Magazines and the iPad

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News today that iPad magazine sales have dropped considerably since some early enthusiasm. The numbers are small. For instance, Wired sold 100,000 in its first month … then

… the magazine averaged 31,000 digital sales between July and September, but even that fell in October and November, with sales coming in at 22,000 and 23,000, respectively. (For comparison, the magazine sold 130,000 total print editions for October and November.)

Other mags haven’t been even that fortunate. Now I have written before that I don’t think that the magazines really understand what reading is about and so haven’t been able to make the sell based on that. But that said, that is not likely the main reason behind falling numbers.

When it comes down to it, magazines — even more so than newspapers — have to restructure their thinking around the fact that distribution is now effectively free. For glossy mags, printing and mailing costs were huge. Now they are not. This means that magazines can now target what was previously considered unthinkable: the time poor reader. These are people, like myself, who can’t commit to reading every issue of a magazine but would like to browse and pick the best. In the old world, there was no real means of targeting occasionals because of high marginal costs. Now that those costs are zero, models were a set of magazines in subscribed to for a relatively low price and people can pick and choose when they have a moment is on the cards. Put simply, low marginal cost means moving from a niche to a volume model for many magazines.

At the moment, iPad magazine prices match newstand prices. This is insanity. When it stops things will get better for the industry.

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