As more publishers experiment with e-singles, Hearst is unique in articulating a specific business strategy for the format: E-singles are “a real pricing tool, allowing an upsell to our other products,” says Hearst Books publisher Jacqueline Deval — and the company is “agnostic” about whether that upsell is to a print or digital product.
Hearst started publishing Good Housekeeping-branded $0.99 “mini cookbooks” in digital formats last year; it’s published a total of 75 cookbooks of all lengths in digital formats. The company’s most recent e-single is the $2.99 Good Housekeeping “Amazing Soup Diet.” “After the contents page, we immediately have an upsell, a page of related titles right after the table of contents, that drives people back to the platform they bought the book on,” Deval said. “A cookbook is not a narrative form, and you can’t assume that the reader will get to the very last page of the book, where publishers traditionally have an upsell.”
Hearst property Cosmopolitan magazine sold over 40,000 copies of the e-single it published with Open Road last August, “Cosmo’s Sexiest Stories Ever.” The company originally sold that title at $0.99, then increased the price to $1.99 about two months ago. “In the beginning, we thought there wasn’t enough content to charge $1.99,” said Cosmo editor-at-large John Searles, but the price increase hasn’t hurt sales so far.
This summer, Cosmopolitan will publish a single three-part story across its June, July and August issues, then release it as an e-single. The brand is also experimenting with creating content around recurring magazine features, like “Sex Questions Answered in 20 Words or Less.” Cosmo will work with Open Road to publish a new e-single, “Cosmo’s Naughtiest Questions in 20 Words or Less,” this spring. It’s “all content that already exists from back issues,” Searles said.
Cosmo promotes its e-singles in the magazine and those promotions correlate with “a direct lift in sales,” Searles said. He also said the company saw a “substantial number of sales” of “Cosmo’s Sexiest Stories Ever” through Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) — a reminder that while Kindle Singles is a major player it’s not the only one in the game. (“Sexiest Stories Ever” was available in the general Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) store, but not as a Kindle Single.)
Seventeen magazine is now working with Open Road to publish a collection of three e-singles: “Terrifying True Teen Stories,” “Shocking True Teen Stories” and “Inspiring True Teen Stories.” Each will consist of ten to twelve first-person articles.
“It’s important always to bring the reader back to what else they can experience of the brand,” Deval said. “We’ll cross-sell the e-singles among one another, but give readers a passageway back to the brand as well.”