A free web edition of your magazine doesn’t cannibalize paid iPad-sales

Newspapers and Magazines going iPad all faces the same social problem. We’d love people to talk about us and the stuff we do. But one a rare minority owns an iPad. And only a fraction of those runs the app. There simply isn’t enough volume in the readership to make conversations meaningfull. And as a result, iPad-magazines often lacks the dynamics and liveliness which the web has taught us to love.

However – there is a workaround: publish your content on the web as well. For free.

Argh! We DON’T want free. We want money. That’s why we want to go iPad in the first place. Now you tell us we’ll have to give it all away anyway in order to make sense? That’s a no-go!

Well, that’s right – except for one thing: the form factor. People might still want to pay to read the iPad version – because it’s more convenient, because it’s better looking, because it gives you a carefully designed package of content as contrasted to the atomized world of the web.

The first numbers seems to back up this claim. First stats seem to imply that iPad-magazines sells equally well no matter whether the content is also available for free on the web or not.

According to Mashable (who quote Women’s Wear Daily who quote official numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulation) the iPad version of Vanity Fair, Glamour, GQ,  Men’s Health and Wired all sold in very different numbers. But all of them ended up after a few month selling approximately half the volume of the iPad-version compared to news-stand-sales of the printed version.

Vanity Fair and Wired had all content for free on the web – Mens Health and Glamour didn’t and GQ did partly. And they all showed the same sales results – more or less.

Comparing iPad only to newsstand sales isn’t quite conclusive. One should compare to total sales (including subscription) as well. Nevertheless it does seem price of web doesn’t really matter. A free web edition of your magazine doesn’t cannibalize the paid iPad-sales.

If this holds true, go ahead and make your iPad-mag social. You can only profit from the free web edition required to do so.