Three years later, the world’s biggest publisher is sending out cautiously optimistic vibes about the tablet industry again. Advertisers have yet to fully embrace the new format, but some readers are beginning to accept it — helped in part by a peace accord Time Inc and Apple signed last year.
And now Time Inc. hopes to lure more digital-only readers to its magazines, with a tried-and-true marketing tactic: It will let people browse its titles on their iPad before they buy them.
Up until today, for instance, someone who downloaded the free Entertainment Weekly iPad app would see a page like this when they opened it up — a sales pitch, without the ability to see what is actually inside the current magazine, the way they could at a real newsstand:
But as of this morning, EW will now let users read a handful of articles from this week’s magazine — without having to hand over payment or other information — and will tease a few more:
Does that sound like an incremental change, and one that should have happened years ago? That’s a reasonable argument.
On the other hand, the fact that it’s just happening now shows you how nascent the digital magazine really is: Time Inc. officials say they’re only able to pull this off because they’ve been working with Adobe on a back-end system that allows them to easily change up their free offerings on the fly. They’ll implement the new software for all 21 of their titles on sale at Apple’s iTunes/Newstand by the end of the year.
The idea, says George Linardos, who heads up digital marketing and business development for Time Inc., is to build up the publishers’s roster of digital only subscribers. People with subscriptions to the publishers’ print magazines already have the ability to read digitized editions on their tablets, and some 2.7 million people are using “authenticated” subscriptions to do that.
But Time Inc wants to boost the number of people who get to its magazines solely through the tablet. It says it has more than 500,000 of those customers, most of whom have come in on in the last year, after the publisher began selling digital-only subscriptions through iTunes.
More than half of those subscribers are new customers, Linardos says. And he thinks he can boost that number by giving browsers more to see: “We know we have hundreds of thousands of people downloading the app, opening it, and walking away,” he says. “We want to give them a reason to stay.”