As the Apple Turns ....
OK, before I go into the 2nd part of marketing your iPad-ready digimag (read part one here), I need to address Monday's article in Media Daily News. Journalist Eric Sass makes the cogent argument that things are going poorly for magazines and the iPad, citing sliding magazine single copy sales despite a 500+ percent increase in the availability of the iPad.
This does not surprise me, and it's not a cause for permanent concern. I'm here to put my name on the line and say the fault is not in the digital interface for magazines, or with the magazine publishers; it's in the distribution system.
Eric buries the lead, but it's there. He writes, "One major hurdle: many magazine and newspaper publishers say they are discouraged from offering digital subscriptions for the device, given Apple's reticence in sharing consumer data—like the geographic location of iPad owners—which makes it hard to market subscriptions to likely buyers. So far, most publishers have confined themselves to selling single issues.
"Also, publishers want to retain control of their subscriptions and users personal information."
As an 18-year audience marketer I have only one thing to say to this dilemma: Heck yeah, it's a problem, one that Apple has to sort out if they don't want to lose a potentially nice piece of revenue from digital magazines.
Magazine publishers aren't stupid. They know that the value they get from the name equals or exceeds the discount they give for buying a subscription rather than a single copy. There is tremendous value in that name. Apple knows that, too, but at this point they'd rather lose the business than give up the name. As Sass mentions and All Things Digital's Peter Kafka elucidates, Apple has offered a compromise—they will allow publishers limited access to buyer information IF the buyer opts in. That information includes the name and address, but not the all-important credit card information, without which a publisher cannot easily bundle other products (or, upsell the customer).
What's the solution? Here's a few possibilities publishers are talking about:
- Wait for Google and Samsung to come out with their products and hammer out a better deal with them;
- Sell their magazines at a severe discount in a single copy format to mimic the subscription price (and lose the sub benefits of "sure-fire" circulation plus marketable name);
- Start to market the hell out of their single copies at the current price and capture the name in another way after the sale—say through a pop-up in the magazine with a contest entry, or an upsell to a different product, or simply by asking them if they'd like to get updates via email.
One thing is sure: this battle is still being waged. No equitable solution has been found. And we're all still trying to figure it out.
As the Apple turns...
M. Thea Selby is a Principal in Next Steps Marketing, a San Francisco boutique firm that solves audience-building challenges in creative, customized way using practical "call-to-action" marketing techniques where the return is clearly measurable by clicks, online sign-ups, responses to direct mail, orders from partners, or sales at newsstand.
She was the 2010 Women's Leadership Conference Chair, is a co-founder and board member of Exceptional Women in Publishing—a national organization dedicated to supporting women in and through the power of online and print media—and is the former CEO and Publisher of Light Green Media, a digital publishing company.