Zinio Preps Ad Net

As the attention publishers are paying to the app versions of their core titles grows,  Zinio, the digital publishing firm, on Feb. 22 plans to launch an ad network with an unnamed advertiser that will allow for multi-title sales across its publisher clients’ iPhone apps and desktop versions.

Still, for all the excitement about the dynamic platform that magazine editions on the iPhone offers advertisers, it’s clear that audiences are far from being big enough to interest marketers.

GQ, believed to be the first print magazine to come out with a complete replica for the iPhone, reported about 19,000 downloads for its first two digital issues. Since launching its iPhone app Jan. 11, Zinio has recorded more than 20,000 downloads of its iPhone app, which as of last week made about 32 titles available. About 20 percent of those who downloaded the Zinio app bought new magazines at the same time.

So while publishing execs insist they’re encouraged about the numbers of downloads their apps have gotten, they’re also looking for ways to wring more revenue out of their digital iPhone editions.

“There aren’t a lot of numbers for anyone,” said Bill Congdon, publisher of Hearst’s Popular Mechanics, one of the Zinio titles. “Obviously it’s going to take time to really monetize it on the ad side because you have to get circulation high enough to get advertisers interested.”
Congdon isn’t sitting back and waiting for his app audience to scale up. He’s talking to rival titles about selling ads across their apps. “You aggregate those, and all of a sudden you have some meaningful numbers,” he said.

Other publishers are talking about driving consumer sales by cross-selling their own apps. At Hachette Filipacchi Media, for example, users of Car and Driver’s Buyer’s Guide app could be upsold an iPhone edition of Car and Driver magazine, said executive vp, COO Philippe Guelton. “We see it first as a consumer model and secondarily as an ad model,” Guelton said.

Meanwhile, an early look at Zinio’s data provides an indication of what happens when digital replicas for the iPhone are sold on a subscription basis.

The GQ app, which is sold directly through Apple’s iTunes store, is only available as a single-copy sale for now. The Zinio titles are sold as subscriptions as well as single copies.
Surprisingly, nearly 100 percent of the Zinio magazine downloads were sold as subscriptions, said Jeanniey Mullen, global executive vp and CMO, Zinio.

Price and the early adapter audience could be reasons. A single digital copy of Car and Driver costs $4.99 while for just a few dollars more, a reader can get a year’s subscription.
Unlike the iTunes store, which closely guards data on its customers, Zinio shares consumer information with its participating publishers.

Zinio also found that subscribers are buying an average of three to four magazines at a time, at a price of $8 and up, which could bode well if industry hopes for an e-reader magazine newsstand are realized.

“With the apps, people are spending $30 to $70, which is great,” Mullen said. “Price is not a barrier.”

Not surprisingly, male-skewing titles like Popular Science, PC Magazine and Popular Mechanics far outsold women’s books available on the app like Marie Claire, Redbook and Harper’s Bazaar.

But Jim Meigs, editor of Popular Mechanics, said women’s magazines shouldn’t be counted out just yet.

“You’re going to get the tech geek audience, but you’re also going to have an audience of heavy readers, similar to big constituency for the Kindle or Nook,” he said. “This notion of people having to be techy to move into technology has been proven wrong. Look at grandparents on Facebook or using Skype. You’ll have all kinds of groups who are interested in that experience. I would say readers of O [the Oprah Magazine] might not be far behind.”

Related: Woman’s Day to Launch Cookvook