FOLIO: Staff

In a survey of more than 30,000 digital magazine readers conducted in April 2006 by
Texterity and certified by magazine auditor BPA-Worldwide, respondents indicated
some strong preferences for digital versions, particularly online renewals.
Seventy-percent of respondents said they were more likely to pass along
information they find in a digital magazine than if they found it in print while
80 percent were more likely to search through back issues online. Perhaps most
impressively, 91 percent of readers took action after reading an advertisement
in a digital edition.

The opportunity is clearly there. Are digital magazines up to the challenge?
Cimarron Buser, vice president of product planning and marketing at Texterity,
weighs in on the evolution of the digital magazine.

Publishers are making the push online and some are even starting to see returns
from Web sites, custom channels, even Webinars. With all the online options
available to publishers, why digital magazines?

We’ve had a lot of people who are tough publishers ask that question and in their minds,
I’ve got five minutes to explain why to do this. If you’re an audited magazine
or any trade magazine, the question is, why aren’t you doing this? If you have a
decent sized subscription base, anything over 25,000, and if you get 15 percent
to 20 percent of your subscriber base to go digital, it’s very clear that you
will save significant money. It could be $5,000 or $10,000, it could be $50,000
or $100,000. Whatever it is, it’s a real number. The second reason is that
you’re serving your readers in the way they want to be served;you’re not forcing
them to get digital. You can also reach a readership that may not be as well
served as it could be, such as international. It’s exciting when you can offer
something people can’t get anywhere else.

What’s changed about what customers are asking for?

New customers are asking for much more of a roadmap on how to go forward. Many of
them are aware of digital magazines. Maybe they’ve seen the models, and now they
think maybe its time to give it a try. But they want to be shown a launch plan.
As a publisher, how do I communicate with advertisers, how do I make it fit with
my Web site? People are asking about technology but less so than a few years
ago. I think they assume it all works but they will try things out and maybe
experiment with the samples at our Web site. It’s interesting that people feel
confident enough to do their own research.

People now realize there’s more to it than just the delivery system. They’re
asking, "How will you help me with my programs? How will you help me with my
email program? We’re charging people for subscriptions, yet we want to send them
to digital. How will that affect my revenue?" And finally, "How do I get some
advertising revenue in addition to my print book?" Those are the questions they
are asking and you have to have very specific and very practical answers.

What features have the most appeal for publishers?

If the readers don’t read what you have, it doesn’t matter. Ultimately there’s going to
be accountability. That’s the pink elephant that’s in the room when everybody
talks about digital. Who’s really reading it? There’s no accountability of this
type in the print world. With our solution, you have that information in great
detail, you can view who has seen your messages. Ultimately, the accounting and
reporting are some of the big reasons people use us. It’s interesting
editorially because this is not data they’ve had before, at least not in real
time way we’re talking about.

We’re not selling digital magazines as a pay-per-click model. It’s not a Web site.
That’s a very important point. But we do know people are viewing ads and it’s up
to the publisher to decide how they provide that information. The tracking is
the first part;you’ve got to have the data to make decisions.

What should publishers be doing on their end to make sure it works?

1. Communicate with advertisers.
2. Once advertisers understand the basic value proposition and they’re reaching a significant audience and perhaps an even more engaged audience, then it’s a question of developing specific programs target
that audience.

Where do you see this going?

People have been predicting paper will go away but I do not believe it. My
prediction is there will be much more digital readership because of the
demographic shift but even still, the median reading age for a digital edition
is not 20 years old, it is in the 40s.

The digital edition will be part of the overall publishing strategy like the
magazine, like the Web site. It may be a replica of the print product or it may
be a completely laid out, digital-only landscape for niche markets. Penetration
rates will probably hit a saturation point of 25 percent across board.
Newspapers are much more at risk than magazines and there’s a lot less value in
the layout of a newspaper. A magazine tends to have little longer gestation
period. Still, the newsstand system is obviously broken and digital will offer a
new opportunity and Texterity will be there.