Duncan Edwards, CEO of Hearst Magazines International says the publisher sees a bright future for its iPad and tablet editions of its industry leading magazine brands. He also had some surprising statements to make about what the future of the industry will look like.
The most surprising statement was that Hearst doesn’t plan to include interactive content in its digital publications despite work done in the company’s little known App Lab and the belief that users will pay more for a digital edition. Edwards also described mix of devices used by Hearst digital subscribers. That mix is headed up by the iPad but with Barnes & Noble’s Nook platform right behind it.
Digital editions are just a drop in the bucket for Hearst, averaging around 600,000 sales a month, compared to 22 million print sales. Even with figures like that, Hearst still sees digital publications as the future. Soon after the release of the iPad, the company launched the Hearst App Lab. The division tests existing Hearst publication apps and content on a variety of tablets.
Even though you’d think Hearst would be using the lab to focus on interactive content, multimedia, links to web sources, and such, Edwards says Hearst isn’t doing all that. The company converts its print editions into flat digital copies with no special features.
“People thought we’d reimagine the magazines to take advantage of the technology behind the device, but consumers prefer this replica version, and in reality we’re much better at doing this,” said Edwards.
Even though Hearst’s digital editions are little more than direct copies of their print versions, Edwards believes users will pay the same, or more for digital content over print.
As for the breakdown of mobile devices and platforms used for reading its magazines, Hearst says that iPad and iOS devices lead the way, with about a third of the market.