B2B: MPA Media releases tablet editions that limit audience to qualified readers
There are basically four ways a B2B magazine company can release a tablet edition into the Apple Newsstand: have the new app be open to everyone, charge new readers and give qualified readers open access, charge everyone, and lock out everyone without a log-in.
Most B2Bs that use the qualified readership model (as opposed to paid circulation) have opted to open up their apps to all readers. The rational used by most publishers employing this strategy is the these first tablet editions are an experiment They do not know how many readers will want access to the magazine so why not just let everyone read their digital editions?
Some have decided to charge for the digital issues. Many of those going this route are doing so because they are using a replica maker and the model there is a revenue share with the platform owner in exchange for a free or discounted app.
The free for some, paid for others strategy is rarely used. This method was actually quite common in the old days of B2B print magazines and some still use it today. The publisher offers their magazine for free to those readers that complete a reader service card and can show that they are part of the target audience. Two kinds of readers who don’t qualify, those outside the tablet audience and international readers, can still get the print magazine as long as they pay for it.
One reason few use this strategy today is that when the App Store first opened there was a rule that you could not charge for something that you gave away in print. But that rule is probably not enforced any longer, and besides, nonqualified readers must pay for print, why not do this for digital (the reason is that the Apple Newsstand does not have a built-in qualification process).
Finally, there is the least used option: lock everyone out and force readers to have a log-in to access the issues. This makes the app free for those pre-qualified readers, but prevents the casual reader from gaining access. In essence, the app becomes what is called a reader app, only open to those who have already bought the service – think Netflix, for instance, their original app required you to already be a Netflix subscriber (now you can buy the service from within the app, I believe).
MPA Media, the Southern California based publisher of alternative health and wellness magazines for industry professional, has launched four tablet editions. These apps are stand-alone apps that appear to be replica editions – of course, I could not tell because I have no access to the issues unless I claim to be in the message or acupuncture profession.
The danger with the strategy here is that few will actually access these digital editions. But if a publisher is committed to qualified readership, and is serious about keeping the audience to only those truly in the profession, then this is a good strategy.
Sadly, I know far too many B2B publishing executives who have been cutting corners by dropping their BPA audits, letting their qualified readership slip, keeping names on their lists long after the reader stopped requesting the magazine, and letting their total circulation fall without letting advertisers know.
One B2B title I know very well had exactly six qualified readers on their list, but claimed a circulation of over 10,000. Meanwhile, they mailed out 5,000 or fewer copies for quite a while before finally shuttering the title.
The MPA Media magazines don’t appear to be BPA audited so it may seem strange they the publisher has chosen to go this route. But advertisers at least can be sure that they are not paying for casual readers not related to their industries.