US publishing giant *Hearst Corporation announced this week the digital edition of Cosmopolitan magazine (US) has now surpassed 100,000 PAID subscribers. Impressive as this is, Hearst has been committed to a digital distribution strategy for at least eight years (excluding websites) so it’s far from an overnight success. Hearst have achieved this result off the back of one of the most popular magazine brands in history with Cosmopolitan having 64 editions and published in 35 languages as well as several brand extensions.
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Cosmopolitan’s well known stable-mates like Oprah Winfrey’s O, The Oprah Magazine, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, Esquire, Redbook, Seventeen, Harper’s Bazaar and Country Living (the most visible magazine on new social media site Pinterest) increased the need for this publisher to invest in their digital strategy and view digital investment as setting up a long-term channel infrastructure as you would any new route to market.
Hearst take digital seriously and have a 40-strong team of designers, developers and digital content producers working across their 100 digital properties to prove it. Hearst executives outlined future plans setting their sights on being an e-commerce provider for advertisers though also stating they will remain in the business of helping advertisers sell their businesses. >>>
The publish and purchase e-commerce model is working in-part already on sites such as Pinterest, Polyvore and Houzz where content is curated and stored however customers make final purchase through the respective retailer’s own e-commerce site.
In the context of magazines, this seems like the natural evolution where purchasing what you see right off the digital page is as easy as pressing a button. It’s a win, win, win. The customer wins because they can purchase what they want, the moment their interest is piqued, the advertisers win because sales are converting instantly and the publisher’s win because they knew their audiences were engaged but now they’re demonstrably part of the sales conversion process and can charge as such.
Currently Cosmopolitan’s digital editions are priced slightly higher than print which signals digital consumers are willing to pay a little more for digital convenience and portability. To me, their approach is sound and they’re actively training consumers to value content over medium. With a print product, I believe many customers think they’re paying for the cost of the paper and ink but they are largely paying for the journalism and content creation whether they realise it or not.
Let’s not forget the big picture. With Cosmopolitan’s overall circulation currently at 3.04 million (Dec 2011 ABC audit) the digital subscription contribution is still small at 3.3% when compared to overall circulation. Cosmopolitan’s Jun 2011 audit release claimed total subscriptions at 61% of total circulation or (1.85M copies) however the company recently stated their digital subscription business is growing by up to 15% per month which to me is not surprising given the uptake in tablets since April 2010 with the launch of the iPad.
Some publishers are exercising another school of thought and bundling print and digital together including News Corp and Conde Nast but that's a whole separate conversation. With great brands, strong content and a firm strategy in place which includes a specialist team and eight long years of learning’s in their corporate knowledge bank, I can only see Hearst’s success accelerating. It’s encouraging to see a traditional media company having successfully made the transition early and commit to long-term success of the brands whatever form they may take.
*Hearst Magazines, a unit of Hearst Corporation, is one of the world's largest publishers of monthly magazines, with 20 U.S. titles and more than 300 international editions. The Company also publishes 19 magazines in the United Kingdom through its wholly owned subsidiary, Hearst Magazines UK. (image: cosmopolitan.com)
Fine Print Blog
Musings about magazines.
I'm a magazine sales and marketing consultant from Sydney, Australia.