Dropping the print magazine in favor of a digital-only approach can make sense financially, but publishers need to prepare their readers for that transition, particularly if their audience is not very Web-savvy. According to a survey of consumer magazine readers done by the Rosen Group earlier this year, just 7 percent of print subscribers also seek out the magazine’s Web site.
Converting readers is a challenge facing discount camping club Passport America, which earlier this year dropped its print magazine—RV America, a quarterly sent to 100,000 members—in favor of a digital edition from Zmags. “We went digital due to the economics,” said editor April Filingham. “Sales were down and it wasn’t cost effective to mail out 100,000 printed magazines each quarter.”
Passport America had offered a digital version of RV America at its Web site even before making the digital conversion. However, distribution of the digital edition was stymied a bit because while Passport America had mailing addresses for all its members, it only had a few email addresses. The first dedicated digital edition went out to just 2,500 of its 100,000 members, according to Filingham.
And with an older audience that’s typically not digital-savvy, Passport America is planning to launch an education effort about the digital issue, starting with a postcard mailing that will inform readers of the digital edition and hopefully collect additional e-mails.
Offer Additional Incentives
As many print publishers are finding out, forcing a replacement option on existing subscribers to a recently folded magazine doesn’t go over well.
When O’Reilly Media’s Craft folded in February in favor of a digital edition and a Web site, it offered existing subscribers full access to the digital archive through April 1, in addition to refunds. Subscribers who transferred their subscriptions to Make were incentivized with continued, unlimited access to the archives.
Marketing the benefits of the digital edition rather than just thrusting it on them will pay off, even for a high tech crowd that tends to get its information elsewhere. When Ziff Davis took 700,000-circ. PC Magazine digital-only in January, it sent digital editions from Zinio to each subscriber (90 percent of the print readers were already visiting PCMag.com) so they would know there was an on-going magazine-like experience. “We were pleasantly surprised at the number of subscribers who opted to continue to get it in the digital format,” said Ziff Davis CEO Jason Young.