Peter Kafka

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No More Digital Discount: Conde Nast Raises Prices For Two iPad Magazines

iPad magazines haven’t been huge hits. At least in part because readers say they’re too expensive.

So this one’s a bit of a head-scratcher: Conde Nast is going to raise the prices of two of its tablet titles.

GQ and Vanity Fair used to offer readers who’d already bought a single digital issue a discount on subsequent purchases. But it’s doing away with that next month.

So effectively, loyal readers of  GQ on the iPad will see prices go from $2.99 to $4.99 an issue, while Vanity Fair will go from $3.99 to $4.99.

The move is part of Conde’s decision to move those two titles, along with Glamour, from a digital publishing system it had built itself last year to one from Adobe. That’s the same system Conde already uses to publish Wired magazine and other titles, and it’s the one the publisher chose after a bake-off last fall.

The shift means Conde will stop supporting the existing apps for those three titles at Apple’s iTunes store, and will ask users to download new apps over the coming weeks. Anyone who bought digital versions of the three magazines in the last year will still be able to read them, as long as they’ve downloaded and archived the issues.* And Conde is giving readers a heads up via in-app ads like the one to the left.*

Conde will try to goose sales for Glamour, the first magazine to shift platforms, by cutting the app’s price down to $0.99 for a week starting next Tuesday. Which should be a good way to help the app move to the top of iTunes’ charts — people love cheap apps.

So why push the price back up after that? And why raise prices for the other two titles?

Conde says the platform shift gives the publisher a chance to “reexamine pricing”, and that it now wants to sell all of its digital titles at the same price analog copies command at a newsstand. (Or close to it – both the New Yorker and Wired still sell for a dollar less at iTunes than their paper counterparts).

Which is really a way of saying “boy oh boy would we like to sell subscriptions, because when we do, we’ll offer monthly or yearly committments at a steep discount to individual sales, just like we do with paper copies.”

But that’s not going to be happening at iTunes anytime soon, because none of the big magazine publishers have shown any inclination to accept Apple’s subscription rules — at least for titles they’re already selling in paper form. Meanwhile Conde has announced that it plans to sell its digital magazines for Google’s Android this spring – but has yet to mention subscriptions.

*If you have to reset your machine entirely, though, you’ll be out of luck altogether. Sometimes digital just isn’t as durable as paper and ink.

**The shift also means that anyone who has enjoyed reading Glamour, GQ or Vanity Fair on their iPhone is out of luck. Conde says for the near-term, its new magazine apps will only be formatted for the iPad.