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Updated: Newsstand's Few Early Adopters Have Stolen A March On Laggards

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Magazine and news publishers who have not yet joined iOS Newsstand have lost out to the system’s early adopters, according to research data.

“As of the end of October, 8% of apps tracked had migrated to the Newsstand,” says McPheters & Company‘s The State Of The App, a monthly digest compiled from its iMonitor, a premium database which tracks 4,000 tablet and mobile news apps in English-speaking and western European countries.

“It has without question contributed to substantial increases in volume for those publishers who have chosen to migrate. Publications heavily promoted on the Newsstand have reported sales 2.5 to 10 times higher than previous levels.

“Those who have not moved – such as Time Inc. (NYSE: TWX) titles in the U.S. – have seen declines in downloads relative to other publishers.”

Company founder Rebecca McPheters explained to paidContent:

“In the U.S. app store, the number of publications among the top 200 highest grossing apps overall increased substantially. But the Time Inc. apps, which are not in the Newsstamd, lost position to those that had migrated to the Newsstand.

“Since only about 8% had moved at the end of October, there was considerably less competition in the Newsstand, affording greater visibility to those who were there.”

It stands to reason that, relative to a shiny new fast-growing thing, hold-outs appear to be languishing. But that doesn’t mean their actual volume has reversed. It just means Newsstand has been very successful for its early adopters themselves.

Newsstand’s main benefits are overnight downloading, which is a dream, and supposedly enhanced discovery, which is questionable. What we may have witnessed is success attained by titles being in their own special retail adjunct, some of which were granted favourable promotion by Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). If more publications go in to Newsstand, the economy within may normalise.

From September to October, which incorporated two weeks of Newsstand figures, McPheters says the number of publications apps amongst the Top 200 Highest Grossing across iTunes Store grew from 34 to 59.

Here are the early publisher gains we have reported at paidContent:

  • Exact Editions: Downloads of freemium sample editions jumped by 14x in just a few days, whilst some titles’ actual sales more than doubled.
  • Future: Free taster mag apps (previously unavailable as iOS apps) downloaded more than two million times in three days, “consumer spending well in excess of normal monthly revenues”. Digital magazine sales +750 percent because Future added 55 new iOS apps to iTunes.
  • Guardian: 145,880 week-one downloads for its debut iPad app through Newsstand.
  • Metro: 155,000 downloads in first 11 days for new app, 800,000 to 1 million daily page views.
  • Condé Nast: Weekly subscription sales across all nine digital editions +268 percent compared with previous eight weeks, single-copy sales +142 percent.
  • Condé Nast Britain: GQ +94%, Wired +169% and Vanity Fair +245% in October compared to September’s daily average sales pre-iOS 5.
  • New York Times: New weekly iPad downloads up from 27,000 to 189,000 in week after Newsstand launch. iPhone downloads up 85x from 21,000 to 1.8 million.
  • Zinio CEO: “If you measure by revenue, (Newsstand) hasn’t had any impact. In fact, it’s gone up.”

Update (Nov 23, 2011): Time Inc makes clear to paidContent: “Ours is an All Access strategy. We don’t strive to sell digital only subscriptions, and we don’t sell digital only on Apple, which is why we are not on Newsstand.”

But McPheters tells us: “Time Inc titles declined in the gross dollar rankings as others that went behind the newsstand went up. Regardless of their strategy, this was the result.”

5 Responses to “Updated: Newsstand's Few Early Adopters Have Stolen A March On Laggards”

  1. Gilbert Tang Jr.

    Time contradicts itself by suggesting that their model is one bent on “all access” when they’re effectively ignoring scores of individuals who no longer want anything to do with printed publications. I can’t stand that Time won’t allow me to simply subscribe to Fortune via Newsstand. I have subscribed to so many new and intereting publications of late because of Newsstand. And it’s not because I didn’t know these publications didn’t exist, it’s because (1) now I have a centralized, always-updated place for this content, (2) I don’t have to waste paper or clutter my house with stupid magazines, and (3) I can take my whole stack anywhere I go. “All-access,” to me, means fewer barriers to entry. I don’t care that Time makes its publications available as separate apps. The mere fact that I have to manage them in the face of so much other easier access quality content is enough to make me cancel my subscription.

  2. A few quick points.  I know we are all eager to share stats and strategies, but it would be good to look beyond the surface of these numbers.

    First, it talks about “publications heavily promoted”.  So a quick glance into the Newsstand section shows that 99.9% of apps are not promoted in the same way as the NY TImes apps, which have a prominent and permanent advertising spot.  Additionally, you cannot pay to be heavily promoted, Apple has to bestow you with their approval, which consistently favors NY Times and other large national players.

    Second, there was definitely a first mover advantage. Those apps that got into the store in the first few weeks benefitted from a lack of competition.  Looking into the store now and the section is flooded with publications, so you should expect to see these download bumps decrease significantly over time.

    Third, application placement is going to be be problematic.  If you have hundreds of thousands of application downloads, making the change to Newsstand compatible apps could confuse a large user base.  It could also reduce the frequency of usage because not only has the icon moved, it is now next to dozens of competing publications.

  3. Girish Ramdas

    Robert, it’s great to see the clarity with which you are tracking this. I am the Co-founder & CEO of a startup called Magzter, the global mobile and digital newsstand which was launched in June this year and in less thsn 5 months we have crossed 300,000 downloads of Magzter on iOS devices and we are seeing a huge offtake of magazines from our newsstand. We also have enabled publishers who signed up with us to have their own branded Apple Newsstand apps and we can see more than 500% increase in sales between October and this month. Out of the 500+ magazines on Apple’s newsstand more than 30 of them have been created by us at Magzter Inc. and we are going to release more Newsstand apps in the near future as well. Overall things have been great and we look forward to see more sales over the upcoming holiday season.

    • Gilbert Tang Jr.

      I disagree that this is a no news event. I specifically sought out articles discussing why Fortune (via Time) had not made its way to Newsstand. The article here is the first to address the matter.

      Yes, there was less competition in Newsstand, but what matters is that the 8% that did make the jump were publications that people actually cared about. If the 8% in question was filled with crap, sure, there would have been a free-for-all type blip in sales, but nothing nearly as significant as what has been demonstrated.

      But here is the real kicker: Time’s insistence on forgoing Newsstand is the reason I am canceling my subscriptions thereof. It’s just too easy to find and manage quality content through Newsstand rather than continue to fiddle with companies that remain in the dark as to the future of print media.

      I wonder if there is a metric stating not how many subscribers were gained as a result of Newsstand, but how many were lost. If there is, count me.