March 27, 2015 Last Updated 2:20 pm

Rolling Stone adds music clips to its Next Issue digital editions, goes more native, as well

Meredith’s top titles record impressive gains in digital in latest publisher’s statement, top seven magazines show digital circulation accounts for 1.9 percent of the total

Thanks to a weet from Next Issue Media, I was able to learn that Rolling Stone magazine, starting with the latest issue dated April 9, has added music clips to their digital editions found inside the all-you-can-read magazine subscription service.

RS-music-NIMThe issue features Ringo Starr on the cover, so it is hard to miss.

The addition of music is just another feature that makes the digital edition found inside Next Issue’s newsstand a tad more digitally native. But it looks like the digital edition for Rolling Stone has been changed in far more important ways.

In order to understand whether the addition of the music files really was a big change I looked at several issues of the Rolling Stone Apple Newsstand edition and found music files embedded regularly. Then. I looked at the March 26 issue inside Next Issue and you can immediately see the difference: the NIM version was a replica, the Newsstand version a hybrid edition (ads as seen in print, editorial reformatted for digital).

Although the older replica issues are still readable, even on my iPad mini, the April 9th edition is vastly superior.

As I have written in each of my Friday reports on the latest circulation statements from the major magazine publishers, those titles found inside Next Issue have generally been able to report gains in digital single copy sales – sometimes enough to make up for any declines in digital subscriptions. With better digital editions appearing inside the service, such as the changes made at Rolling Stone, it may bode well for future reports, as well.

The last of the major magazine publisher progress reports looks at the top titles at Meredith – and unlike other publishers, the news is definitely good. The top magazines I looked at – which include Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal, Parents, Fitness, More and Traditional Home – showed that digital circulation rose 77 percent year over year.

BHG-cover-175Much of the gains can be attributed to the digital single copy sales coming from Next Issue Media, but there were subscription gains, as well. In fact, not a single one of the magazines lost digital subscribers (Ladies Home Journal, though, has not reported its December numbers yet, but I included the June numbers).

Meredith has a bit of ground to make up with its digital editions, on the other hand. Even with the dramatic gains, total digital still only accounts for 1.9 percent of total paid circulation for the seven magazines – but this is up from 1.07 percent. This compares with 3.58 percent for the top Condé Nast magazines, 2.34 percent for the top Hearst magazines, and 2.14 for the Time Inc. weekly titles.

Major caveat, however: direct comparisons shouldn’t taken too seriously as there is tremendous variation here – for instance, several important titles such as Wired were left out because their circulation level fell just below my arbitrary cutoff.

There is also the nature of these magazines to consider. Meredith’s titles are hardly what a young male would be choosing to read, both on a physical newsstand, or within the Apple Newsstand. Ladies Home Journal, for instance, only is claiming 13,484 digital subscription in its June 2014 publisher’s statement – one reason for this, is that it still doesn’t have a digital edition to be found inside the Apple Newsstand (and because of the poor condition of the Apple Newsstand, it may never choose to launch one).

On the other hand, by not being dependent on Apple’s Newsstand for sales, the Meredith numbers may end up being more stable in the long run. We’ll see.

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