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

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Hearst see digital publications as the future but without interactive features
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%

Source: TabTimes