Hearst, Time, Inc and now Conde Nast are all jumping on the digital train, with deals that allow subscribers to buy their most popular magazines on the iPad. Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, O, the Oprah Magazine — it’s a wide reach, but are readers ready to pass on tearing out articles in favor of a digital bookmark? Magazine publishers hope so, but magazine advertisers aren’t so sure.
Right now, this whole digital subscription idea is rather speculative. We may find that business people love having all that information at their fingertips, while casual readers prefer having pages to turn. The trouble is, ads have to be priced and paid for now, before the data is in.
There are three options:
- Digital ads cost more than print ads in the same magazine (not likely).
- Digital ads cost the same as comparable print ads in the same magazine (the publisher choice).
- Digital ads cost less than a print ad in the same magazine (the advertiser choice).
You could say, obviously advertisers want to pay less, but that’s not what this is all about. Advertising prices are set based on circulation numbers and we know that out of the gate, circulation on the iPad isn’t going to be even close to print numbers, so why should ad prices be the same. Like social media, it comes down to the lack of standard metrics. Once again, we built it, but we don’t know how to count the number of people who come.
Robin Steinberg of MediaVest was quoted on the subject in a recent New York Times article. She says;
In a tart reminder that these are the early days of the process, she wrote that for media buyers, it was “critical that we determine how copies are qualified and counted when served either traditionally or digitally.”
In other words, if her clients want to buy apples, they will buy apples (print subscribers) and if they are in the mood for oranges (digital subscribers) they expect to make a separate and presumably lower-cost purchase. And she stressed that buyers were keeping a close eye on digital subscriptions to make sure that they did not become the electronic equivalent of a New Jersey landfill, a place where unwanted copies were dumped to make the numbers look good.
Publishers want advertisers to believe that a New Yorker subscriber is a New Yorker subscriber and his eyeballs are worth the same chunk of change whether he’s reading the magazine on paper or on a screen. I’m not so sure. It seems to me, that if you want advertisers to get on board with what is little more than an experiment at this point, you have to cut them a deal.
Hey, is there such a thing as Groupon for advertising?
What do you think? Is a digital subscriber worth the same as a print one?