Time magazine is rolling out an “all access” subscription plan that gives current print subscribers complete use of the title’s content across all its digital versions, including its apps on the iPad, HP (NYSE: HPQ) Touchpad and Samsung Galaxy Tab. The move reflects the unwillingness of most readers to pay twice for the same content, and the chance of attracting some readers back to the print version.
The move comes several months after Sports Illustrated introduced its all access plan. And Time (NYSE: TWX) Inc.’s People was one of the first magazines to allow print subs to get iPad issues without an additional charge.
While publishers have bristled at Apple’s terms — the iPad maker takes a 30 percent slice of all revenues from digital magazine sales — it will likely remain the dominant tablet for some time. Given that it’s unlikely to change Apple’s mind about that revenue split, publishers are making peace with it and trying to make the most of it.
For example, while Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) also retains most of the consumer data — e-mail address, purchase history — iPad users have apparently shown a willingness to share some of their information with publishers for marketing purposes, according to Hearst Magazines and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
The structure of Time Inc.’s plan is designed to reward loyal print readers, while making it cheap enough to attract new ones on the digital side:
— The all-you-can-eat plan costs $30 for a year, which includes 56 print issues, full online access and all tablet apps
— A taste-test is available for $2.99 per month “All Access” subscription, which get all of the print editions of TIME, the tablet editions and access to magazine content on TIME.com. This subscription can be cancelled anytime. ($35.88 for a year)
— For those who aren’t that hungry for either tablets or print, there’s a “short term pass” for TIME.com for $4.99. In other words, there’s no bargain, since this is the same as the cover price or a single issue on the tablet.
The all access offering is just one of many plans that time and its rivals — Condé Nast and Hearst also offer wider versions of “all access” plans for print subscribers for many of their magazines already — have been pursuing. All three of those publishers, along with Meredith (NYSE: MDP) and News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS), are backing Next Issue Media, which currently runs a digital newsstand on the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Android-powered Galaxy.
As print circulation and ad revenue continue to struggle against losing ground to digital, publishers are looking for any way they can to reach readers and attract advertisers. Being everywhere readers are is part of that strategy. Figuring out how much users will pay to for content has been a much debated topic. So far, $2.99 for a month’s access to a magazine that sells for $4.99 on the physical newsstand sounds like a good deal, at least for consumers. But with so much free content still available, it’s still going to be difficult for publishers to draw in readers.
One advantage for traditional media companies is that all the major publishers appear to be in agreement: with digital advertising unlikely to offset print losses for the foreseeable future, readers will have to pay. That unified front appears to have at least gotten some readers to accept that notion. For example, publishers can be heartened by a recent survey by the Online Publishers Association, which found that two-thirds of tablet owners were interested in paying for either the bundled option, a one-time purchase or a standalone subscription.