Popular Science Ditches Pay Model on Digital ‘Zine

Popular Science, which launched a digital magazine in response to the growing use of e-readers, is abandoning its pay model after consumers gave it a lukewarm response.
The Bonnier Corp. title launched its Pop Sci Genius Guide last spring for PC or Kindle wireless readers in anticipation of an e-reader revolution. The Genius Guide used Zinio’s publishing technology, which allows for video, animation and hyperlinks to be embedded into digital magazine pages.
Pop Sci publisher Gregg Hano originally hoped to get 900,000 downloads for the first four issues combined. But the first issue, priced at 99 cents, sold just over 5,000.
Hano admitted his original goal “might have been a little bit optimistic.” He blamed the low response on the buying experience. “To go in and put in your name, address, credit card number for a 99-cent product they haven’t had before is really a challenge,” he said.
Pop Sci decided to give the second issue away for free, partnering with groups like the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council to promote it on their Web sites. The second issue got more than 14,000 downloads—better than the first issue but still small.
“We saw a great increase over the first one, and we’re happy with that trajectory,” Hano said. “As we learn how to market it, we’re going to grow.”
Pop Sci has made some progress on getting advertisers to try the new format. The first issue, which carried a home theater theme, was ad-free. The second issue, which was called the Green Home Guide, carried ads from GE, Samsung and Craftsman.

A third issue, centered around gadgets, is set to come out around the winter holidays.