Back when Apple rolled out iOS 5, the latest iteration of its mobile operating system, it also included a new piece of software called Newsstand.
Though it looks like just a simple folder, Newsstand is more of an app. Newsstand gathers every publication you subscribe to and places them in one spot. And using Apple’s iCloud services, you’re able to read a publication on one device, stop midway, and pick it up where you left off on another.
The addition of Newsstand was Apple’s way of strengthening its subscription offerings on its mobile devices, and for at least one company, that fortification seems to be helping quite a bit. Magazine publisher Condé Nast, the company behind Wired, Golf Digest, The New Yorker and Glamour, has seen a big increase in subscriptions – more than 268 percent since the release of Newsstand. The company is also experiencing an uptick of 142 percent in single-publication sales of its nine magazines offered on iTunes, according to a report from GigaOM.
Apple’s history with subscription-based publications has been a bit of a bumpy one. After the release of the iPad, Apple quickly found that a lot of publications were offering iPad versions of their newspapers and magazines, and these versions were drawing in quite a bit of money. Publishers wanted a way to offer subscriptions through iTunes. When Apple rolled out that ability, it also took a 30 percent cut of subscriptions bought through apps. Apple reasoned it was the iPad that was helping bring in those subscriptions. There were a few other troubles with the rules, namely that Apple tried to control the prices of subscriptions sold outside its apps and iTunes, but eventually Apple relented and publishers began to adopt the subscription policy as well as pay Apple its agreed-upon cut.
Since then, publications have reportedly been doing pretty well under the system, but the release of Newsstand brings a whole new level of organization to the iOS publication experience. Users no longer have to deal with individual apps for each of their magazines or newspapers, allowing for a cleaner home screen and the ability to find new content in one place. Newsstand also serves as an entry point for people searching for publications to which they can subscribe.
One has to wonder if other publications are seeing the big boosts that Condé Nast is enjoying, although it seems as though they may be. According to a report from paidcontent.org, Exact Editions, a publisher that says it is responsible for about 10 percent of the publications found in Newsstand, has seen a sales increase of about 150 percent for some of its magazines. Future, a consumer magazine, reported it had sold more copies in the four days after Newsstand’s release than it did in a typical month before the launch of iOS 5. And that story was published about a week ago.
We’ll probably need to wait for Apple to release some numbers to see what kind of effect Newsstand is having in a broader way. But if the Condé Nast effect is true elsewhere, it demonstrates that reading publications on mobile devices, or more specifically, tablets, is something that users are very interested in doing. It also shows that they’re willing to pay for (at least some of) that content.