The digital magazine market still represents only a fraction of its print counterpart, but a study to be released today suggests that people who subscribe to magazines online are more engaged with the advertising than those who read them in print.
Conducted by The Harrison Group for San Francisco-based Zinio, which publishes digital versions of titles such as "Men's Health," "Kiplinger's" and "Jet," the study says that 35 percent of digital magazine subscribers pay more attention to the ads than they do when reading physical magazines. It also suggests readers put a high value on ads that let them connect directly with advertisers, a distinct advantage to digital publishing.
"Readers feel that the ads are much more interesting, and are much more eager to engage with them because they are interactive," said Jeanniey Mullen, global VP and CMO of Zinio and a ClickZ columnist. "This is a key finding."
Ten percent of the study's respondents said they pay "much more attention" to ads in digital magazines, and 25 percent said they pay "somewhat more attention" to them. Fifty-one percent said the format made no difference.
Eighty-five percent of respondents said they considered it a benefit to be able to click on ads in digital magazines and interact directly with the advertiser. However, only slightly more than a third (39 percent) thought that ads looked better in digital form than they do in print, and less than a third (31 percent), thought the ads were more relevant to them.
Mullen suggested those numbers would increase as advertisers took greater advantage of the possibilities offered by digital magazines, such as inserting rich media or video into their ads. Most publishers currently run the same ads in their digital versions as they do in print, Mullen said, and only a handful of marketers design ads specifically for the format. Zinio is hopeful that studies such as this one, as well as growing subscriber rates, will persuade more to do so.
"The possibilities are endless," she said. "If you're a consumer-based advertiser like Nike, you can not only drive people to your Web site, you can capture e-mail addresses. There is the potential to get some phenomenal metrics on engagement."
Digital magazines -- the flappable, page-by-page replication of a publication's print edition, rather than content uploaded individually to a magazine's Web site -- have been around for about a decade, and Zinio has long been the market leader. Critics sometimes refer to them as "fish with feet" for being an unnatural, and perhaps unsustainable, step in media evolution. Still, Zinio claims to deliver more than 20 million "issues" a year, and that it sold more than 400,000 products from Zinio.com last year.
Among the studies other key findings was that almost half (47 percent) of respondents didn't have print subscriptions to the magazines they subscribed to digitally. Top reasons for subscribing to a digital magazine rather than its print version included immediate delivery and access to content, the ability to store issues on one's computer, and the perception that digital subscriptions are less harmful to the environment.
The study, titled "Engage the Page," was conducted online over a two-week period with 1,500 randomly chosen Zinio subscribers.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014