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.