Earlier this summer, the Audit Bureau of Circulation began to issue Digital Circulation certificates. Exact Editions was able to support this new standard approach to reporting digital editions from the beginning, and now any of our magazines that need ABC compliant data can get it through their dashboard accounts, directly from our servers, updated month by month. Here is a typical example:
ABC have recognised that there is still considerable disparity in the way publishers are treating their digital editions, and the new reporting rules allow for some variation. They really have had to embrace different approaches, as there is no uniformity on how a digital edition should be delivered and there is a clear consensus across the industry that these circulation figures are begining to matter. And this is not just a question of ‘mattering’ in the way that publishers web sites have mattered, as a channel for communication with the audience and as a way of building and defending the magazine brand. No, these statistics and the circulation that underlies them is beginning to matter in the way that really counts with a magazine business. The subscriptions which these audits report are starting to bring in significant amounts of dosh.
As a matter of policy we do not comment on the individual magazines that we publish, we only report detailed financial and sales information to the publishers of the titles which we serve and support. But now some of this data is in the public domain, and we can cite this public data that make it clear that digital sales, especially of iPad editions, are starting to count.
Journalism.co.uk took a look at some of these results from the first 6 months of 2012, and announced that Future’s T3 had the top circulation: 17,000 downloads of the average tablet issue; and Cosmopolitan came in second with an average circulation of 13,000. If we multiply these figures by the typical cost of the monthly iTunes sub for each title (Cosmopolitan typically costs £4 per digital issue), it looks as though both titles were generating an average of c. £55K a month. Not bad, and certainly not to be sneezed at, though from these gross figures one should subtract the Apple commission and the VAT element. £50K a month of new income equates to £600K per annum, still a smallish sum for a big glossy magazine, but certainly material. Furthermore, successful apps are growing their audience and their revenues at a rapid rate (10% per month increase is still quite common). And the trend for tablet consumption of magazines has a following wind. The Finance Directors, at Future and at Nat Mags will be taking an interest, the Guardian reports that Future have now sold more than £5 million worth of digital editions of its titles.
Although Journalism.co.uk highlights T3 and Cosmopolitan, it is arguable that the real star in the digital circulation wars amongst magazines is the Economist, which has just released its first Consolidated Media Report with full stats from the digital side of the business. This is a global report and it makes for impressive reading. Two facts struck me in particular: (1) The Economist now has 54,oo0 buyers of its iPad edition (2) On its North American page it specifies that the average (annualised) selling price for its iPad edition is $106 (interestingly $3 more than the average price for the print edition), if that price is held good for the international market then the revenue from the iPad market alone is over $5 million. Since the Economist has several alternatives to its iPad edition and some revenue from web subscriptions, the total digital revenue will be significantly higher.