How much is a hotlink worth?
It seems like a small thing, but it's one of many new questions facing magazine publishers as they try to figure out best practices, policies and business models for their editions on the iPad, Kindle and Nook. Should magazines automatically activate any web addresses mentioned in a print ad -- whether it's Folgers.com or Facebook.com/DKNY -- when the ads get digitized for tablets? Or should advertisers pony up for the privilege?
Conde Nast charges $5,000 to activate each web address from a print ad.
Functional links give advertisers extra value that 's worth paying for, according to Conde Nast, which publishes magazines such as Vogue and The New Yorker. "We feel strongly that we offer our advertisers a unique environment in which to reach our affluent and influential readers, and that our pricing is in line with that opportunity," a spokeswoman said.
Time Inc. had to come up with an answer when it decided its magazines' tablet editions would start including every ad that ran in print, effective with January 2012 issues. It settled on activating a single web address from any print ad that had one, at no extra charge to the advertiser.
Time Inc., which publishes magazines including People and Sports Illustrated, considers one working link to be covered by advertisers' original outlay. "It's incorporated into the how much the advertising costs," said Paul Caine, exec VP and chief revenue officer at Time Inc. "It's part of that investment already."
The policy also encourages at least minimal interactivity for most ads' tablet versions. "There's an expectation for enhancements," Mr. Caine said. "We believe a functional URL is sort of an ante."
Hearst, the publisher of Cosmopolitan and Esquire, goes even further, activating all URLs from print at no further cost to advertisers.
Publishers break along different lines on another question: Should print subscribers have to pay again in order to read tablet editions? Hearst says yes, arguing that buying a movie ticket doesn't mean you can have the DVD for free. Conde Nast and Time Inc. say no, arguing that subscribers deserve access to their brands across multiple platforms.