The recession is hitting magazines hard and there is no doubt that 2009 is going to be a tough year. Bad news this week from Haymarket, Centaur, and Time Out. These are publishers with top quality magazine properties. We assume that it must be even tougher for the second tier players. Advertising, mostly the lack of it, is a big part of the problem. But circulation figures are also being challenged. This makes it really incomprehensible that the major magazine companies have mostly failed to introduce, in many cases failed even to explore, the practicality of building a digital subscription base.

Digital editions work. They tend not to be competitive with a print subscription. We have very little evidence of customers switching from print to digital (except for a few ‘ecologically motivated’ subscribers); but our steadily rising subcription rates, usage rates and the direct feedback from subscribers tell us that customers like their digital subscriptions. Any magazine ought to be able to get a rise in its subscription figures of 5-10% in the first year by offering a digital subscription and promoting it through the web.

Any magazine CEO who is planning to cut the editorial budget by 5% or more for 2009 should be asking themselves why they are doing this when they have not yet launched a digital subscription option to their key magazine properties? If you will get an uplift of 5% to 10% in your circulation for 2009, and to your subscription revenues, by promoting a digital edition, should you not be doing this?

The Exact Editions business model involves no upfront cost, no investment at all for consumer magazines (its commission based for any well established magazine). And since digital subscriptions to individuals and institutions will grow even through a recession (especially during?) deciding to offer a digital edition is a real no-brainer.