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iPad Subscriptions

IF YOU seek Cleo’s advice on how to ”think your way to the perfect life”, you can now do so on your iPad as well as in this month’s print edition.

But despite its publisher, the ACP Magazines division of the Nine Entertainment Co, releasing an application selling iPad editions of 16 magazines, you cannot subscribe to any of them.

Like many publishers, ACP is enthusiastically chasing the emerging market of tablet computers as print circulations fall (in 2005 Cleo sold 195,000 copies a month – last year it sold 120,000), an enthusiasm apparently well founded given Apple’s announcement yesterday of a $US6 billion quarterly net profit.

That was helped by selling 7.33 million iPads in the three months before Christmas, up 75 per cent on the previous quarter, although many expect competing tablets running Google’s Android software to loosen Apple’s stranglehold this year.

But the rosier future promised by the rapid spread of the ”Jesus tablet” is clouded by the inability of willing readers to subscribe. ACP’s digital director, Carl Hammerschmidt, said it was a ”big issue” for publishers but no one had found a solution. ”There’s a range of different models being used overseas. They all offer part of the solution.”

Apple approves all applications sold through its App Store, takes a 30 per cent cut of revenue and does not like sharing subscriber details, preventing publishers from knowing who their readers are.

Belgian competition authorities are investigating those terms as a possible anti-competitive abuse of market power, while many expect the delayed launch of News Corp’s American tablet-only newspaper, The Daily, to show how subscribing can be done to the satisfaction of both Apple and publisher.

The fortunes of the few US magazines which release tablet edition data show why a solution is critical. Wired sold 73,000 iPad copies in nine days when it launched in May soon after the iPad did, according to audit figures reported by The Guardian, but sold just 23,000 copies in the whole of November. Vanity Fair sold 10,500 copies in October but only 8700 the next month. GQ went in the same direction, from 13,000 to 11,000.

Mr Hammerschmidt said such ”churn” was to be expected with the iPad. But aside from the inevitable drop in interest after something new loses its novelty, buying paperless magazines is still more expensive than subscribing in print, here and overseas.

The cover price of Cleo is $7.50, the iPad version is $5.99; but sign up for a two-year print subscription with ACP and each issue will cost you $5.83. The difference in the US is stark: Vanity Fair costs $US4.99 an issue on the iPad but despite the costs of paper and transport, if Americans subscribe in print for a year, they get it for $US1.23.


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