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What Sells the Digital Magazine?

  |  April 27, 2012   |  Comments

Is it the cover or the contents?

A magazine is a pretty amazing work of art. It consists of a collection of the most incredible curated insights, editorial opinions, and photographs for a specific genre. In the print world, everyone knows that the cover of a magazine needs to be very carefully crafted in order to compel you to purchase it at the newsstand. Anywhere from 10 to 45 percent of a print magazine's sales can come from single copy sales (aka, at the traditional newsstand). With this heavy reliance on sales by cover, I wondered…is the same true for success on the digital newsstand?

A few weeks ago I noticed that three digital publishing apps changed their icon on the iPad from a static image representing their company to a dynamic image showcasing their "cover news" for the day. If you haven't seen them yet, check out how The New York Times, The New York Post, and The Daily all showcase their app. In it, each day you see a very clear cover line and image that is meant to be compelling enough for you to stop and download/buy the app.

Interestingly, at my company, we have been seeing a different phenomenon where it isn't just the cover but the content inside of the issue that is driving a digital reader to discover a magazine they never knew they couldn't live without. Recently we posted a collection on the Titanic. In this collection the visitor was exposed to free articles about the Titanic. Quietly in the corner of the article was a reference to the name of the magazine the article came from. In this case, magazines like Town and Country and Popular Science were successfully able to engage new potential subscribers through the content locked under the cover by sharing it to an audience who followed a common theme.

Take both of those stories and consider the significant increase in brand engagement that tools and sites like Pinterest, Facebook's Open Graph, and even Twitter have made. These successes pose an interesting question.

Does this mean the world of consumer acquisition in publishing will see a significant shift in the way they merchandise content? Will the cover remain relevant, or will the guts of the magazine make their way to the front of the line in attracting new subscribers? What do you think?



Jeanniey Mullen

Jeanniey Mullen is the vice president of marketing at NOOK by Barnes and Noble, focused on business growth and customer acquisition. 

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