Below is an excert of the article Digital Editions: The Little Engine That Could Of Magazine Publishing, published by Forbes on 21 December 2015. The original article can be read in full here.
Over the last several years, the digital action for magazine publishers seems to have been all about apps. Many consumer titles have launched apps for mobile devices. Yet there’s a growing disillusionment with magazine apps, and meanwhile, another method of digital magazine delivery turns out to be the Little Engine That Could of the business: digital editions. Digital editions have taken off in the past few years, and new developments could take them even higher.
Digital editions, sometimes called replica editions, are digital versions of periodicals that look like the print versions but display on a digital device in a reader app or web browser. Readers apps — often called digital newsstands — contain features to browse and buy subscriptions to magazines as well as to read them, bookmark, search, and so on. These date back to the early 2000s, when they were offered to publishers as something digital that they could produce quickly and cheaply, and sell to readers as an alternative to their free websites.
Although the vision for digital editions back then was to be readable on a wide variety of digital devices, at that time the only relevant devices were desktop and laptop computers. So it’s no wonder that their penetration numbers — the percentage of overall subscribership that they represented — were negligible. A study that I co-authored several years ago put penetration of consumer magazine digital editions in 2007 at a mere 2.3 million and declining, compared to print circulation of over 300 million.
The picture is quite different nowadays. Most of the original providers of digital newsstands are no longer around, and a new crop of providers has appeared that focus on mobile devices. And of course mobile devices are far more capable and ubiquitous than they were eight years ago. So, while no one was looking, penetration of digital editions has gone steadily and strikingly upward.
Date: 07 Jan 2016