Next Issue Media, supported by a joint venture between five of the biggest domestic publishers, is set enter its next phase of growth as it plans a formal marketing push into the holiday season. Internal metrics released by the company recently show it’s attracting a significant number of new readers to the consortium’s brands. And in the next few weeks, NIM will be adding another round of titles to its catalog, this time from outside the consortium. But don’t expect the number of available titles to grow too quickly. While Next Issue Media continues along the path of a premium-priced, on-demand model for magazines, it’s doing so for only a small slice of the industry.
In September NIM doubled the size of its catalog to 72 titles, all available exclusively from the consortium companies. But CEO Morgan Guenther earlier indicated the company’s plan to begin adding titles from outside the group. That plan will be driven partly by further studies on how tablets are shared and used among families and partly by market size and share of new titles under consideration.
Now, with an announcement coming soon on new, non-consortium titles, Guenther wouldn’t name any names. But the existing list skews heavily toward the women’s market. He hints that new titles will likely shore up the men’s vertical as well as younger-market titles.
"We’re not going to be adding dozens of titles, we’ll cherry-pick our way," says Guenther. "Some of this is around augmentation of the catalog."
That curatorial approach is a significant differentiator between NIM and the rest of the digital newsstands—it’s not going for a huge inventory of titles. Rather, titles will either fill a unique space in the catalog or fulfill a mass-market criteria.
"If you look at the titles we have now, the model is high-circulation marquee titles," says Guenther. "We’ll continue to focus on that plus compliments to the catalog. I don’t think you’re going to see us take the long-tail approach with 5,000 magazines. It’s more about mass readers and how we can capture that group more effectively."
As for actually selecting the magazines from outside the consortium, Guenther says there’s no interference from the board. "We make our own business decisions," he says. "We have a board and we keep them informed, but when we get to executing on titles it’s really our call."
Currently, NIM has about 70,000 customers across the premium and basic levels. Guenther says 45,000 of those customers were driven to the newsstand via publisher promotions and the balance came from free trial promotions via NIM. Free trial conversions are currently at the 70 percent rate.
These are early numbers, NIM has been live for only 90 days on iOS, but Guenther says they’re key benchmarks. About 60 percent of the free trial customers converted to the $15 premium level and keep an average of 14 titles in their libraries. Basic level customers—at $10 per month—average about 11 titles.
Premium-level customers spend about 90 minutes per week with their magazines and basic-level customers spend 70 minutes.
A key metric that’s been playing out across the tablet edition market in general is the percentage of new audience members. Guenther says a NIM title customer sample bounced off of one of the consortium publisher’s internal customer databases revealed only a 3 percent active print subscription match. Eighty-four percent of the names were new to the title, 13 percent were expires, and 60 percent weren’t on the database at all.
"These are the most established brands in the world and we’re reaching new people," he says.
In addition to curating new titles into the mix, Guenther says new platform functionality is on the way as well, including more robust search, discovery and personalization features. The end-game in digital sales, he adds, is to move consumers away from the single-transaction model into paid, continuous engagement.