Why isn’t EDN Europe a weekly title? I’ve been reading electronics magazines for well over 20 years, and I have to admit that EDN Europe has always been one of my favourites, but it’s not my enthusiasm for the magazine and impatience as I wait for the next issues that is making me ask the question. It’s not even really about EDN (although they are a good example). I’m asking because people read digital magazines in a different way to printed issues.
Digital magazines are great because distribution costs are low: in fact compared to the costs of printing and postage digital distribution is almost free. But the detailed analytics that digital magazines produce show up problems – particularly the fact that many people just flip through the first few pages. We’ve always known that people don’t necessarily read print magazines from front cover to back cover; in the days when there were job adverts at the back, the last third of the magazine was almost as well read as the front third, and the middle was – to some extent – ignored. These results, however, were only established through research, and many marketing managers either didn’t know, or chose to ignore, the importance of positioning.
Digital magazines, however, give detailed real-time information. No marketing manager can ignore the data that shows four times as many readers viewed the advert on page 5 than the advert she is running on page 45.
The reality is that we now get the proof of what we’ve always known – readers don’t read every page. Furthermore when it comes to digital magazines, we know that readers only spend a few minutes with each issue. So if your advert is towards the back, particularly in an issue with a large number of pages, you’re going to get a significantly smaller number of views.
So why do publishers stick to the monthly publishing schedule? In the days of paper cost, and the ego boost of having a nice thick bound title, were both good reasons. But with digital magazines it makes no sense. Why not split the magazine up into four weekly issues? You’ll probably see only a small drop in the open rate, and there will definitely be a huge increase in the number of pages an average reader views in a month. From an editorial point of view you won’t necessarily have to write more – as this idea is to have much shorter issues that are delivered more frequently – and special features now become stand-alone special issues that are going to demand attention from engineers who are interested in the topic. Any increase in distribution and layout costs will be minimal.
Advertisers will benefit, as anyone who opens the issue is likely to see most or all of the adverts, rather than just those placed in the first third of the magazine, and with fewer adverts per issue, they’ll have far greater impact and effectiveness.
So why haven’t we seen any publishers increase the frequency? Although they might see it as a risk, it’s far less of a potential problem than making the move from print to digital. Personally I think publishers’ egos are still driven by the number of pages per issue, even when most readers only look at half the pages. Maybe there are other reasons: I’d be really interested to hear what publishers and editors think.