Digital Editions Of Magazines Will Count In Circulation Figures

- - Magazines, The Future

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) announced recently that digital replicas of magazines that are requested and paid for will count in circulation figures (here). This is huge news for publishers as it will allow them a new outlet for cheap circulation, something that’s been missing ever since publishing clearing house went down in early 2000 (here). The digital editions of magazines will be counted on the circulation report and broken out like bulk (doctors office, etc.), so it remains to be seen how advertisers will react to the change.

What I hope will happen is that publishers who sell their printed edition at a loss will raise rates there and price digital editions cheap. This should be a no-brainer since the distribution and printing cost of these copies is zero. Sure, it costs something to port it for all these devices but once that becomes a part of the workflow for creating the magazine in the first place (a design that’s flexible) it shouldn’t be an issue.

This still doesn’t solve the problem of missing advertising dollars, but if they can move hundreds of thousands of subscribers to digital editions it will save a lot of money on printing and distribution. If they’ve got any brains they’ll invest that back into content.

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There Are 17 Comments On This Article.

  1. All excellent points and time will tell if the publishers are willing to abandon old practices.
    The definition of both “Replica” and “Non-Replica” digital editions appears to allow for a very broad interpretation of design and format from FLYP to the next generation of mobile delivery.

  2. Always A. Darkside

    Is this really good news? As I read the ABC rules the digital and print editions need to be very similar to qualify.

    That suggests we’re going to see a lot of electronic editions of magazines that are indistinguishable from the print versions. That’s sad, and probably ultimately a huge mistake. The addition of new media content is probably the thing that could revive a lot of magazines. This ruling promotes the status quo.

    Also, it’s only a matter of time before advertisers insist on knowing what percentage of total circulation is print and electronic. Publishers are going to have to make the differentiation eventually.

      • Always A. Darkside

        @A Photo Editor,

        Well I hope you are right. But with bean counters running a lot of publications these days, the ABC policy could be used as an excuse to justify not funding the investment in innovative content for the electronic versions of the publication — especially if subscriptions to the electronic versions are slow to ramp up. We’ll see.

  3. This sounds like a good move. Things have been stagnant too long with traditional print media. The electronic version can also be used to send readers back to the next print version as well. The publishers would also be able to get more info from their readers if they used and deployed their chat forums more wisely.

  4. scott Rex Ely

    Rob, it never ceases to amaze me how kind and generous you are to every division of magazine production EXCEPT publishers. You rail against the dictatorships of publishing, but want a democracy to replace it over night. Are they really that stupid, naive or blind to what you feel is crucial? Woulda shoulda coulda, only if I had my own magazine. Why don’t you start a magazine of your own? I’ll give you a hundred bucks. Fund it and they will come. Seriously, your public displays of loathing and contempt for the guys who make all the decisions seems a little inefficient and counter productive in the big picture scheme.

    • @scott Rex Ely,

      Perhaps I read a different post than you. I think Rob has expressed some neutrality in his evaluation. He remarked from a business and holistic sense as to what might be workable, for both sides.

      To me, your words have a reactive and biting tone, and my hunch is that you have a personal beef with Rob.

      Is this forum really the best outlet for your frustration?

      Nothing wrong with healthy or even feisty dialogue, but you approached Rob disrespectfully. And this is what’s counter productive.

      • @Paul,

        I think Rob would make a great editor for a magazine. He has the visual chops and experience to back up his words. I searched for Mr. Ely’s web site and Bing + Google came up with quite a few online postings from him but no web site.

        Rob has worked with some of the finest shooters on the planet and a digital publication photo edited by Rob would be of great interest to me. I would subscribe in a New York minute and support it.

    • @scott Rex Ely,
      This post was written for my readers who work at magazines. Why must you always assume I’m talking to you? I wouldn’t expect you to understand any part of it.

  5. At a seminar about a month ago, the presenter asked the audience how many people had a spare $500 they were willing to put towards the purchase of a tablet computer. This was a room full of people who already had smart phones and laptops. The majority of the people there were creative professionals, or somehow involved in the publishing industry. When the question was asked, not one person raised there hand; not one of us in that room were considering buying a tablet computer.

    I have no doubt that Apple will sell a couple million iPads in the next year. Quite likely HP will sell a similar number of tablet computers. I have yet to see reasonably good projections on who exactly would be buying these devices, other than people buying a tablet computer instead of a laptop.

    Even supposing 5 million or so tablet computers, if barely 10% of those users subscribe to digital editions, that means 500k circulation. I would expect maybe 20 to 25 magazines slicing up that circulation pie, meaning that maybe 20k circulation for the top ranked titles. These are figures similar to what I see floated around in the advertising industry and financial analysis of the publishing industry.

    I don’t see how people think tablet computers are going to “save” publishing. It might make some content “cheaper” for the end users, but since when has cheaper ever been better?

    • @Gordon Moat, it’s just the beggining. I do think that tablet computers will eventually (in a couple years) become very popular. Prices will drop a lot and we are living in times that everybody loves new digital gadgets, if it comes with a little apple on it all the better.
      I would like a tablet computer to buy online versions of magazines as I’m seating on my couch with my wife and son, that would be cool and convenient. I just don’t raise my hand right now because I’m not willing to pay $500 for one. Just wait a bit, it will eventually cost $200 or less.

  6. @Dean Buscher : Agreed. I am in hope that this raises the bar for electronic rights and usage to something closer to the traditional model of print. This makes the newer devices coming out a true game changer if the publishers are to treat the digital edition with the same weight and reverence as the print. I feel like this is a long time coming especially from the point of view of a contributor.

  7. I must say I look a the computer all day already and its still really nice to pick up a printed magazine and look at it. But the digital mags are pretty sicky

  8. Oh its a boone doggle I say

    Apple and whoever is going to produce tablets will get the gotta havit first people and then prices will gradually drop. As I read on I thought there is really not going to be much difference, and what is keeping me from purchasing a sub now with my lap top – nada –

    Just shows there is still a big learning curve for the industry as a whole. Hey that is okay, we certainly didn’t lauch a rocket to the moon in the late forties, which is when the technology research began. How long did it take Apple to work out the bugs in the first Iphone? Point being it will take time to work it all out and for some it won’t be what they expect JMHO.

    Giga Cudos Rob.