Digital magazine sales tiny, titles like Reader’s Digest see huge growth

Bill Bennett:

Readers like magazine web sites or even magazine apps on tablets and smartphones. I’ve never understood the attraction of what PaidContent describes as ‘replica editions’ that is the same editorial as the print magazine wrapped in a digital format.

Digital replicas have clumsy user interfaces – sometimes its a proprietary piece of nonsense requiring a download. Others are effectively PDFs on something similar. Many have relatively low resolution and just don’t look good on-screen, Hell, some even mangle the text making it hard to read.

Either way, it seems there is a market for them.

Originally posted on paidContent (old):

Nearly 65 percent of U.S. magazines now have a digital replica edition, but those editions make up just under three percent of overall circulation: That’s the latest news from the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations), which on Thursday released its report on U.S. magazine circulation in the second half of 2012. For some individual titles, digital growth was a lot more impressive — though in some cases that’s because they’re giving away the digital edition free.

289 U.S. magazines reported that they’d sold 7.9 million digital replica editions in the last six months of 2012. That’s 2.4 percent of total circulation — up from less than 1 percent in the second half of 2011, and up from 1.7 percent in the first six months of this year. (AAM’s definition of a digital replica is that it contains “the same editorial and photojournalism as the national…

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New Scientist’s annoying extra charges for online, smartphone, tablet

New Scientist

New Scientist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For most of the last six years I’ve subscribed to New Scientist magazine. My degree is in Physics and I like to keep up to date with the subject – even if only in a casual way.

Right now I’m on a subscription breather. I do this when the pile of unread paper magazines gets too high. Most likely I’ll subscribe again early in the New Year.

Or maybe not.

A one year subscription to the New Scientist print and web editions costs NZ$255. That’s a good price.

What isn’t so good is the magazine wants NZ$383 to extend that subscription to smartphone and tablet. Presumably we’re not talking about accessing the standard website from mobile devices. I guess the extra NZ$130 or thereabouts is to pay for apps.

An online-only package including smartphone and tablet is NZ$229.

I’ve no objection to paying for an online subscription. I don’t expect to get this kind of information for free and lord knows its difficult to make money from selling advertising into online publications.

But to charge an extra $130 just to view content via an app seems a bit steep.

What do you think?


Once were newspaper readers

After hearing Newsweek lost 51% of its print circulation in the space of just five years London-based digital media blogger Martin Belam looked at UK newspaper performance. He found the British market declined 27% over the same period.

How do New Zealand newspapers compare?

I went to the Audio Bureau of Circulation and found comparable numbers for the three large daily metro papers and the two main Sunday papers. This is not a direct comparison, The Herald on Sunday was just getting started in 2007 and that had a big impact on its direct rival The Sunday Star-Times.

During the five-year period the five big New Zealand papers collectively shed 16% of their readers.

The biggest loser was the Sunday Star Times down 28%, while the Herald on Sunday increased its circulation by 11%. The Dominion-Post is down 19% while the New Zealand Herald and the Christchurch Press are down just 15%.

Among these titles Fairfax newspapers lost ground to APN titles.

So, for now at least, New Zealand’s newspapers are holding up relatively well.

Two ways to get attention: advertising, publicity

A guide for business owners and others who want publicity. This is an updated version of a story first posted in 2008. 

If you have a product or service to sell, you want the greatest number of potential customers to hear about it.

While word-of-mouth marketing is a great jumping off point when you’re starting, eventually you need to reach a wider audience. This means working with blogs, web sites, newspapers, magazines or broadcast media.

There are two ways to get attention; advertising and publicity. Newcomers often confuse the two. That’s a mistake. They are different and work in parallel universes.

Advertising is always strictly commercial. You buy a fixed amount of space in a printed publication or air time from a radio or TV broadcaster. Online advertising can be display advertising like banners and boom boxes or text ads. All can appear on web sites, in electronic newsletters or even as part of an app.

When you buy advertising you provide the content, or what advertising people call copy, at your cost.

Use advertising professionals

If you’ve enough budget you can hire a creative team to prepare the copy. This costs money, sometimes lots of money. The cost is worth it if you’re running a major campaign: advertising professionals know how to press the right buttons and get results.

Advertising means you get to say where, when and how often the copy will run. You have complete control over the message and its delivery. Well up to a point; some publishers will refuse certain ads and there are laws about what you can and can’t say.

Cost per reader, viewer, listener

Advertising costs depend on audience size: the number of readers, listeners or viewers the media delivers. Experienced advertising buyers think about CPM: the cost of reaching one thousand people.

