The Association of Magazine Media (MPA), the magazine publishers trade group, this month reported some seemingly encouraging results for an industry that’s become all too used to bad news.
While print advertising—still by far the lifeblood of the magazine business—continues to contract, ad units in magazine tablet editions have soared 22 percent so far this year versus last.
It would appear reassuring for publishers desperate to grow their businesses beyond the core yet shrinking print product. But the fact is that many of those tablet ad units are merely pickups from print—meaning that advertisers paid not a nickel for them.
While the tablet has dominated conversations inside the halls of publishers and at industry gatherings like this week’s American Magazine Conference in New York—and may well still represent the future—it has not turned out to be the savior the industry had hoped for. It says something that the tablet isn’t even on the agenda at the publishers convention this time around. Meanwhile, many of the industry’s most fervent tablet evangelists have moved on from their pulpits—among them, Meredith Corp.’s chief digital officer Liz Schimel, now with Condé Nast China; Time Inc.’s Terry McDonell, who stepped down as group editor for sports; Daniel Bernard, The Wall Street Journal’s original app architect, now at Time Inc.; and Scott Dadich, Condé Nast’s tablet czar, now editor of Wired.
Three years after Apple unveiled the iPad and revolutionized the way consumers interact with content, tablets still account for a tiny share of magazine readership—just 3.3 percent of total circulation. Not taking into account the top-selling digital title, Game Informer, which boasts nearly 3 million digital copies, the number slips to 2.3 percent.