Digital publishing sector increases share of magazine readership, advertising dollars

By Steve Brachmann
April 16, 2016

digital-media-newsOne of the poorly kept secrets of the publishing world is that digital and Internet platforms are increasingly being sought by readers, often to the detriment of the paper product. Between August 2012 and February 2013, digital publishing apps saw an average growth in their readership of 200 percent according to a state of mobile tech report released by computer software company Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE). Online statistics portal Statista report statistics showing that 88 percent of North American newspapers were distributing content on mobile devices by 2010.

It’s not just readers that are heading to the digital realm, but advertising dollars are also helping to buoy the nascent digital magazine sector. Forecasts reported by professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) indicate that digital advertising expenditures should rise from $2.4 billion in 2012 up to $3.8 billion in 2017, when they will account for one-quarter of all advertising spending. Although it’s been the case that people don’t seem to like paying for digital content they can get for free, PwC forecasts that purchases of digitally published content should rise from $275 million in 2012 up to $1.4 billion in 2017.

Much has been made in journalism circles about the eventual death of print media, despite the fact that more than half of America’s newspaper readership still read print news as of February 2014, but not many are looking at the sector of digital media popping up to replace print. On the Internet, the line between magazine and blog is pretty blurry. Online publication platforms are free and readily available, which of course leads to the potential for less studious voices to be heard, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that a blog couldn’t be every bit as reputable as a major daily newspaper given the proper circumstances.

The digital news media sector is also starting to contribute some jobs to replace those that have been lost in print. Employment levels at American print newsrooms declined by 6.4 percent in 2012, but a 2014 State of the News Media report out from the Pew Research Center found that the largest thirty digital-only newspapers account for 3,000 jobs with global coverage rising as an area of investment for these publications. Digital magazines like Buzzfeed and Mashable employ dozens on their news staff and Vice was operating 35 overseas news bureaus as of 2014.

And yet all is not rosy for the digital magazine sector and some companies, including major names in tech, have had issues making the formula work for them. Sunnyvale, CA-based Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), a company which might itself be acquired this year, announced in February that it would be shuttering its digital magazine divisions, including Yahoo Food, Yahoo Parenting and Yahoo Health; Yahoo!’s news, sports, finance and lifestyles content areas will remain intact.

Free platforms for accessing digital magazines, and digital versions of print publications, are proving to be at least somewhat valuable for readers and magazines alike. One of these is Issuu, which offers a free platform for digital magazine access along with multiple annual subscription levels offering more customizable readers and no advertisements. As of October 2014, the company claimed that it had 80 million regular readers spending a total of 1 billion minutes per month perusing the content uploaded to the digital magazine stand. Not looking to give readers a completely free ride, Issuu has recently added a pay button to digital pages which works as a clickable link for sending readers to online stores to increase the e-commerce potential of the platform. Of course, magazines publishing to the Issuu platform aren’t exactly aided and abetted by the company’s recent decision to shut down its targeted distributions campaign service, which allowed publications to create advertising campaigns targeting a specific audience.

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Another digital magazine company offering a marketplace for publications is Zinio, which boasts access to more than 5,500 magazines through its online service. A marketplace offering access to magazines published around the world, Zinio recently inked a deal with German full-service magazine distribution provider DPV Deutscher Pressevertrieb which brings 650 publications from German-speaking markets to the Zinio platform. The digital magazine marketplace is also increasing access to its services at public libraries through a partnership with library app developer Boopsie to offer magazines through Boopsie’s remote library service. Zinio also announced a collaboration last September with aircraft connectivity provider Global Eagle Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ:ENT) to add Zinio’s magazine lineup to in-flight entertainment systems developed by Global Eagle.

Marketing itself as the largest digital newsstand is Magzter, a New York City-based digital magazine marketplace offering access to over 7,700 magazines available from more than 3,000 publishers. Last October, Magzter announced that it was actually reducing the price for its all-you-can-read subscription service Magzter GOLD by two dollars down to $7.99, after the subscriber base grew by 200 percent every month since its January 2015 launch. A recent update to its digital service this January features a new type of browser design which lets users browse by articles and not just by publication. In India, Magzter is implementing a carrier billing technique which enables consumers to pay for digital magazine content more easily through charges added to their mobile bill.

Many of these digital publishing marketplaces only require that content be submitted in PDF format and perhaps the most robust software tools for this purpose are available through the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS), marketed by San Jose, CA-based computer software company Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE). Updates to Adobe’s DPS last July enabled digital content publishers to create immersive apps without having to write code in order to access consumers through app stores and not just platforms like Issuu. At this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Adobe announced the integration of asset management and analytics tools with DPS to build better mobile experiences for consumers.

Those who don’t have the resources to invest in a high-end digital publishing product like Adobe DPS can find more cost-effective alternatives, such as the publishing tools developed by Belgium-based Twixl. The cheapest publishing subscription through Twixl still costs 750 Euros ($858 USD), but offers users the ability to preview their digital content apps before publishing and publish multi-issue apps to a variety of app stores. Another option is Mag+, a digital publishing software developer with offices in New York City and Sweden. Late last year, Mag+ announced the launch of a mobile app solution named Semble which allows users to develop apps without needing a license for the desktop publishing program InDesign, another Adobe product. Also in 2015, Mag+ established a web export function for its software which allows users to publish content to the Internet for browser-based reading along with the app-based platform.

Increasingly, publications with large readerships are coming to the understanding that the digital publishing realm is their future. In early April, Australian magazine publisher Pacific Magazines announced that it would be shuttering print operations for the celebrity tabloid magazine FAMOUS to switch to a new FAMOUSLive all-digital platform after the magazine’s social media reach increased by 260 percent in two years to reach 6.3 million online readers daily. Men’s lifestyle magazine Playboy also recently announced a digital distribution partnership with Magzter to market a redesigned digital version of the publication.

Excellence in the world of digital magazines is recognized each year by the Digital Magazine Awards (DMAs), which will be awarded in July of this year. Last year’s winner of the overall category was the tech trend publication WIRED. The best new magazine launch was awarded to men’s fitness lifestyle magazine Alpha Man while the best digital magazine website award went to renowned commentary and critical magazine The New Yorker. 2015’s publisher/manager of the year was Jürgen Paul, managing editor of German architecture publication BauNetz.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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Discuss this

There are currently 1 Comment comments.

  1. Michael E. Schmidlen April 22, 2016 12:25 pm

    Steve-

    Another relatively inexpensive digital publishing solution is the US-Based SaaS solution from Of Eleven Media, LLC, our Mag-Titan (publishing) & Ad Einstein (ad) solution is actually FREE to use, at it’s base level. They have been in development for 4 years and released version 2.0 of their technology at the end of last year.