Digital Magazine Prices Surpass Cost of Print Subscriptions

In what may indicate a shift in print to digital pricing patterns, Cosmopolitan readers will now have to pay $19.99 for a digital subscription to the magazine on iPads. The cost of a year’s subscription for the print edition is just $10. In both the book and newspaper industries, print versions are usually still more expensive than digital ones.

“But some in the magazine world are going the other way, charging more for their digital versions,” writes the Wall Street Journal. Declining advertising sales, which traditionally made up around 75 percent of print’s revenue, are forcing publications to think big digitally.

“This represents an opportunity for the magazine business to become more leveraged toward consumer revenue and a little less dependent on advertising,” said David Carey, president of Cosmo publisher Hearst Magazines.

Customers don’t seem to mind the higher prices. According to Hearst, the company has nearly 800,000 digital subscribers to date, making it “short of its year-end target of a million but still the largest digital-only subscriber base in the industry,” notes WSJ.

Other magazines are taking the same path. Bonnier Corp. magazines like Popular Science and Field & Stream have raised the price of digital subscriptions above print editions. The Economist has raised the joint price of its print/digital package, too — same for Vogue and the New Yorker.

But not all publishers are following this trend and as tablets become increasingly mainstream, patterns could shift in either direction.

“The willingness of tablet owners to renew their pricier digital magazine subscriptions may change as tablets become more mass market,” suggests the article. “The average tablet reader now is younger, richer and more educated than the average magazine reader. Nearly two-thirds of them are male, and 54 percent of them are Millennials — or between 18 and 35 — while 36 percent have more than $100,000 in household income, according to ‘The Tablet at Two,’ a study of the tablet publishing landscape by Empirical Media, a digital-advisory firm.”