Will ‘tablet Christmas’ deliver a digital subs surge?

First published in November 2012

Metal Hammer

NEWS-BITE | Media | Tablet Magazines: An increasing number of newspaper and magazine publishers are hoping that the silver lining to the big black cloud hanging over their industry at the moment – ie the fact that print circulations and ad sales are slumping, while websites, although seeing record visitor numbers, are not generating any serious ad or subscription revenues – is the potential of the tablet magazine.

Research suggests that consumers unwilling to pay to subscribe to websites might be willing to pay to download digital magazines designed for iPads and their ilk. Such publications have much more in common with print media, but can offer extra functionality.

Assuming there is some truth in that prediction, then this Christmas could be crucial, with tablet devices from Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon expected to be at the top of many present lists. And Mark Wood, CEO of Future Publishing, which has already seen good sales of the digital editions of some of its magazines, including T3 and Metal Hammer, has told The Guardian he expects to see a “huge surge” in sales on the back of the “tablet Christmas”.

And while digital magazines are still a small part of Future’s business, tablet editions do now account for 5% of the publisher’s overall circulation figures, compared to 1% a year ago. With print circulations continuing to fall across the newspaper and magazine industries, Wood and all his competitors will be watching closely the impact tablets going mainstream has on digital subscription revenues. And if things go well in this domain, publishers, editors and PRs alike will have to start thinking about the challenges and opportunities posed by this kind of digital publishing if and when it becomes the norm.