We are constantly hearing about issues of e-book price, but it seems very little has been said on the matter of e-magazine price. In an interesting and lengthy piece, linking to a number of other sources, Stephen Duque looks pricing matters relating to iPad magazines and newspapers..

Newspaper revenues have declined, Duque notes, because of an early decision to try to support online content exclusively with online ads—which turned out not to bring in anywhere near the amount of revenue expected. And those free on-line editions are gradually peeling subscribers away from the paid-subscription, lucrative-advertising printed editions.

Marc Andreesen suggested that print periodicals should “burn the boats” and take the plunge into going all the way digital. Alan Mutter at Reflections of a Newsosaur is skeptical, pointing out that newspapers still take in over 90% of their revenue from print—but Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch (who posted the original “burn the boats” comment) retorts that print revenues are ever declining and on-line revenues increasing, and print periodicals who wait to make the transition may discover online-only periodicals ready to eat their lunch.

Meanwhile, Duque points to an article by Tony Bradley on the iPad and e-books’ pricing model. Bradley writes:

Basically, publishers should be pricing digital distribution based on what it would expect in net revenue from the traditional distribution method, not based on some calculated percentage of the traditional retail price. I don’t know the exact numbers, but If Wiley is only going to n et eight dollars when it sells a printed version of my book, then it should create a digital pricing scheme that nets the same.

Duque points out that magazines churn through a lot more printing and paper than the average printed book, which means that theoretically they could be priced a lot more reasonably than e-books if those costs were eliminated—and they could also add the kinds of content not possible in paper magazines, such as multimedia or hypertext.

Publishers, Duque says, need to make e-magazines into something consumers will want to pay for:

Looking at the difference between e-books and e-newspapers (and WSJ’s content contrasted with many e-newspapers), the difference is quality. Books take a significantly longer time to write, and readers are thus willing to pay extra for the value of the writer’s labor. The WSJ has unique, quality reporting and a distinct brand, and hence people are willing to pay for the content over free content available on Joe Schmoe’s blog. Admittedly, this is an oversimplification of the issue at stake, and free content isn’t necessarily bad (achem…this blog).

Of course, how much they will pay is a pretty good question.


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