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Print Media Pricing On The iPad Borders On The Absurd

by Sean P. Aune | March 29, 2010March 29, 2010 9:01 am PDT

One of the key things that people have been discussing since Apple’s iPad tablet was first unveiled was how this might be the savior of print media.  People have talked about how this could reduce the cost of production for magazines and newspapers, and they could in turn sell them to consumers at reduced prices while still making a higher profit margin.  Well, the problem is that someone seems to have passed the memo on to the publishers.

ipad newspaperIn an article from The Wall Street Journal last week that was primarily discussing the ad rates that publishers would be charging companies for advertisements for iPad editions of their publications, we also saw the first notices of how much some titles would cost you in a digital edition.  To be quite frank, the numbers just don’t make any sense.

Men’s Health, which will be running ads in its iPad editions, will be charging $4.99, the same price it charges for the print edition.  The Wall Street Journal, which will also be running ads, and will be charging $17.99 a month for access, while you can subscribe to the print edition for a little under $12 a month.  The only example that was given that will be cheaper than its print counterpart was Esquire which will sell for $2.99 a month, a savings of $2.00 off the newsstand price, and will be published with no ads.

While we certainly aren’t suggesting that magazines and newspapers should be giving their work away for free, one has to wonder why the pricing is comparable to print editions, if not worse.  When you ponder the number of costs removed from the equation such as raw materials like paper, printing, labor, transportation and unsold copies that are returned, it just doesn’t make sense.  Yes, Apple will be taking a presumed 30% of each sale, but that is about the same percentage retailers collect from the sale of each copy of print editions, so the removal of print costs is still removed.  Perhaps they are all planning to do something special like Viv magazine demonstrated?

When I worked in print media int he 1990’s, one of the many things I learned is that subscribers are the life’s blood of any print publication.  While newsstand sales were always nice, they really didn’t matter to advertisers.  When you would go to an advertiser, all they wanted to see were your subscription numbers because those were guaranteed impressions, newsstand sales ebb’ed and flowed with whatever your cover story was.  This is why subscription rates are insanely low on most publications because they make it up on the back end with advertising rates.

For now it sounds like most of these publications are going with a monthly sales format as opposed to any sort of discounted subscription rate, and that just makes no sense to me.  Sell me an annual subscription for a $1 a month, load it up with as many ads as you want, and we all walk away winners.  The subscribers are happy, the advertisers get locked in impressions and the publishers get to increase profit margins from all the reduced costs.  Why the publishers are going the route they are is beyond me, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see things change in short order.

What say you?  Will you be buying digital magazines for the same price you can buy the print versions?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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