The iPad system of magazine subscriptions may not be perfect for all publishers, but Popular Science seems to have found a model that gets its content into readers’ hands. Approximately six weeks after the mag made subscriptions available through Apple’s tablet magazine service, it sold its 10,000th iPad sub last weekend.
“We are very excited,” said Gregg Hano, vice-president and group publisher at the Bonnier Technology Group, which includes Popular Science. “We really did not have any expectation of what would happen because we’re really pioneers.”
Issue-by-issue sales of magazines’ iPad editions got off to a slow start last year, but many publishers said the new platform’s real test wouldn’t begin until they could offer subscriptions. Then when Apple finally introduced a system for iPad subscriptions last month, its terms left many publishers disappointed. Publishers can’t know anything about their own subscribers through the App Store, Apple said, unless subscribers explicitly allow Apple to share their information. Most publishers, who want a direct connection with their readers for marketing purposes, passed.
But Popular Science jumped in, calling Apple’s subscription system a step in the right direction. Now Pop Sci has 10,000 iPad subscribers, each paying $14.99 for a one-year subscription, a little more expensive than the $12.99 print subscription currently available on the magazine’s website.
Pop Sci also sold about 2,500 individual copies of the iPad edition’s March issue at $4.99 each, the same as it costs in print.
“We’ve been averaging 10,000 to 12,000 unit sales per month almost since the beginning,” Hano said. “Now we’re going to be above that in March. We’re inching up over that. And we look forward to continuing to see subscriptions grow. Hopefully people keep testing Popular Science on their tablets and then hopefully come back and subscribing.”
Apple’s rules mean, however, that Popular Science does not know whether it’s finding an entirely new audience or just shifting print subscribers, whose names and contact information it knows, to the considerably more opaque tablet.
“We don’t have any information on where the subscribers are coming from or whether or not they are or are not print subscribers,” Hano said. “Nor do we at this time know the number of people who have opted in to share their data with us.”
Popular Science averaged total paid and verified circulation of 1.3 million over the second half of last year, according to its report with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
To read the original story in Advertising Age, click here.