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Magazines Cross the Digital Divide

Wall Street Journal

Cosmopolitan readers can get their first year’s subscription to the print magazine for $10. But if they want the digital edition on their iPads, they will have to fork over $19.99. That’s a pricing maneuver so bold it may make even Cosmo readers blush. In the book and newspaper industries, digital versions are typically cheaper than print ones. But some in the magazine world are going the other way, charging more for their digital versions.

Buffeted by declining advertising, which accounted for about 75% of their revenue historically, magazines are turning to tablet computers and digital editions to boost circulation revenue. In doing so, they are hoping to reset decades of subscription discounting so deep that a year’s supply of magazines like Esquire currently costs just $8.

“This represents an opportunity for the magazine business to become more leveraged toward consumer revenue and a little less dependent on advertising,” said David Carey, the president of Cosmo publisher Hearst Magazines, in an interview at his office at the top of New York’s Hearst Tower. Nearby, in Hearst’s tablet-filled App Lab, John Loughlin, Hearst’s executive vice president and general manager, put it even more bluntly: “I hope that this is the demise of $6 and $7 and $8 and $9 print subscriptions,” he said.

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