Bonnier's Popular Science, one of the first magazine apps to appear in the app store, is also one of the first publishers to get on board with Apple's new subscription plan.
Bonnier will offer a 12-month subscription to Popular Science in the app store for a limited-time price of $14.99 and a standard price of $19.99 (press release
Condé Nast — which, alongside Bonnier's Popular Science, was one of the first publishers in the app store — declined to comment about Apple's announcement. Other publishers did not return requests for comment. Speaking to Ad Age
, a Time Inc. spokesman said the company had concerns about Apple's long-awaited peace offering to publishers: "It seems like Apple is taking a step towards our position on subscription offerings, but the announcement also raises many questions around consumer data we would need to work through and agree on.”
On the other hand, Bonnier's Gregg Hano, VP/group publisher of the Bonnier Technology Group, which includes Popular Science, said the ability to collect consumer data is a step forward. "We think that giving the consumer the opportunity to opt in or opt out is a great move in the right direction on sharing information in general,” he said in an interview.
Pricing for iPad subscriptions
Whether the plan is fair to publishers, one thing is true: Finally, consumers who want to subscribe to digital magazines or newspapers via the iPad will be able to.
Hano said the No. 1 complaint from Popular Science readers on the iPad was that they couldn't get a discount by subscribing. The app was originally priced at $4.99, which amounted to a whopping $60 a year. In November, Bonnier dialed down the per-issue price to $2.99, which boost downloads of the December and January issues, Hano said. Single-copy sales have averaged at about 10,000 to 12,000 units per month.
Now with the digital subscription, the price of subscribing via the app will be more comparable to the price of a print subscription.
Hano noted Bonnier is still in the "early stages" of an evolving new space. The company is still considering other subscription options, such as bundling print and digital. "We've thought quite a bit about it and we're still working through exactly the best way to bundle digital and print subscriptions,” he said.
A key criticism of Apple's new plan is that publishers that want to sell subscriptions through their own platform will have to offer a similar option through iTunes (where Apple gets its cut). For now, Bonnier is only offering the Popular Science subscription through the app. "We are still evaluating and working through the idea of packaging a subscription model on our website and in the future will solidify our plans,” Hano said.
Apple's subscription plan is one piece of the puzzle, but publishers will have to map out a broader subscription plan for other devices and newsstands. In addition to Apple, several other digital newsstand options
are emerging, laying the groundwork for a fragmented marketplace, though it's not clear that all efforts (Next Issue Media?
) will get off the ground.
Hano noted Popular Science is available on the Nook and through Zinio. (Zinio declined to comment about how the subscription plan will fit into its newsstand business.) Bonnier is also pursuing Android, already offering a special edition issue on the Samsung Galaxy tablet.
"We are looking at every single way to deliver our content to consumers in whatever way they want to consume it,” Hano said. “We are not going to be the arbiters of what the center of one's digital universe should be.”