Publisher Condé Nast is raising the prices of two of its iPad magazines, GQ and Vanity Fair. While this might be an attempt to persuade consumers to purchase subscriptions rather than single issues, this option isn't yet available.
GQ and Vanity Fair used to offer readers who’d already bought a single digital issue a discount on subsequent purchases. But it is removing this perk at the same time as moving from an in-house digital publishing system (that had been criticised as buggy and slow) to the one built by Adobe that it uses for Wired and other titles.
This means that not only will its existing readers have the inconvenience of downloading a new app, the price for their next issue of Vanity Fair will be increased from $3.99 to $4.99 while that of GQ will go from $2.99 to $4.99.
As we reported at the end of January sales of iPad magazines have already demonstrated a downward spiral and it is unlikely that raising the prices can reverse this trend. Offering subscriptions could help sales figures but Apple's 30% cut of in-app subscription purchases is proving to be a real deterrent to publishers offering subscription deals on the iPad.
Google's One Pass system which levies only 10% commission would seem like an attractive alternative for publishers of tablet-oriented magazines. Condé Nast is planning to launch Android editions of Wired and The New Yorker - but exclusively for the Motorola Xoom at first which will restrict its audience.
So is there a future for tablet magazines?
One aspect that publishers have had to rethink is costs. While initially they talked about not having to pay printing and postage costs, now they have woken up to the higher production costs involved for video and interactive content. It seems only common sense that not having a print bill should make tablet magazines cheap - but not if you have a video production bill that is ten times or more the cost of the print you no longer produce!
The solution is obvious - cut costs and return to delivering a magazine that isn't a cross between an app and a TV channel. Consumers might think they want it but they clearly don't want to pay for it.
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