Why don’t people buy digital magazines?

Traditional magazines sales really started to fall of the cliff 3 years ago. They’d been in decline for years but the launch of the Apple iPad was a tipping point. Sales are down another 10 percent during 2013, whilst online demand grows unabated. But, online is still a pitiful volume, showing consumers are yet to fall in love with the e-format. What gives?

Digital copies are selling like hot cakes. Alliance for audited media announced that online mags are shifting 10.2 million copies per month, which is twice as many as 2012.

This sounds great. However, online sales are a meagre 3.3 percent of all sales. 3.3 percent of dramatically falling sales. Quite simply put, the tablet is not delivering for magazine publishers, despite plenty of effort going into making it work.

Surely 10.2 million sales isn’t so bad? Agh, but the closer we investigate this, the worse the picture becomes. The reason? Certain publications are thriving on the iPad.

30 percent of all sales, over 3 million, come via game informer magazine. Other top sellers also add significant percentages, not least number two, readers digest, which shifts 300,000 digital copies a month.

What’s fascinating is the audiences of number one and number two. One would assume, and it is only an assumption, that these publications would attract radically different demographics. So it is not as simple as saying online mags only work for sub-set xyz.

Either way, online, or at least not tablet editions are not proving to be the saving grace for the publishing industry. Perhaps this will change – better, more value adding editions may launch for the tablet which fulfil the devices potential. In the mean time, the industry limps on.

What stops you from buying a tablet magazine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.