London, England – The World e-Reading Congress drew a number of influential speakers in London today, including Duncan Edwards, CEO of Hearst Magazines International, who highlighted the striking rise of tablet publishing.
Hearst is of the largest magazine publishers in the world and has pushed magazines like Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire and Marie Claire, onto the iPad and Android tablets of late, moves which would seem to illustrate just how seriously Hearst is taking tablet publishing.
“At Hearst, we see the arrival of the tablet, and the scale of the tablet market, as a significant media opportunity. There is a huge opportunity through a new distribution market”, said Edwards, when speaking in London.
Hearst sells 600,000 tablet magazines a month
Edwards went on to assert that Hearst is looking to reach one million paid digital sales on tablets a month for the US by the end of the year, but said that monthly tablet magazine sales currently stand at around 600,000.
Despite the disparity in sales between digital and print (Hearst sells 22 million print magazines each month), it is clear that Hearst has spent some time configuring its tablet editions. The firm first established the Hearst App Lab - a laboratory for testing different tablets and software, after the launch of the first iPad, and has clearly spent some time figuring out how to bring its world-renowned print magazines onto the tablet.
Edwards explained that the tablet versions of Cosmopolitan, Country Living and Good Housekeeping are identical to the printed versions, but said that the publisher completely redesigned the likes of Elle, Esquire and O, The Oprah Magazine for the iPad. Despite some clamour for new tablet versions in the industry, Edwards stressed that most readers actually prefer their tablet editions to be ripped straight from print, and admitted that this was an easier process than having to redesign the entire magazine.
“People thought we’d reimagine the magazines to take advantage of the technology behind the device, but consumers prefer this replica version, and in reality we’re much better at doing this.”
Hearst’s tablet magazine sales are evenly split between Apple’s Newsstand and Barnes & Noble’s Nook
Far from being reliant on Apple’s Newsstand, Edwards’ presentation indicated a pretty even split for Hearst’s tablet magazine sales between Apple (35%) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook (30%), with Zinio (20%) and Amazon (15%) not too far behind.
“You have to admire Apple for a brilliant conceived strategy, and when we first saw the iPad, it was clear it was going to be a success”, said the Hearst Magazine International CEO.
“But in the US at least, it’s by no means the only player. Barnes and Noble’s Nook has made a significant entrance to the market, and Amazon is also making significant investments with the Kindle and Kindle Fire. Google is going to make an impact, and Microsoft is testing the market with the $300 million investment in Nook.”
“I think readers are prepared to pay more for tablet editions”
“There is a question of tablet versus the print edition, in terms of pricing. There’s quite a lot of evidence that people are prepared to pay as much, or even more, for a digital copy. We’re charging $19.99 for some of our [digital] magazines and as you can see our sales are pretty good.”
Edwards was less euphoric on Apple throttling the ability to set different tablet magazine prices across the globe. “Apple doesn’t make it easy to make geographical pricing. Apple needs to change that because it doesn’t charge the same for its product overseas.