Write Stuff – The Long Tail

we’re still a long way from spring cleaning, but It’s not too early to start thinking about those stacks of magazines in your basement. You know the ones?those craft magazines You’re saving because there’s a pattern you want in one of them (if only you could remember which one). Or that collection of Road & Track you’ve been meaning to reread. But what if digital back copies could banish that clutter forever?

When it comes to magazine subscriptions, hanging onto old print copies used to make sense, especially for publications that focus on evergreen content. That’s content such as recipes or woodworking projects; the type of thing that has a much longer shelf life than news stories. Finding old print copies has often been a hit-and-miss venture, with no guarantee that you’ll discover what You’re looking for at used book shops or flea markets.

But with the tablet and e-reader markets booming, magazine publishers are jumping on the long tail?and finding surprising success. The long tail is a business strategy that can apply to virtually any market, but in publishing It’s often come to refer to backlists (this blog post from The Book Designer explains it well). In the case of magazine publishers, that can amount to decades? worth of back copies.

Still, it simply isn’t practical to print one or two copies of an old issue every time a customer wants one. Enter the tablet, and the possibility of ditching your dusty stacks of Better Homes and Gardens once and for all.

As Adweek reported recently, one of the first tablets to offer digital subscriptions was the iPad. The only trouble was, ?single copies were the only way most magazines were available,? and those often cost as much as a full year’s print subscription. Publishers responded well to consumers? angry feedback, and along with other new subscription options came the ability to order single back issues.

It came as no small surprise when subscribers started choosing back issues nearly as often as new content. At Hearst Magazines, which publishes such titles as Esquire, Cosmopolitan, and Popular Mechanics, as much as ?30 percent of its single copies sold on tablets are back issues.?

Adweek notes that the story’s the same over atMartha Stewart Living and Everyday Food, with as much as 25 per cent of ?digital single copies sold on the iPad? being back issues.

Before you ditch your old magazines, though, be warned that the iPad is (so far) the only device that offers multiple back issues. Other devices, such as the Nook and Kindle Fire, only allow consumers to purchase a single back issue of a particular title.

In the next few years, the only sounds of spring cleaning might just be the sound of your finger swiping a tablet.

S.D. Livingston is the author of several booka, including the new suspense novel Kings of Providence. Visit her website for information on her writing (and for more musings on the literary world!).

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