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There are many advantages of digital editions over traditional ones: direct-to-reader sales, access to the global market, or the incomparably lower costs of publishing. Today we will focus on a feature of digital editions that is less obvious, but impossible to ignore: the ability to monetize back issue archives.

The traditional publishing cycle doesn’t really account for the monetization of back issues. The older issues would be available in the archive on special order, but for most of the time, they will either be ground and turned into new paper or go up in smoke.

How Digital Archive Works

Digital editions are not burdened with storage costs, nor are they an added cost of the mobile application itself. Bits and bytes will fit anywhere and require no warehouses, pallets, low humidity conditions, or limited sun exposure.

However, publishing back issues is not a natural course of action for the publishers. We see this on a daily basis – when we start working with a new magazine, the publisher uploads only one or two issues to the application. Despite many years worth of history and thousands of valuable articles from the archive, publishing them is not a natural response and is often omitted.

That is one of the reasons why one of our goals in PressPad is to share our knowledge and experience with digital publishing. Therefore, we can wholeheartedly recommend uploading some, or even all back issues to your iPad magazines.

The Advantages of Selling Back Issues

  1. Having a choice between two competing magazines, the readers’ decision will be somewhat facilitated when they see a well-stocked archive in one of them. Knowing that the magazine has been coming out for some time creates a sense of security, make a choice easier, and can make for a good sales pitch (“magazine published since the year 1995”).
  2. Back issues can be an excellent basis for upselling – a process known in online and traditional sales can now also be utilized by mobile magazine publishers. An ideal reader buys the latest issue each month, but that is basically where the sales possibilities end. When presented with the possibility, that same reader could possibly purchase one or two older issues in addition to the current one. As a result, the average earnings from a paying reader will be higher, with virtually no additional costs to the publisher.
  3. In order to entice a reader to browse and possibly purchase back issues, their price can be slightly lowered. However, such action entails potential risks, which ought to be considered:
    • News content doesn’t have much lasting value and will not be interesting to a reader at only a slight discount. The value of such content to the reader can go slightly beyond research and archive, so the archive should be heavily discounted in order for it to have sales potential.
    • By contrast, the discount level of time independent content should be considered. Engaged young women will be very interested in purchasing an older issue of a bridal magazine that describes specific issues important to them at that moment. Weddings don’t change over time that dynamically in terms of organization, so content that is created today will most likely also be valid in half a year’s time.
    • A trap: discounting too quickly will decrease sales of current issues. We have seen cases where a publisher of a monthly magazine had decided to reduce the price of an older issue by half when the new one got published. As a result, the profits dropped, since the readers had been waiting until the next month to buy an issue at half the price.

Summing up

Naturally, the archive is built over time by itself. 12 issues will be awaiting new readers after a year of publishing in a newsstand. If, however, a title has been issued for longer and it just got its mobile application, then there’s no reason for the reader to not have access to the back copies.

Publishers using PressPad are not limited in terms of amounts of issues published monthly. We encourage and recommend for all the past and current content to be uploaded to the iPad edition and made available to the users.