet to attract much interest from b-to-b marketers, but advocates are hoping that will soon change.

"Advertisers are neutral about [digital editions]," said Jeffrey Klein, president-CEO of technology media company 101communications. "They're not overly excited about the opportunity, but they're not as skeptical of the readership [of digital editions] as one might fear."

In part to woo these lukewarm marketers, 101communications commissioned a survey of digital and print subscribers at four of its tech magazines: Application Development Trends, Campus Technology, Federal Computer Week and Redmond. The survey, conducted in January by Mosaic Media Partners and Proximity Marketing, queried 4,231 respondents via e-mail about their readership habits related to both print and digital editions.

The survey found the typical print subscriber had read or looked into 3.19 of the last four issues. At the same time the typical digital subscriber had read or looked into 2.73 of the last four issues.

Three out of four print subscribers said they preferred the print format because it's easier to read while traveling. Digital subscribers said they preferred the electronic replicas because they are easier to save (55%), convenient (54%) and have search capability (51%).

A large share of digital subscribers (92%) said they had taken some action as a result of seeing an ad in a digital publication: 74% said they had linked to a vendor's Web site from an ad, 37% said they had forwarded information about a vendor to a colleague and 22% said they had forwarded an ad to a colleague.

The number of publications offering digital subscriptions that are audited by BPA Worldwide more than tripled to 101 between June 2003 and December 2004. As a percentage of total circulation, however, digital circulation is still less than 15% for most publications, according to BPA. The digital circulation of Redmond is about 30%, Klein said.

Armed with proof of the growing use of digital editions and the results of the survey, Klein's staff has more ammunition for approaching b-to-b marketers. "There's always some degree of skepticism about whether people really read a lot online; but, at least for our audience, they really like it," he said.

Digital subscribers to PennWell Corp.'s water and wastewater publications renew at rates greater than those seen by tech publications the company has studied, according to Gloria Adams, PennWell's corporate director of audience development. "That surprised me to death," she said.

Adams said PennWell's own studies about digital editions mirrored the results of 101communications' survey.

Although debate continues over reporting the frequency with which subscribers actually download digital editions, both 101communications' and PennWell's surveys may begin to sway marketers to take advantage of the interactive capabilities digital editions offer. 

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