Kable partnership with Newsstand aims to spur use of digital publications

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Since they started to emerge earlier this decade, digital editions have provided b-to-b media companies with an alternative distribution method for their trade titles. However, following an initial surge in 2000 and 2001, the growth rate for digital publications has moderated, as it became clear that they appeal more to niche users, such as business travelers.

The recently announced deal between print magazine distributor Kable Distribution Services and NewsStand, which distributes digital publications, could change that. The partnership, announced last week, is designed to allow magazine publishers to supplement their readership online through the use of electronic editions.

As part of the partnership, NewsStand will provide training to Kable’s sales and management executives, and Kable will provide NewsStand with access to its publishers and their publications.

NewsStand distributes digital content for more than 200 magazines and newspapers in more than 120 countries. These include digital versions of Barron’s, The New York Times, USA Today, the European and Asian editions of The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and The National Law Journal.

“Given the state of b-to-b circulation and the rising cost of paper, we’re enthusiastic about the potential for this partnership,” said Myles Fuchs, senior VP at NewsStand. He said “it’s a matter of time” before digital publications start to accelerate growth in the b-to-b media space.

One reason Fuchs anticipates a more receptive response to digital editions among b-to-b publishers is the rise in postal rates. “The [U.S.] Postal Service has already stated that in June it will impose an 11%-to-14% whack on b-to-b mailings,” he said. “You combine that with average quarterly increases of 10% for pulp and I can’t imagine that e-editions won’t be very popular.”

Fuchs also stressed that advertisements running in digital publications offer added value to publishers’ customers. “The ads can provide links to advertisers’ Web sites, and partners can embed video to the ad,” he said. “It’s a commercial come to life, and that can be an a-ha moment.”

Kable owns what Chip Smith, VP-client services, calls a “huge” database of consumers and their “snail mail” addresses. NewsStand will mine the database to push out new digital editions for b-to-b media, he said.

“We get 10 to 20 ideas a day on new e-products for the b-to-b space,” Smith said.

Nearly 140 BPA Worldwide member publications had delivery of their digital magazines audited for the period ended Dec. 31, 2005, according to Glenn Hansen, president-CEO of BPA Worldwide. Among the nearly 7 million copies produced by these 140 publications, the digital portion represents 13.5% of the total, or nearly 1 million copies.

For the period ended June 30, 2006, BPA is expecting the number of member publications reporting some digital editions to reach nearly 200. “This is predicated on the number of publications which have contracted for a pre-audit of the delivery system,” Hansen said. “What portion the digital copies will represent is a guess at this point, but it is not likely the 13.5% is going to jump significantly.”

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