Here’s an interesting little chart, from Ivey Business Review, on the current state of the digital magazine market (click on image to enlarge it):
Game Informer, the dominant title, by far, in digital subscriptions, is published by the GameStop retail chain. You get a subscription to the magazine as part of a bundle of benefits when you upgrade to a premium loyalty card. As AdAge reports, “When GameStop rolled out its loyalty program in 2010, Game Informer‘s digital circulation was just 4,844. It climbed to 223,000 in 2011, 1.2 million in 2012 and nearly 3 million today.”
It’s still early days for digital magazines, and it’s impossible to predict what the future will bring. But the initial hype about the iPad as an attractive publishing platform for magazines doesn’t seem to have panned out. After the introduction of the Kindle, ebook sales exploded for a few years (before flattening out more recently). Although digital magazine subscriptions nearly doubled over the last year (from a tiny base), they haven’t experienced anything like the ebook boom – at least not yet. “Tablet circulation has not increased as rapidly as publishers had hoped,” writes AdAge.
As long as magazines and other publications give away their content through the web, paid digital subscriptions will probably continue to be a hard sell. (Newspapers had to put up paywalls before they could sell digital subscriptions in substantial quantities.) Caught between the superior convenience of the free web and the superior experience of print, the tablet edition may end up being a niche product.