People Will Buy Tablet Editions, Print Consortium Tests Find

But Do Magazine Delivery Schedules Really Make Sense on New Devices?

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Simulations of a digital magazine marketplace have shown that consumers will buy interactive issues for tablets and e-readers, a consultant working for Next Issue Media, the consortium of major print publishers, said today. But some print professionals still have doubts.

Next Issue Media was formed on the conviction that consumers will pay for digital editions of print issues enhanced for tablet devices.
Next Issue Media was formed on the conviction that consumers will pay for digital editions of print issues enhanced for tablet devices.
Print magazines were historically released on a regular schedule determined by logistical issues around printing and distribution, not consumer demand, said Gary Armstrong, the former Wenner Media executive who is now consulting on iPad development for media brands. "Why are iPad apps updated on the same schedule as the print versions of that brand?" he said. "The distribution model is completely different and the web has trained the same audience they can receive fresher content on a schedule they control."

Next Issue Media was formed, of course, on the conviction that consumers will pay for digital editions of print issues enhanced for the iPad and other devices. Its founders -- News Corp., Time Inc., Conde Nast, Hearst and Meredith -- have now invested plenty of money and time in the venture. On Tuesday it named former TiVo President Morgan Guenther to become its first president-CEO; Mr. Guenther takes over the lead role from Managing Director John Squires, who is leaving.

But the partners wanted to confirm their thinking, said Martin Kon, partner and head of global media and entertainment at Oliver Wyman, a consulting firm hired by Next Issue Media. "The question is: Are we just drinking our own Kool-Aid?" Mr. Kon said today at "Magazines: From Dimensional to Digital," an event produced by the Magazine Publishers of America.

Morgan Guenther
Morgan Guenther
Promising results
By putting simulated offers in front of about 2,000 consumers -- both current print subscribers and people without magazine subscriptions -- the consortium got the reassurance it wanted.

In the simulations, current magazine subscribers bought interactive magazines and bundles of print and digital editions, signed up for iTunes-like accounts that bill credit cards on an ongoing basis, and accepted that interactive editions are "more valuable" than print editions, Mr. Kon said. People who don't currently buy magazines also showed much more interest in buying interactive editions in the future marketplace "as we think it could look," he said.

And it wasn't just magazines oriented to men or technology that found takers. "There is very strong demand across the categories in the magazine sector," Mr. Kon said.

Some print professionals, however, have expressed doubts that many people will really buy weekly or monthly content bundles for devices that are always connected to the internet.

New York magazine is developing an iPad edition for the audience that wants to buy it, but it's still gauging advertiser and reader demand, said Publisher Larry Burstein. "There still is a question mark for us about audience interest in the sort of closed, curated magazine experience of a tablet edition compared to the open, interactive experience of the web," he said.

'I want to know it now'
Magazine brands can use the iPad in lots of interesting ways, but replicating a print delivery schedule might not be the best one, said John Marcom, the president of Future US, which publishes magazines including Pregnancy, Guitar World and Official Xbox Magazine. "I just question that it's going to take the format of periodic delivery of a package," he said.

"Connectivity means that the rhythm of curation is instantaneous," Mr. Marcom said. "My own impulse is, I want to know it now. If you want something every week or every month, the paper equivalent is pretty good."

Interactivity will be key, Mr. Kon said at today's event. "Just being digital is not really interesting at all to consumers," he said.

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