Thanks to Apple's Newsstand, sales of magazines' tablet editions have been soaring. Now comes the real test: Can publishers turn those editions into viable ad vehicles?
Publishers do see that kind of dual-revenue stream in their future, but it could be a year or more off. Consistent sales volumes, engagement data, and buying standards will have to be established before advertisers make regular commitments to the medium.
Ben Voight, media director at Spark Communications, predicts that 2012 will still be a testing period. "Tablet scale is not going to be a problem," Voight said. "The question's going to be whether [magazine apps] are going to be able to weather the competition on the device. As it becomes more clear on the value, then we will see some dollars flow there."
Some titles are starting to get scale, like Wired and Popular Science. At Hearst, gm John Loughlin says mass titles like Cosmopolitan and O, the Oprah Magazine are attracting 50,000 paid subscribers a month, and that with the Kindle Fire helping expand the tablet ownership market, he expects Hearst to sell 1 million paid monthly editions across all titles by next August—triple the current volume.
There are conversations with Apple about letting people give e-editions as gifts, which could further bolster sales. "Advertisers are starting to feel more comfortable, even if we haven't come to uniform, agreed-to metrics," Loughlin said. It's worth remembering that it took more than three years for online advertising to take off, and the tablet market only launched a year and a half ago.