March 25, 2015 Last Updated 3:04 pm

Bonnier’s U.S. magazines: a complicated tale of digital publishing leadership

Bonnier’s five “+” magazines, once leaders in interactive editions, collectively record gains in digital readership in their latest publisher’s statements

The news that Bonnier’s U.S. magazines would no longer be using the Mag+ digital publishing platform was a bit of a lightning bolt for the small group of digital publishing pros who care about such things – while for most of the industry it was a non-issue.

So when an app update was released today for the Newsstand app for American Photo it seemed like a good time to check in to see how readers are reacting to the change from one platform to another.

Most readers, of course, don’t know the differences between on publishing platform and another. For them, there four things that they notice: price, do they get charged for digital even when already a print subscriber?; app bugs, which can effect any app; subscription fulfillment, which causes readers to not access their issues; and replica versus interactive editions, which readers notice most when a magazine goes from one to the other.

AmPhoto-2pgs-iPad

American Photo’s current replica edition

For the Bonnier U.S. magazines, the interactive titles were the ones that used a “+” in their name, as in Field & Stream+. The majority of the Bonnier titles have always been replica editions, even Saveur, a title which many digital professionals think would make a killer digital magazine.

The Bonnier Tech group was the leader, launching an interactive edition for Popular Science in time for the launch of the original iPad. By the magazine’s December 2011 publisher’s statement, the magazine could claim over 50K in digital circulation. By the next year it nearly hit 100K. But, like many early leaders in digital editions, things seemed to stall out.

PopSci-April2015-iPadBy the time of the December 2013 publisher’s statements, digital circulation of the five “+” magazines that I looked at (PopSci, PhotoPhoto, American Photo, Field & Stream and Outdoor Life) actually fell slightly – from 203,904 to 195,509. Not dramatic, but still a shock for those who believed digital circulation would only continue to grow as tablet sales increased (in fact, 2013 was the peak of sales for the iPad, they have since begun to fall).

With the release of the latest circulation statements, though, the five Bonnier magazines, which counted together, have been able to record an increase in digital circulation, to 214,515 for the five magazines. Is this the result of the change in platforms? More likely, like other major magazine companies, the reason is increased digital single copy sales from the Next Issue Media newsstand. Of the five magazines, Popular Science, Popular Photography and Field & Stream are available through NIM – and two of those titles recorded increases in digital circulation year-over-year (with PopSci now at 109,613, despite a 17K fall in digital subscriptions).

(Saveur, the other magazine from the Bonnier portfolio, also is to be found inside Next Issue – and it, too, recorded very nice gains in single copy digital sales.)

For readers of the interactive editions, the move from one platform to another was not appreciated as not only would the new issues now be mere PDF replicas, but the one issues, as well – all of which would need to be re-downloaded.

But at least one reader of Popular Science has written inside iTunes that they have noticed that the magazine is now, once again, offering a native digital edition. As seen above-left, the April edition (and the March issue before it) used the Adobe DPS to produce more than a simple replica. Will some of the other magazines follow suit?

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