Canadian Magazine Industry News
12 April 2012,     TORONTO
Digital renewal rates "not exciting" says U.S. consultant
While Globe and Mail writer Simon Houpt suggested Wednesday that Canadian publishers are falling behind in the digital magazine space as U.S. publishers leap ahead, at least one U.S. publishing expert isn't sure U.S. publishers have it right, either.

Saying American magazine publishers are suffering from "BSOD: Bright Shiny Object Disease," circulation consultant Elaine Tyson reports that digital magazine readership—at least measured by renewals and subscriber downloads—leaves something to be desired.

Speaking at a recent CMC Circulation Management Association of Canada seminar in Toronto, Tyson reported that digital magazine renewal rates are only 32.47%, compared to a print renewal average of 55.04%. The numbers are based on a study of data supplied by six U.S. publishing consulting firms.

"This is not exciting me at the moment," she said. "People don't seem to want to read that way [digital]."

She also reported that download rates for digital issues that subscribers have already paid for are low. "For some good magazines the download rate is only 20%," she said.

Tyson suggested, however, that this may change in the future as "people get used to it, and the technology get better."

The Globe's Houpt reported on the U.S. Next Issue Media service, cooperatively produced by major U.S. publishers including Hearst, Condé Nast, Meredith, Time and News Corp. The service operates as a Netflix-style magazine clearing house, where subscribers pay $9.99 a month for access to any of the available titles produced for Android tablets. (An iPad version is in the works.)

Wrote Houpt:

Canadian publishers, meanwhile, are in a defensive crouch. Late last month, the magazine trade group Periodical Marketers of Canada produced an enervating video that barely acknowledged the digital revolution. "The preference for print magazines is overwhelming," said a tired voiceover. "Fewer than one in 10 [Canadians] have bought an e-edition of a magazine in the past six months."

That may be because Canadian publishers aren’t giving readers much of an option, preferring instead to spend their few spare bucks on extra content for their websites or smartphone apps.

Houpt acknowledged that Rogers Publishing has several app versions of its magazines, with more to come. But in a parting swipe, he declared: "The sooner Canadian publishers step up, the better."

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