Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

With an Eye on the iPad, Condé Nast Declares Its $39,000 iPhone Magazine a “Success”

January GQSome early numbers from Condé Nast’s first attempt to create a digital version of one of its magazines: The publisher says it sold 6,614 copies of the December issue of GQ via iTunes, and some 12,000 copies of the January issue.

At $2.99 a pop, and after subtracting Apple’s 30 percent fee, that’s about $39,000 in revenue for the publisher, which isn’t even enough to rehire anyone the company let go during last fall’s layoffs.

And those sales numbers are puny compared with the title’s analog reach: GQ reports average newsstand sales of more than 200,000 per issue, plus more than 600,000 paid subscribers.

But they’re enough for Condé to declare the digital magazines, designed to be consumed on iPhones and iPods, a “success out of the gate.” For now, that seems plausible for two reasons.

For starters, this is a Big Media digital product that doesn’t cut into the existing analog offering. The company isn’t exactly sure whether digital buyers cannibalized print numbers, but its hunch is that they did not, and that seems right to me.

Second, it doesn’t matter from a financial perspective. That’s because Condé has convinced advertisers to credit both sales equally. And selling digital copies via iTunes is much more lucrative than spending money to print and distribute paper copies.

Just as important: While Condé won’t say so out loud, sales of the first few GQ iPhone issues have given the company confidence that it will be able to port the app to the iPad, or whatever Apple (APPL) calls the tablet it plans to unveil next week.

The ported app won’t be as flashy as the digital demos of tabletized magazines Condé and other publishers have shown off–it’s pretty much a literal translation of the magazine into digital form–but it’s a start.

The eye-popping stuff, meanwhile, will take some time to build.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik