iPad magazine subscriptions on the decline

When the Apple iPad first arrived on the scene earlier this year, some people said that it was not in direct competition with e-readers like the Amazon Kindle. In some regards, that is true, since the iPad costs so much more and can do so much more, but it’s also true that many people who choose to buy an iPad opt out of buying an e-ink based e-reader as a result.

One area where the iPad seems to have regular e-readers beat is in regards to magazines. This is partly because of the iOS touchscreen interface, but probably more likely because of the brilliant colors that the iPad can produce. You can’t imagine flipping through an issue of Cosmo in black-and-white, right? Well, early on, it seemed to be working. Wired’s debut iPad mag sold more than 100,000 issues back in June.

It looked like the iPad could be the magazine reader of the future, but then the bottom quickly fell out. According to more recent reports, Wired’s iPad mag only sold about 31,000 copies between July and September. That fell even further to 22,000 and 23,000 for October and November respectively. That’s less than a quarter of the launch number.

This phenomenon isn’t only being observed with Wired either. Vanity Fair has seen sales drop from the 10,500 in August, September, and October to just 8,700 copies of its November issue. Glamour has seen a drop of 20%, GQ has lost buyers, and so has Men’s Health, the last of which has experienced a 28% drop. Fewer and fewer people are buying digital magazines for the iPad.

Now, there could a bunch of different reasons why we’re seeing this “across the board” decline in iPad magazine sales. Maybe people are finding that staring at the iPad’s screen for so long can get very tiresome and they’ve fallen back to the dead tree editions of their favorite mags. Maybe people had to cut back on their magazine spending so they could afford holiday gifts. Maybe the “pay for an issue” business model no longer works. Or maybe we were all expecting the magazine to be like that amazing demo we were tantalized with back in February.

Or maybe the iPad just isn’t the magazine e-reader of the future that it was first thought to be.

The print magazine, just like the physical book, will still be around for several years to come, but I think that we’re in the middle of a shift. More books are being read on increasingly inexpensive e-readers like the Kobo and Kindle, but I think the “paid” magazine model might not work anymore in the face of countless free websites and blogs (like Mobile Magazine) that provide up-to-the-minute information that is arguably just as good as the big print mags.

What do you think? Do you still buy print magazines? Do you buy magazines on your iPad? Why and why not?  Hit the poll below.

[poll id="7"]


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14 Comments

  1. PatL says:

    I have been trying to move my magazine reading to my new iPad because I woould like to cut out the waste of paper. However many of the magazines I subscribe to do not allow a digital subscription and the price of the individual magazines is the same as the newstand price or about 8 times my paper subscription price. Time, Readers Digest, Scientific American, Discover all have iPad apps but no iPad subscriptions. It is crazy to go to the work of creating an app and not allowing digital subscriptions.

  2. SteinyD says:

    Shortly after purchasing the iPad, I cancelled as many print magazine subscriptions as I could to be replaced by their Zinio counterparts. I took a look at several of the standalone offers sold throught he Appstore. However, I found those to be priced out of the market and could not justify the expense which was far greater than the print version. If it is offered by Zinio, I continue to subscribe to it. If it is offered as a standalone AppStore offering, I’ve reverted to print due to overpriced per issue pricing.

  3. Mikedave says:

    I do not understand why magazine publishers will not allow me to see the magazine that I have already paid for on line.
    All magazines are produced on computers. Why waste the money for cutting down trees, printing and postage.
    Both Time New yorker and Motor trend promote using the iPad in the actual magazines. When I download the ap then I am told it will cost $5

  4. Angela says:

    I subscribe to about a dozen print magazines, and I was so excited to have an ipad to keep all my subscriptions together now. However- the transition seems flawed.
    I have yet to find a magazine that will let me transfer my print subscription to digital- and I have also yet to find a digital magazine subscription that is as affordable as my print magazine subscriptions. I don’t get it! I think the digital versions of magazines should be less because they don’t have to pay for printing or shipping.

    If someone knows where to find good ipad magazine deals- please let me know!

  5. Fezook says:

    In my view the decline is in large part because the media and marketing machines were in high gear back in early summer 2010, when the first magazines were becoming available via Zinio etc. Much of the interest was in the new technology, not so much the content. I would think repeat buyers – buyers since – are those now more interested in the content.

  6. Nate says:

    I have Zinio for the iPad and have 2 subscriptions through that; to NG and Popular Science. Now, for $10 each (I think) it’s a steal, especially for NG which has fantastic articles and pictures. Popular Science is okay but I mostly bought it based on the trial issue, and haven’t been as “wowed” by it’s content–iPad or not–as I have been by NG.

    I’ve downloaded a couple of random magazines as well, and none of them really work in iPad format because they’re basically just “ports”, if you will, of the print editions. In other words, the publishers seemed to have basically scanned the printed page and put that, as is, into the iPad edition. So when reading it on the iPad, you have to zoom in on the text and constantly drag the page around to read (unless you use the “text” option, which isn’t a problem unless the text refers to images/pie charts, etc, which tends to happen a lot on PS). The publishers haven’t realized that they need to reformat the content for the iPad screen which is a lot smaller than your typical magazine page.

    Which NG has done. I compared my iPad NG to my grandmas print edition and they aren’t just ports; NG has actually taken the print content and adapted it for the iPad screen and it’s just a pleasure to read. I would bet that if you looked up NG numbers, they’ve seen a steady sales record since their release.

  7. Nick says:

    The iPad is vastly overpriced even underpowered.vs Common laptops and PCs which are far faster and far larger display areas, making READING less tedious, Gadget fans often view the new pad / smartphone devices as a be all and end all. Phooey. If it costs 500-900 for a tiny screen, easy to shatter the glass and getting smaller in some cases than paperback sized page views of material often not as visually compelling nor as easy to read as large PRINT ( for 1->5 / print issue if unsubscribed, compare that to your $500+ exotic ?paperweight. Dead Trees? bah humbug

    I find it funny that some decent fraction of APPs for tablets and smartphones are replicating what PCs often do better, and yes there are a good number of apps that are novel, connecting mobility to data, but is that worth more than $500 in cash? just for the device, when in fact the devices are used by carriers and device makers to g gather AS demographic data, without your permission. Really a $500 alarm clock and messaging system with a few extra features is not as compelling as you might claim it is.

  8. jjmfe says:

    You know, I agree that the ipad is too expensive to use just for reading if that’s all you want it for. You need to buy into the whole experience. I like the thing, I haven’t bought one yet, but expect to buy 2011′s generation-2 release, I may be typical, if slightly ahead of the consumer curve, but certainly not on the “bleeding edge.”

    Right now the urgency has not been there to buy, as I’ve got too many other options as to how to consume content digitally. Everything from a smart phone (iphone4) to a very light and portable macbook air to travel with, and I’ve got materials and methods of streaming to televisions or larger screen desktop computers too, including my news content.

    My early morning starts by personal reading, and then reading current news onscreen before switching to e-mail (later) in the office (or on my laptop in bed on the weekend), and I’ll look forward to later this year when I do have the ipad lying on the nightstand by the bed that I can touch and begin to read from one simple touch-n-go device there.

    Cost is an issue for me, but convenience and simplicity are also an issue and will drive me to prioritize dollars into that “bucket,” just not right away. The IPad has provided such an elegantly simple solution that it will become a priority purchase, a year after it’s release.

    But, I also see that the cost of those e-zines was just so high that I wasn’t motivated to buy into them even for the current device running iOs, for their high subscription and individual costs. If the publishers would get the concept, that I (and probably others) would far rather have a disposable digital version of a magazine, instead of one that winds up as landfill or sitting on my coffee table, and make them cheap enough, I’d convert all my subscriptions to digital. Yes all my subscriptions.

    It would simplify my life and housekeeping, with even renewals done within the magazine app. I see it this trend across all consumable media types. I buy my books through Audible.com, and my movie libraries are by monthly subscription a’ la Netflix or streamed to TV’s from computer hard drives other places in the house. I have hundreds, perhaps 1000s of hard bound books, but I’m moving books along with music and video media into digital format as quickly as digital versions are available.

    Give me technology, but give me a decently low price if you want to sell me an e-zine. Don’t make me supplement the cost of your waning printed media or I’ll defect to some other magazine that “gets it.”

  9. I really think it’s too soon to decide whether this is a fad or not. While readers like the iPad have many good points, not the least of which is their portability and beautiful color, there is still a lot to be said for print magazines. Just like with books, there is something about holding the magazine and actually flipping the pages that cannot be reproduced or replaced by an electronic reader.

  10. Nastic87 says:

    HEY, there! people DON’T buy magazines for IPAD but read it.
    Most of the magazines you may download for free from the web and import to IPad. that’s the reason!

  11. golight says:

    This is quite an interesting trend. You would think people would have simply avoid magazines altogether if they hurt their eyes, or they weren’t cool with the pay per issue.

    It would be interesting to see what the reason is by doing a poll or something with the magazine companies.

  12. Can we quell the breathless mood swings? This new device is barely a year old! It’s going to take some TIME to flesh things out and 12 months is nothing.

    I’d come to the position that designing and creating super-interactive magazine issues for the iPad is probably not profitable. At this point the market for these are too small to sustain the probably huge costs to creating something so high-tech and immersive.

    That said, with non-Apple tablets on the way and with the prospects of many more people buying the iPad (esp once the price drops), that audience could grow.

    How about we relax a little and let things come into focus?

  13. butchyon says:

    Yep, if you’re buying a reader primarily for just reading, then it’s not too smart to purchase the over-priced iPad for that. iPads are nice, but their really just a very expensive toy. They’re too expensive to buy for a reader, and they are also not a good substitute for someone who really needs a laptop. If the iPad really has a niche out there, I don’t think it has been discovered yet.
    But, if money is not an issue for you, then I guess the iPad is a pretty neat toy!

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