Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Digital Magazine Open Rates

There was an interesting blog post that I just came across.  It is one of the few that I have seen providing some statistics on digital magazine open rates.  The information comes from a UK blog site Napier News  that covers electronic media in Europe. The findings were interesting (albeit the sample size was small):
  • four titles had open rates of 11-12%
  • one title had an open rate of 16%
  • one title had an open rate of 19%
Mike Maynard goes on to say, "I tried to find some cause of the difference in open rate, but there was no link between circulation, publication frequency or publisher and the open rate."
The writer goes on to conlude that "Certainly it suggests that digital magazines are less likely to be opened than their paper sisters (if you believe the readership surveys). I’m not surprised that today print is still the favoured medium. But with the huge cost advantage of digital, I think the figures are pretty respectable. They’ll also be slighly under-reported as pass-on readership will not register as another unique reader."
This caused me to look at the statistics for some of our digital magazine customers to see where they fit under these measures.  For most of our publishing customers, we also deploy the emails announcing each new issue, so we have all the data readily available to measure how many people "received the issue notification" (i.e. email) and then went on to actually open the magazine.  I first looked at email click rates to see how many people clicked the email to access the new issue.  Results varied somewhat, but overall were very much in keeping with the percentages noted above.  This, however, is not the whole picture.  I then went into our Publishers Access Center to see how many people actually visited the issue in question.  Here in all cases, the numbers were much higher - often 30-40% higher.  What does this indicate?  First of all, readers are not necessarily using the email as the access point for the issue at the time they receive it.  Secondly, previous/back issues continue to get new readers long after the notification for a new issue is deployed, so the readership and value of a digital issue continues to grow overtime.  This is especially true where full archive search is readily available (as it is with our offering).
One final point - I do not come to the same conclusion suggested by Mike.  I too am very sceptical about the accuracy of data that is derived by readership surveys and certainly know that as an avid magazine reader, I likely get 5-10 magazines that cross my desk each week.  While I fully intend to read them (and keep them on the corner of my desk to read when I get a moment), I rarely do.  I find myself every couple of weeks trashing/recycling a lot of magazines (most still with the polybag in tact) without having cracked the cover.  I would be difficult to convince that open rates for paper copies are much different than digital open rates.
While the debate between the print and digital worlds will likely continue for some time, there is no doubt that things will continue to change and evolve towards digital.  As a vendor, finding the perfect balance between ease of production for publishers, and the best viewing experience for readers will continue to drive our product development.  Ultimately it is about the power of the content and the relationship and experiences between the reader and the publisher that will lead to success.