Over the last few days there have been numerous reports around the web about how iPad magazine titles are failing. Here’s a slice from a recent article at BGR on this:
Every big name magazine title available on the iPad has seen its purchase rate decline since introduction, and most didn’t find much success to begin with.
Glamour, for example, sold only 4,301 copies in its debut month. Sales then dropped 20% in October and another 20% in November, landing at 2,775. GQ sold 11,000 copies in November, down from an average of 13,000 per month between May and October. Sales of Vanity Fair slid to 8,700 copies in November from an average of 10,500 from August through October. Men’s Health, which averaged sales of just 2,800 copies over the spring, sold 2,000 copies each month in September and October. Wired, which had a monster month when it debuted in June with over 100,000 downloads, dropped to an average of 31,000 between July and September and an average of 21,500 between October and November.
There have also been some subsequent articles attempting to put some of these numbers in perspective, and arguing that perhaps the case for failure is not as strong as it initially looks. That some of these numbers, when looked at in the light of around 10 million iPads in the US by now as opposed to the 300 million population, are maybe not so bleak.
I don’t know publishing industry numbers, so I’ve got no thoughts on how good / bad / terrible these figures are for iPad magazine sales. I do think the whole subject of whether iPad magazines are failing is a very interesting one though – not least because I am a huge fan of reading on the iPad and think there’s huge potential in this area.
For the last day or so I’ve also been following this topic at a new favorite place for web conversations – Quora. Quora is a site that collects questions and answers, but it’s much more than that and is a great spot for intelligent discussions about lots of tech (and other) topics.
There were some very good answers at Quora to the question ‘Why Are iPad Magazines not selling well?’. Here’s the answer summary from that item:
Pricing (too expensive)
Lack of features
User experience problems.
No subscription model
Little extra benefit over web version (free)
Low iPad penetration – there are only ~10m iPads in the USA versus 300m magazine buyers.
I think that’s a pretty good set of answers to explain why iPad magazines are not taking off in what are still the early days of the iPad App Store. Given these, it seems clear that these titles can look for much better sales in 2011 as long as a few things happen:
— Apple and the major publishers work out a good, reasonable subscription model. One that is fair to publishers and easy for users to work with. Hopefully we’ll see a dedicated newsstand / store sort of app for this, or perhaps an add-on to iBooks.
— Publishers, with a decent subscriptions model to work with, reduce their prices for iPad editions and / or offer better combo subscription plans for print, online, and iPad editions.
— Publishers produce much better titles. Real iPad editions rather than ‘mail it in’ glorified PDF renderings of online sites or similar.
If we see those things happen I don’t see why we shouldn’t see some very successful iPad editions in 2011.
What do you all think? Are iPad magazines failing? What can help them sell better in future?