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iPad magazine sales low, on decline, figures show

updated 09:40 am EST, Wed December 29, 2010

Sales of Wired less than half of debut month

The iPad has so far failed to ignite digital magazine sales, data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations suggests. Although Wired managed to achieve 24,000 downloads in the iPad app's first day, and over 100,000 downloads in June, digital sales of the publication have since dropped substantially. The company averaged just 31,000 downloads each month between July and September, and October and November saw only 22,000 and 23,000 in sales, respectively.

Vanity Fair sold 8,700 downloads of its November issue, down from an August-October average of 10,500. Glamour is noted to have slipped about 20 percent a month in the distance from September to November, going from 4,301 downloads to 2,775. GQ recorded 11,000 digital buys in November, said to be the magazine's worst performance since the iPad was originally released back in April. Average monthly sales were 13,000 in the run from May to October.

One of the poorest performances by a high-profile magazine is attributed to Men's Health. Having managed only 2,800 downloads a month in spring, September and October numbers were approximately 2,000 each.

Publishers are reported to be hoping numbers will go back up as a result of holiday hardware sales. The magazine industry is currently hampered, however, by an absence of subscription support at the App Store, which forces people to buy issues individually unless downloads are tied to an outside paper subscription. Apple is believed to be working on native support, even if a resistance to making concessions in negotiations may be hampering progress.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Joined: Dec 1969


    easy to see why, iPad is too heavy to be a reader

    A screen based magazine already has some limitations over a magazine. Flipping pages is not satisfying on a screen based reader, compared to an actual magazine.

    But the main thing that really hurts is the weight. 1.5lbs is nothing if you set the thing on a table, but not everyone reads a magazine that way, they want to hold it in their hands.

    That's where 1.5 lbs gets heavy - it's not about lifting it one time, I've seen so many comments from people thinking 1.5 lbs is so light - yes light to life one time, not hold for 20 minutes in your fingers.

    It's too heavy, just plain too heavy. Plus wired is not exactly a great magazine, and the iPad doesn't exactly have 100% market penetration just yet. It's still early.

    Quadruple the sales of the iPad, plus make it lighter, and soon, you'll have those sales looking better.

  1. mkral

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I don't think it's any technical limitation that is holding them back, it's pricing. I have purchased several magazines on my ipad & they are quite nice, including some additional features that paper based copies do not (like video reviews). I've never had a problem with the weight of the ipad while reading the magazine, nor do I miss 'flipping pages'. The problem is that the issues cost quote a bit $4 each ($48 yearly), as opposed to the yearly subscription price of $24 (often cheaper with discount offers) (at least in the case of Outside Magazine). I think that once they are able to work out a subscription deal, ipad magazine sales will take off.

  1. erics

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Maybe so...

    It maybe that Jonathan but I do feel its the way things are these days.
    I used to spend over 100 on magazines back in they day.
    Were talking MacUser, MacWorld, Computer Graphics Mag, PC-Computing, etc..
    Now with the internet why bother?
    I do enjoy taking a stroll over to local book-stores/convenience store but their all eye-candy.
    If I needed real info on something why spend 10 bucks on articles that are possibly 2months or more old?
    Now the digital ones I have no excuse. I havent caught on to subs yet and enjoyed the one free copy of SI.
    If the mags were pushed onto my system and it cost a fraction then maybe Id join in and help the cause :)

  1. sglewis

    Joined: Dec 1969


    High Price = Low Sales

    Give me a break, how dense can publishers be. Early adopters tend to be hard core fans. Hard core fans are probably people who SUBSCRIBE to a magazine, rather than buy $5 issues on the news stand. Hard core fans who subscribe probably pay on average $12 to $18 a year for that subscription, maybe less if they know where to shop.

    Who's going to pay $5 a month for something you can read for a year for barely three times that price?

    At least Zinio subscriptions are fairly close to the ACTUAL subscription rate, which is why most of my reading is in Zinio.

  1. rtamesis

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I'm with sglewis on this subject. I get all my magazines now through Zinio. Their subscriber model best fits how I read them.

  1. OtisWild

    Joined: Dec 1969


    $10/yr MAX

    h***, given how cheap the dead-trees version can get (PCH or renewal discounts get monthlies super cheap) they have no business charging $5/mo for anything digital, try $10/yr..

  1. cal6n

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It's nothing to do with the weight...

    ... or any other aspect of the hardware. I read books and .pdfs for long periods of time every day and the weight criticism is completely bogus.

    As others have stated, a lot of the problem is down to the overpricing but there's more. The actual content is dire. I downloaded a motorcycle magazine's 1st issue for free and deleted it almost immediately. It was nothing but a bunch of scanned images of photos and text with a few web-linked adverts and a table of contents stapled on the front.

    For digital editions to make sense they need to offer more than their wood-pulp equivalents. That means searchable, annotatable text and digital media delivered at the same price or less than the standard subscription.

    Digital editions, as currently viewed the industry, are an attractive proposition to their accountants. However, in order to sell, they need to be attractive to their customers.

  1. johnable

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Yes, it is the price

    I have signed up for more than 20 magazines and have purchased one issue to try out. However, publishers must learn about elastic demand as the App developers have; a decrease in price will result in much greater volume and revenues. Market issues at .99 and watch what happens. I really think that publishers are trying to win at both games--hard copies on the news stands and digital copies on the internet. They will lose both if they try to ride both horses.

  1. psdenno

    Joined: Dec 1969


    High Price = Low Sales: Part 2

    The publishers need to realize that just because the customer can afford a $500 reader, they're not necessarily going to be willing to fork out four or five dollars for an electronic version of a magazine.

    Using books as an analogy......for many years there were only relatively expensive hard cover books. Then, the paperback was introduced at a much lower price. Sales soared. Same content, lower price, sales increased.

    I don't know the costs of publishing a digital version of a magazine or the "break even" point for the number of issues sold that makes the effort worthwhile. A heavily discounted subscription model would seem to be the only answer.

  1. Joe05

    Joined: Dec 1969


    ebook reader

    I have several magazine subscriptions on my Nook Color and love it.
    I pay an average of 2 dollars Per month. Or 99 cent per issue.

    The iPad is a great device, but I don't think it's ideal for being an e reader, it's too wide and heavy for that kind of thing.

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