Firm Offers Insight Into Tablet Mag Sales

Bonnier, Meredith among those testing new service

Publishers have big hopes that tablet editions will help offset what have been soft sales of their ink on paper magazines. But digital magazine sales have been slow to take off.

Some are testing a new service that could help them get more out of their sales efforts though.

A New Jersey-based company called is launching Sept. 22 with a network of websites that is designed to give publishers another outlet to promote their digital editions. Ads for the digital editions will run on the sites, with publishers paying a 20 percent commission for each sale that’s generated by the ad.

In an effort that could provide valuable information for publishers, the firm will also track the returns on the ads. The firm said it tracks how many people click on the ad, if they make a purchase, whether they buy a single copy or subscription, and which digital device they bought it on, such as Apple’s iPad or the Barnes & Noble Nook.

The firm is run by the founders of Value Mags, an agent that sells discounted subscriptions.

Among those testing the service are Popular Science publisher Bonnier Corp., Better Homes and Gardens publisher Meredith, and Maxim.

Publishers have for years been able to measure the performance of print subscription sales efforts. But participants in the beta test said this was the first tool they were aware of that measured the effectiveness of digital magazine sales campaigns.

“It’s another piece of the puzzle we haven’t had yet,” said Gregg Hano, group publisher of the Bonnier Technology Group, which includes Popular Science. “We just want to grow our unit sales, single copy and subscription, so we’re trying to arm ourselves with as much data as possible.”

Hano said it's too early to see the results of the beta testing.

Publishers see tablets as a potentially big source of subscription revenue. But the market and consumer habits are still in flux, and the dominant player, Apple, has frustrated publishers by refusing to share information on customers who buy digital magazines through its iTunes store. So with data being hard to come by, any bit of information on digital magazine sales is potentially valuable.

“When magazines sell digital editions that go right to the iTunes store, the magazine has no information about who made the purchase of whether the purchase actually occurred,” said Andrew Degenholtz, president of eMagazines. “We can report to the publisher if the person converted and made a purchase. That’s something that the magazine publishers haven’t previously had.”