Condé Nast has managed to attract 242,000 digital edition customers within a six-week period after introducing subscriptions on Apple’s App Store in May. That number includes digital subscriptions, digital single copies, and the 136,000 print subscribers who have opted to add digital editions at no extra cost to them. Looked at another way, the publisher drew 106,000-digital only sales not tied to existing print subscriptions, suggesting that it may be finding incremental value by accepting Apple’s iTunes Store terms after all.
There’s a large constituency of publishing veterans who feel the rush to produce magazine apps on top of websites and print issues-where the real money, if not the growth, remains-is a bit futile, at least at this point. But publishers can’t afford to wait around until most of the population has embraced the tablet. Although there’s no reason to think that the print business model will be perfectly reproduced in the digital world, getting in early does give publishers a chance to develop new methods of making money and holding on to readers. If publishers waited until a mass audience adopts the tablet, it would simply be too late for them to catch up.
One other issue publishers have had is that Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) takes 30 percent of the revenues from sales and subscriptions sold through its App Store. That initially rankled major publishers, who also felt that Apple was withholding the detailed consumer marketing data that they were used to owning all to themselves. Despite the emergence of iPad challengers operating under Google’s Android, the iPad’s dominance isn’t expected to fade for some time. As such, the need to be where readers are has forced publishers to accept Apple’s dictates.
One of the early adopters of app magazines for nearly two years, Condé Nast has a growing roster of 22 apps, including nine digital magazine editions, that have been downloaded more than 7 million times (as of June). Subscriptions have been available through in-app purchase on the App Store starting in May for eight Condé Nast titles: Allure, Glamour, Golf Digest, GQ, Self, The New Yorker, Wired and Vanity Fair.
In addition, the publisher has offered digital subscriptions for user of Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color for Glamour, GQ and Vanity Fair since November 2010.
Total digital subscriptions delivered for the June issues were 75,000. In addition, 31,000 single copies were sold for this issue (June monthlies and the June 27 issue of The New Yorker). Since introducing the first digital edition of GQ in November 2009, Condé Nast has had nearly one million paid downloads of its digital magazine editions on Apple, Nook Color, and Kindle.
With most major magazines now available — Wenner Media is one notable holdout — in app form, publishers are looking to feature extensions operating under the magazine’s banner that can be sold as one offs. A few weeks ago, for example, GQ sold a digital-only Style Manual as part of its in-app store.
These extensions aren’t just pay-to-download. This morning, Condé Nast Traveler unveiled a free Hot List ap that serves as an ad-supported guide to hotels with sponsorships by British Virgin Islands, One&Only Palmilla, and Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card.