Publicity isn’t for control freaks

You have little control over publicity. Editors, journalists, photographers and other media professionals make all the important decisions — they won’t consult you. They may listen to you or read your material, they may not.

In principle it depends on your message’s newsworthiness. If your story strikes a chord, they’ll listen.

Journalism ethics

Surprising though it may seem, journalists have an ethical code. They are not for sale. Their job is to keep readers informed regardless of commercial considerations.

This is why you should avoid applying commercial pressure when seeking publicity. Don’t imply you will place advertising in return for favourable treatment.

At best you will insult journalists or offend their professional pride. At worst you will create a situation where ethical considerations mean they either can’t touch your story. They may even choose to take a hostile approach to emphasise their independence.

Professional journalists don’t regard helping your sales as their job. Nor should they.

Media is a business

This may seem confusing. After media companies are commercial businesses. You might think editors and journalist would jump at the chance to make money. However, taking a long-term view is good business. Media properties with a strong ethical code are held in high regard by readers, listeners or viewers.

This means more people get to see editorial. It also means they get to see the advertising. A strong, independent editorial product will deliver better, more involved or wealthier, customers.

At the same time, research shows advertising works best when the editorial is credible.

Who controls the message?

Even when a journalist does respond to your publicity in a largely favourable way, they still get to choose what is said, where it is said and when the story runs.

They choose the angle. They also get to decide how many words to devote to your message and they can choose whether your rivals get to comment or not. An editor might choose to use your supplied photographs or other graphic material, they may not.

A journalist, maybe a sub-editor, will write the headline and captions.

You wouldn’t normally expect to pay money to a publisher when they use your publicity. However, there are some media properties that will ask for a payment in return for running it.

We call it advertorial

Some media businesses might agree to run your vetted publicity material in return for you buying advertising. There’s a whole spectrum of arrangements from total separation of editorial and advertising all the way to properties that are, in effect, nothing but paid advertising.

At the extreme end of the scale you are dealing with vanity publishers – people who will take your money and make you look good. Your mother may like the result, but you won’t sell much.

As a rule, publications that sell editorial integrity are not well-regarded by readers – that’s your customers. Experienced publicity people discount the value of these publications.

Apart from anything else, readers tend to know when they are looking at paid-for editorial and learn to trust it less than truly independent content. In particular, younger, media literate, people are cynical about this kind of material.

One commonly used measure is that four of their readers would be worth one reader of a more prestigious, editorially independent title. That also applies to advertising in these publications – expect to pay less for space in a publication that isn’t fully independent.

Publicity specialists

While many businesses organise their own publicity, others hire specialists.

The most common arrangement involves hiring a public relations or PR consultant. Their job is to know which media properties and media professionals are receptive to which message.

A good PR company can save you time and trouble. They’ll help you prepare your message and train you in the art of handling the inevitable follow-up questions. They’ll help get the message to the right people at the right time.

Some public relations companies have intellectual property tied up with publication and journalist databases. They cultivate contacts and learn the best way to approach each outlet.

No guarantees

Public relations companies rarely guarantee results. You should avoid any PR operator who makes that kind of promise.

One misconception is that publicity is all about issuing press releases or holding press conferences. Both can have a role to play, but most important PR takes place out of sight.

Great-looking new site for PC User

PC User has long reigned as one of Australia’s most popular tech magazine in print, but has had a restricted online help station and not a full-blown website.

Yesterday a beta version of a new site was on display at (no longer online).

The site looks great, perhaps a little too like WordPress – don’t they all these days? In fact it uses Drupal.

It contains much of what readers would expect from PC User: help, reviews, guides and downloads, in that order. A note from editor Glenn Rees explains what’s going on and says more content will be added in coming weeks.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is Rees says many of the big features and the exclusive software will be held back for the print magazine.

PC User’s greatest strength has always been its status as the technology magazine for people who don’t regard themselves as geeks. Its focus is on practical, not bleeding edge, computing.

Reorganising New Zealand media on Twitter directory

By the time I add the latest entries, my New Zealand media on Twitter list will contain more than 200 entries.

The list is too long for a single page, so I’ve broken it in to smaller lists – there are seven at the time of writing with more to come. This will make it easier for me to manage and simpler for people to quickly find the names they need.

I’ve decided to call it a directory instead of a list because that’s what it has turned into. My original idea was to get a list of a few dozen New Zealand journalists – the majority of whom I follow.

Over time I’ll add more features to make it easier to navigate. If you’ve any ideas on ways I can better present the data, let me know.

