With the emergence of digital edition and app versions of titles, one naturally wonders how these impact sales and subscriptions of the print magazine. According to publishers interviewed for this story, not much. The upside is audiences are discovering the brands through the new platforms, creating a blending effect where the brand is the brand, no matter where the audience comes from.
Meredith’s Better Homes and Gardens’ digital edition is available through Apple’s Newsstand, as well as through Next Issue Media, the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble’s NOOK. Digital promotion for these devices is tracked through campaign results, demographics, engagement and response, according to Janet Donnelly, VP of consumer marketing with Meredith Corp. Using targeted strategies across its database of 80 million names, Donnelly says, “[We] utilize data of known tablet readers, along with SEM, blogger outreach and campaigns, BHG.com, Facebook, Google display network, sweepstakes, in-book and inserts to our titles.”
For its recent Must Have Recipes app launch, BHG opted to send users print copies when the free app (sponsored by Hidden Valley) was downloaded. So far, Must Have Recipes has 650,000 downloads.
She declined to share subscription conversions, but Donnelly says, “The sampling/lead gen channel has been used within Facebook, blogger outreach and Twitter promotion; channels that allows us to get an entirely new audience with targeted interests to sample BHG.”
Better Homes and Gardens chose to bundle digital access with print subscriptions, and views the digital newsstand, BHG.com, mobile and retail newsstands “merely as channels of circulation, rather than categories,” asserts Donnelly.
At Source Interlink Media [SIM], chief content officer Angus Mackenzie identifies a similar approach to digital and print sales. “We’re moving away from being a legacy magazine publishing company. We are now a content creation company,” says Mackenzie. “The mindset is that to explore the opportunities presented to each one of our brands and figure out what deliverables are best for this opportunity. Is there a print play or a web play; what’s the video play, the digital magazine play? We figure what the story opportunity is exactly, and then where it’s distributed best.”
SIM print subscribers are able to access the digital versions, but digital subscriptions are not available quite yet. “It’s more difficult with some of the delivery systems to do a subscription model,” says Mackenzie.
Digital edition promotions include advertisements in SIM’s print products, as well as social media. If a consumer downloads the digital edition, the print product is not included in the price.
“Cannibalization is not an issue,” says Mackenzie. “Some products are more suited to print, and print will become a more luxurious experience than it has been in the past. We don’t talk about magazines, we talk about the brand portfolio—the MotorTrend brand, the Automobile brand.”
Meredith’s Donnelly also sees the digital platform as a way to reach a new consumer, “We have found that well over 40 percent of our subscribers coming to us via the digital platforms are new to our Meredith database and have not had a previous relationship with us.”
Paul Rossi, managing director and EVP, Americas with The Economist, says the digital platform is attracting a new following to his publication as well. Of the 100,000 digital-only Economist subscriptions purchased in 2011, 75 percent of these subscribers were new to the brand.