Your magazine app is a platform, but it’s not the most profitable digital magazine platform for passive income
Digital magazine apps are great for one huge reason: They come with a built-in marketplace. People who own tablets are accustomed to buying apps, and using app stores and newsstands to find new content.
The app edition of a digital magazine is held in your hand, through a mobile or tablet device. It’s almost a physical product, or at least not as far removed as a web magazine, which resides online. The app edition of a digital magazine performs on its own. It can be held and swiped, and ads can be tapped. Each magazine app will have different functionality, navigation and design, just like any app. A digital magazine app comes in digital replica, replica-plus, and reflow-plus versions, all a little more interactive than the one before it.
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But we think launching a web magazine (a digital edition that is responsive and works on any device, including tablets), is the better way to generate revenue.
Similarities between web magazines and digital magazine apps
- Web magazines and digital magazine apps may be sold at similar price points, however a web magazine, because it contains an archive, is often sold as an add-on to the print or digital magazine rather than a solo product. We find web magazines hold their own and sell well as a solo product.
- Readers value both versions of these magazines differently. They love to page through a digital magazine app on their mobile device of choice, but they enjoy searching and diving deeply into a web magazine archive.
- The content in a web magazine and a digital magazine app may be exactly the same, only formatted differently for the web.
- Subscribers want scrollable text for both web magazines and digital magazine apps. The web is naturally scrollable, but not every digital magazine has text that can scroll. Digital replicas often force users to pinch and zoom through pages in a PDF.
- A web magazine and digital magazine app may publish on the same day. If you publish a digital magazine app and a web magazine, subscribers to both platforms expect the content released at the same time (typically whenever your print issue hits the newsstands).
- Both can be paired with a print subscription. In order to ready subscribers for the digital age, many publishers sell bundles that include print, digital and web editions.
Compared to digital magazine apps, web magazines are simply a different business model. A web magazine is most often an upsell to a magazine subscription website, although it can be a standalone product. And it’s most likely accessed from a PC rather than a mobile device, although it’s certainly mobile-friendly.
When your digital magazine app is holding your revenues back
1. Selling bundles is the best way to increase revenues, and most publishers aren’t set up to sell bundles that pass data to app stores in order to offer customers a seamless experience. Bundling can greatly increase your profits. Cosmopolitan, for example, offers these packages in a decoy pricing arrangement:
- Print: $12
- Tablet: $12
- Print + tablet: $13
Yes, our models tell us that they’ll probably drive more sales for the $13 option and will also generate more sales overall. Of course, the increase in revenue is minimal, compared to other bundle prices. The $1 increase from print or tablet to the combo package certainly delivers what we call the “no-choice choice,” which is a polite way of saying “no brainer.” But our research shows that a $5 increase delivers the same impact, and you get more money.
And with a web magazine and archive, you can charge significantly more. Our experience shows us that the price in the middle needs to be close to the highest priced item in a bundled list. If not, buyers just opt for the cheapest price – 70% of them, in fact.
Instead, to make the highest priced item perform best, lower the combo price at the top to make it a smaller financial leap for the consumer. This strategy sends revenues through the roof:
- $20 – Print Magazine
- $30 – Web Magazine w/ Archive
- $35 – Combo: 70%
That $5 price increase to the top is just too appealing to ignore, and with this pricing strategy, 70% take the combo.
2. You can keep more money with a web magazine, so do you have one? With an app (and yes, we do think having an app is a platform magazines should still publish on), the app stores are paying you 70% or less of the total, and they keep the rest. With a web magazine which is hosted on your site, you’re keeping all of the revenue, and your magazine subscription website works while you sleep.
3. With an app, you’re also paying digital magazine costs to design, distribute, and format for the tablet. With a web magazine, you design the web magazine site once, and then you’re simply loading content. There’s no more reformatting than there would be for a blog post, whereas a digital magazine app requires full re-designs for each issue.
4. You can keep up the good vibes because bad reviews won’t be distracting anyone. Have you noticed that the bad reviews that occur in app stores have little to do with content, and mostly to do with functionality? And it seems like very few publishers can keep up with app glitches. So when someone thinks about downloading your magazine app and they see a glaring 2 stars, they look to see what’s up. Comments like “can’t get my issues” or “app is junk, don’t buy!” can litter the page, even if it’s user-error and you have literally no control over reviews. Instead, if people arrive on your magazine subscription website, they will be able to experience the UX before they buy, and they won’t be distracted by nasty reviews.
5. The cost to create new content for a web magazine archive is $0 but the revenue is ongoing. Why? Because the content for your online magazine library already exists. If your magazine has been in business for 10 to 20 years or longer, then you have a mighty back issue archive to digitize, but it will become your greatest resource of new content and passive income. The library content is free (for you). The content already exists, which means the content is free. You might have thousands to hundreds of thousands of articles of free content. The content still needs to be webified and edited, but it’s now technically free, or at least paid for. And once you’ve loaded it in, it doesn’t cost you anything extra to take on another paying subscriber, after subscriber, after subscriber.
All of this to say that yes, keep your app. You have a built-in marketplace and that’s glorious. But don’t sacrifice a responsive magazine subscription website that allows readers to subscribe and read your magazine online with any device. Packaged with an archive, it’s a goldmine of passive income.