In the first part of the series ‘Taking a Stand on Digital Newsstands’ I suggested that there are implementation and promotional issues related to digital newsstand efforts. The drawbacks that were discussed included: discoverability, attracting readers, business models, and fragmentation.

In the second part of the series I am going to look at a few more oversights that purge the air out of the digital newsstand balloon.

‘Newsstand Stability’

In 2011 Apple’s Newsstand was touted as the ‘proviso saviour’ for magazine sales in the digital arena. Apple had already successfully discovered a means to monetize other digital media (music and movies). It had developed a large spendthrift consumer base. It had even developed a mobile platform (the iPad) which appeared ideal for digital magazine consumption. However, for every iPad of success there is a Pippin of failure.  In early June of 2015 it was announced that Apple had decided to shed ‘Newsstand’ from its product suite. In its stead Apple will be releasing a content aggregation type App called ‘Apple News’ similar to Flipboard.

 Apple Newsstand - here today, gone tomorrow. 

Apple Newsstand - here today, gone tomorrow. 

Many of the reasons for the failure have been or will be discussed within the confines of this multi-part blog. What needs to be understood is this – a massive, publicly funded, cash-rich enterprise does not equate to a successful business partner if it does not understand or appreciate the individual needs of its publisher clients.

So where did the nearly 15,000 Apps that filled Newsstand go?  They have been released to the wild as stand-alone Apps in iTunes.

‘Print Exclusion’

 Although the definition seems to be loosening, the reality is that for now and the foreseeable future, a print edition is the core of any ‘magazine’. Unless you have just swung open the portal door of your ‘Y2K crisis’ fallout shelter you are likely aware that single copy sales via print newsstands are in steady decline.

So, how else can a magazine title peddle print issues? Through their own website of course! I would hope that there isn’t a magazine in business that does not offer either single issue or subscription sales (even if through third party fulfillment) via their website.

What about digital newsstands? For reasons unknown digital newsstands have forgotten about their predecessor. I have not uncovered a single digital edition newsstand that allows a reader to subscribe or purchase a single issue of a print edition - not even bundled with a digital edition. That’s a MAJOR exclusion*. Is it possible that a digital edition could establish new print sales? Absolutely. Just because a reader is accessing content digitally does not preclude them from wanting a physical product. However, digital newsstands are falling short.

(*Yes there are digital newsstands that sell print-only subscriptions but none that do both.)

 Digital newsstands sell digital copies with no option for a print/digital bundle.

Digital newsstands sell digital copies with no option for a print/digital bundle.

‘Audience Engagement’

In the first installment of this multi-part attack on digital newsstands we suggested that marketing was a problem at the core of many newsstands. Quite simply, the average person is not likely aware of 22 of the 25 more ‘common’ digital newsstand offerings.

That’s just an assumption on my part. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe these digital newsstand offerings have massive, consumption-thirsty audiences that are devouring digital editions. However, I find that most newsstands tend to boast the number of titles available as opposed to their readership numbers or engagement levels. It doesn’t matter if there are 7500 available titles if there isn’t a large reader following devouring that content. A busy bee-hive is inspiring but what good is it if no honey is produced? Publisher’s need honey.

What about the instances of digital newsstands that report large, engaged audiences? That sounds appealing! Since the interaction is digital that demographic data can be tracked and reported to an interested publisher. Sales data can also be shared so that a publisher can make an informed decision regarding inclusion of their title. Is that information available? I certainly have not found it anywhere.

Part 3 – to be continued…