As the digital edition industry near 10 years of age, Nxtbook Media recently wrapped a survey called "Digital Editions: The State of the Industry," which polled 233 publishers on their overall satisfaction with digital editions as audience tools and revenue generators, and how mobile apps and tablets will influence their strategy going forward.

Interestingly, Nxtbook concluded from the results that there is great latent potential in digital magazines from the perspective of the publisher. In terms of priorities, Nxtbook believes, publishers are more focused on increasing circulation for digital magazines and selling advertising more effectively into the format, than they are on apps and mobile solutions.

When it comes to the circulation of their digital magazines, about 40 percent reported modest to great satisfaction. On the other hand, 38 percent were somewhat dissatisfied while 22 percent were quite dissatisfied.

However, b-to-b publishers seem more pleased with digital magazines at this point than their consumer counterparts, with 50 percent saying they are somewhat to greatly pleased with their digital circulation.

Still, the majority of respondents believe digital magazines remain an untapped circulation resource but aren’t sure how to capitalize on it, with 59 percent agreeing that, "I’m confident there are many more digital magazine readers out there but I don’t know how to reach them" while just 3.3 percent said, "I believe that our digital magazine audience has very little room to grow."

Ad Revenue Lags; Publishers Turning to Apps and Tablets
When it comes to advertising, digital magazines still haven’t hit their stride. About 70 percent of respondents were somewhat to very dissatisfied with digital editions as revenue generators. While just 4.4 percent of publishers say they’ve tried various ways of generating revenue but couldn’t, 61.5 percent say they think digital editions can generate significant revenue but aren’t sure how, with many respondents saying advertisers have been conditioned to view digital editions as value-added or just weren’t interested in the platform.

"The publishers that are doing the best with ad sales understand that you can’t position it and sell it on a CPM basis," says Nxtbook marketing director Marcus Grimm. "You must sell based on engagement and clickthroughs. This is typically the opposite of how they position their Web site sales." 

Of course, the scramble to create magazine apps for tablets and mobile is eclipsing the focus on the "tradition" digital edition. More than 47.8 percent of respondents say they are aggressively moving to mobile apps, while 36.3 percent say they plan to but don’t feel any rush. Just 3.3 percent say they have no plans at this time to offer apps for tablets or mobile, with budget constraints being the largest obstacle.

Many respondents noted they weren’t sure how to take the next step with digital editions, and despite the emergence of open-source and in-house solutions, Nxtbook says that publishers using full service digital editions were three times more likely to be somewhat or very satisfied with their product.

For a full look at the survey (which was presented in a recent FOLIO: Webinar), sign up here.