There's no question that the news of Condé Nast finally making subscriptions to its magazines available for sale on Apple's iPad signaled a big digital advance for the company and the publishing industry in general. But the details of Condé's plans show show just how focused on print the company remains.
The first of Condé's magazines to offer an iPad subscription is The New Yorker. It was an obvious choice, because its weekly publication schedule didn't transition well from print to digital, at least not without a subscription plan and the discount that comes with it—consumers had a serious case of sticker shock when confronted with the idea of paying the full cover price of $5.99 for each issue.
Now, rather than paying cover price, readers who want to subscribe to the iPad edition of The New Yorker—and only the iPad edition—will pay $59.99 a year. A print subscription, which includes the iPad edition and Web access, only costs $10 more, at $69.99 a year. That structure suggests that Condé Nast—a company that still makes most of its money from so-called "dead tree" products, and which has come relatively late to the digital game—still cares more about print than anything else, and that it's sensitive to a backlash from its print subscribers.
"They don’t want to alienate print readers," says Paul Verna, a senior analyst at eMarketer. "The readers and advertisers are still very much invested in a print model. I think Condé Nast is very much walking a fine line between protecting that business and moving towards a digital model. [But] if they move too quickly, they might upset that balance."
iPad subscription plans for other Condé magazines—Vanity Fair, Glamour, Golf Digest, Allure, Wired, Self, and GQ—will follow in the coming weeks.