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NUMBERS, NUMBERS, NUMBERS: Condé Nast on Thursday became the first magazine publisher to say it will disclose comprehensive digital sales numbers for the first half of the year. The publisher said it would release single-copy digital sales and digital subscription figures to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The numbers will be released in August.
The announcement is a breakthrough for media watchers who want a thorough record of how magazines have been selling on tablets such as the iPad. It’s been a challenge to fully measure how magazines have been performing since ABC does not require publishers to release digital-only sales numbers. So far, publishers have been inconsistent in what they do or do not disclose. For instance, Wired, which released single-copy sales numbers from June 2010 to December 2010, stopped releasing figures to the ABC Rapid Report for all of this year; The New Yorker, which has been on the iPad since October, has never disclosed digital single-copy sales.
Single-copy sales, however, only paint a limited picture. Now that digital subscriptions are available — the one thing publishers said was necessary to make tablets a real business since single-copy results have been poor — all eyes will be on those sales. But since subscriptions for Condé titles started on the iPad in June, there will only be one month’s worth of iPad subscription data for its magazines on it: GQ, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Glamour, Self, Allure, Golf Digest and Wired. (Brides began selling digital subscriptions in July for the iPad.)
So why has Condé decided to be so open about this? Condé Nast consumer marketing chief Monica Ray said that “from the beginning, we’ve always intended to be completely transparent.
“I’m thrilled with our results,” she continued. “I’m sure that has something to do with my impetus to put all of this into the statement. It’s also part of our business, so of course we would put it on there — why wouldn’t we put it on there?”
When asked why Condé hasn’t been consistent over the last year with how or when it discloses figures, she said that it was waiting for the subscription model.
Ray also said that the company has made no decision on whether it will disclose data more frequently than its statement to ABC, which is released twice a year.
It also appears that Condé Nast may not go it alone.
“We, too, plan to do that,” a Hearst spokeswoman told WWD. (Hearst had a subscription deal with the iPad starting in July, so that will not figure into its data for the first half of the year.)
Time Inc. was less definitive.
“We’re working closely with ABC on developing the best way to analyze tablet data,” said a Time Inc. spokeswoman.