Hearst Exec: iPad Leads Digital Magazine Sales, Users Don’t Want Interactive Content

Hearst Exec: iPad Leads Digital Magazine Sales, Users Don’t Want Interactive Content

Hearst see digital publications as the future but without interactive features

Hearst, the publishing conglomerate that includes several of the world’s largest magazine brands, sees a bright future of iPad and tablet editions. Duncan Edwards, CEO of Hearst Magazines International, delivered some surprising statements as to what that future will look like at this week’s World e-Reading Congress in London.

The most surprising statement was that Hearst doesn’t plan to include interactive content in its digital publications despite work done in the company’s little known App Lab and the belief that users will pay more for a digital edition. Edwards also described mix of devices used by Hearst digital subscribers. That mix is headed up by the iPad but with Barnes & Noble’s Nook platform right behind it.

According to TabTimes, digital editions are still barely a drop in the bucket for Hearst – averaging around 600,000 sales per month compared to 22 million print sales. Despite that, Hearst sees digital publications as the future. After the launch of the iPad, the company created the Hearst App Lab – a software development division that tests existing Hearst publication apps and content on a variety of tablets.

While the App Lab concept makes one imagine interactive content, links to web resources, social network integration, multimedia, and other digital accouterments, Edwards said that Hearst isn’t focusing on any such things. The company essentially converts its print editions into flat digital copies with not special features. The decision is centered around what Hearst executives think most readers want from a digital experience.

People thought we’d reimagine the magazines to take advantage of the technology behind the device, but consumers prefer this replica version, and in reality we’re much better at doing this.

Despite making digital editions little more than glorified PDFs of print copies, Edwards does believe users will pay the same or more for digital content than print – an even more surprising statement than the plan to not take advantage of iPad functionality. He did point out, however, that Apple doesn’t handle pricing for content seamless across international borders all that well.

Apple doesn’t make it easy to make geographical pricing. Apple needs to change that because it doesn’t charge the same for its product overseas.

As to the breakdown of mobile devices and platforms used for reading its magazines, Hearst sees that iPad and iOS devices in the lead with about a third of the market. It’s worth noting also that Zinio as a platform can be used on a range of devices including the iPad.

  • iOS – 35%
  • Nook – 30%
  • Zinio – 20%
  • Amazon – 15%
  • Lars Pallesen

    double post removed.

    God, I hate this new Vanilla commenting system with a passion! *grrr*

  • Lars Pallesen

    “People thought we’d reimagine the magazines to take advantage of the technology behind the device, but consumers prefer this replica version, and in reality we’re much better at doing this.”


    Allow me to translate:

    We can’t figure out how to make a proper iPad version of our magazines, so we’ve decided that’s not what you want! You’ll get a PDF file and you’ll like it, OK?!

  • baby_Twitty

    Definitely spot on. 

    I’ve download tonnes of Magazines on my new iPad.
    The best reading experiences are still achieved on old school page-by-page formats.
    The ‘interactive’ formats are just a mess and the publishers are doing it just for the sake of doing it without considering real-world reading experiences.
    For a perfect example, just go download an issue of Reader’s Digest’s native app and the one via the Zinio app. The one from Zinio is completely fuss-free and displays wonderfully.
  • technochick

    There’s interactive and then there’s cheesy interactive. Putting in things just to put them in is wrong. But sometimes a short video is better than a still shot. It’s all in knowing when is the right time. 

    As for the whole “just slap in a PDF” the issue there is that it limits things like page flow, changing fonts to make them easier to read etc. You can do flowing magazines using basic ebook tools in just a little more work than it took you to type up the articles in a word processor. 
  • Rob Klaproth

    GRRRRRRRR… When are publishers going to realize I refuse to pay $20 bucks a year for an ipad version of their magazine when I can get the print one on my coffee table for $10 a year???   Seriously guys don’t piss me off I’ll just pirate your crappy mags, that is if I even want to read them.  

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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