I’ve used a wonderful WordPress plug-in from a talented developer called Tobias Bäthge. Tobias wrote a small extra piece of code that means each Twitter address links back to the person’s profile page at

Print publishing business model primer

Renaissance printingPrint publishers make money from copy sales and advertising. Some rely mainly on advertising, others on copy sales, but most newspapers and magazines make money from a mix of the two.

The balance between advertising and copy sales revenue is important. Advertising-driven publishers approach their business in a different way to copy sales-driven publishers.

Copy Sales

Publishers rarely keep all copy sales revenue. Newspapers, magazines and books usually sell through newsagents, bookstores and other retailers. Retailers keep between 30 and 40 percent of the cover price.

Sometimes distributors take a slice of copy sales revenue. Usually distributors charge a fixed fee per copy delivered.

Sell-through rates

Retailers rarely sell all the copies they get of a title. Publishers talk of sell-through rates – the percentage sold.

Most publishers, particularly those chasing advertising sales regard a sell-out as failure. It means they didn’t maximise their circulation – which is what they sell to advertisers.

Long established, popular, frequently published titles often have better sell through rates than new or irregular publications.

Revenue lags sales

Publishers wait weeks or months to get copy sales revenue as it trickles back from readers, through the retailer and distributor.

Printers often want payment – or a guarantee of payment before they print. So a publisher needs to carry the costs of at least three editions of a monthly title before seeing a penny of sales revenue. The investment is more in the case of weeklies, less in the case of bi-monthlies and quarterly publications.


Revenue lag explains why publishers like selling direct to readers through subscription sales.

With subscriptions, publishers get their money before printing – subscribers usually pay a year in advance. Some publications offer two-year and even three-year subscriptions. That’s money in the bank.

Publisher keep all subscription revenue – there’s no retailer cut, although they pay the cost of mailing out subscriptions.


Publishers sell ‘space in their titles to earn Advertising sales revenue.

Most publishers set aside a number of pages or parts of pages for advertisers. They have an advertising ratio.

Paid-for publications usually have a lower advertising ratio than free publications – although this is not always true.

There are different types of advertising. Display advertising means larger and more colourful ads – often with creative text and images. Classified advertising is often text-only with a minimum of graphics.

Magazines typically sell advertising by the page, although they offer double page spreads, half pages and other formats. Newspapers will sell pages, but they also sell column centimetres (or column inches).

The more you buy the cheaper it gets

The more an advertiser buys, the cheaper the rate per column centimetre (or page if they are buying magazine advertising).

A full-page is cheaper than two half pages and so on. Publishers offer advertisers discounts if they commit to buying a series of advertising over a longer time. So, booking a year’s worth of advertisements in a monthly magazine is cheaper than buying 12 single advertisements.

Some advertising positions attract a premium rate. On newspapers this is the front page and maybe the front pages of sections such as business.

Magazines typically charge extra for the back cover and possibly the inside front cover. Successful titles can charge a premium for early right hand pages or other attractive sites.

Agencies and commission

Specialist media buying companies buy most advertising. They develop strategies for their clients and negotiate with publishers. Publishers pay media buyers a commission. Typically this is 10 to 20 percent of the booking’s value. In return for commission, media buyer agree to pay invoices on a set date.

Advertisers who buy their own space are known as direct clients. They often haggle over prices, but unless they are large-scale buyers, they have less clout than agencies. Collecting money from direct clients can be harder.

Rate cards

Publishers issue rate cards. Historically they used card, but now they are usually available online. Rate card prices are often negotiable.


Advertorial is when publishers offer advertising linked to editorial features. In some cases editorial integrity is up for sale.

Advertorial deals come in different flavours. Many publications are entirely advertorial – if an advertiser pays for space they have a say over the publication’s editorial content.

More credible titles wall off areas of content for advertorial. These might be clearly marked with terms like “advertising supplement” or “special advertising feature”. This isn’t always transparent to readers.

Some publishers run editorial-style material provided by advertisers and charge for it. Others allow advertisers to send copy for inclusion next to advertisements.

Publishers may or may not allow advertisers control over advertorial content. Some publishers have journalists write advertiser-friendly copy for these sections, others keep a strict demarcation between editorial and advertising.

Business model

Free publications are more likely to run advertorial and compromise editorial integrity for commercial consideration than paid-for titles.

Paid titles are less likely to take this approach. Some paid titles have little in the way of advertising and charge a hefty premium for quality editorial content. This works best if they can manage a high circulation.

Have I missed anything here? Do you have any questions about how this works?