iPad: Can It Save the Magazine Industry?

Article excerpt

IPad, other tablet computers, and e-readers will create a 'reading revolution.' But publishers' revenues may lag.

When the Consumer Electronics Show kicks off its annual event in Las Vegas next week, it will bask in the glow of more than 50 models of tablet computers either on display or announced. The new must- have gadget will warm the hearts of manufacturers, high-tech consumers, and - an unlikely group - magazine publishers.

The masters of ink and glossy photo see in the Apple iPad and its competitors a way to rejuvenate their slumping industry. With more than 100 million tablets and e-readers forecast to be in Americans' hands by 2013, publishers foresee a reading boom.

As a result, readers can expect digital magazines that are more up-to-the-minute, more interactive, and more eye-catching. The big unknown is how much these new readers will be willing to pay.

"I don't think that [the computer tablet] is the savior that some people have made it out to be, but it's an interesting opportunity," says Jeff Price, president and publisher of The Sporting News. In April, the New York-based biweekly began selling a daily digital edition for $2.99 a month. Since then, advertising is up 17 percent compared with a year ago. Mr. Price expects the new digital daily to turn profitable next year: "We're bullish in terms of 2011."

Reading time soars

One of the most encouraging signs for publishers is that tablets and e-readers boost reading time. Users of e-readers are 11 percent more likely than theaverage adult to have read a print or online newspaper in the past week, says Scarborough Research, a New York consumer and media research firm. Of 1,600 iPad owners interviewed by the Reynolds Journalism Institute in the fall, 79 percent reported using it at least 30 minutes a day to read news. Only slightly more than half spent that much time getting news from the TV or a PC.

"We are calling this a reading revolution," says Jim Taylor, vice chairman of Harrison Group, a market research and strategy firm in Waterbury, Conn. The time people spend reading goes up 50 percent once they buy a tablet or e-reader, according to a Harrison Group survey of 1,800 consumers, which is due to be released at the Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 4. By 2013, Mr. Taylor forecasts, more than 100 million tablets and e-readers will be in the hands of US consumers, luring them to the printed word.

As a result of such forecasts, magazine publishers are experimenting with digital content specially formatted for the tablets. In May, Wired Magazine unveiled an iPad edition that sold 24,000 copies in 24 hours. In a recent digital edition, National Geographic not only ran an article on aardvarks but also included video of the photographers capturing the animals on camera. …