Harper’s Magazine originally launched in 1850 and is the second oldest magazine next to Scientific America. The company has been notorious about not walking down the digital path and is consistently losing readers to the Atlantic. This may change, as Harper’s Magazine is launching a series of digital reading apps for iOS and Android this fall.
The only avenue to currently subscribe to Harper’s Magazine in a digital form, is to do business with Zinio. One of the drawbacks is that you can only get the most current issues available and cannot tap into the 163 year old archive. Harper’s also does not bundle subscriptions for both digital and print, which has the user deciding between the two formats.
Harper’s is doing business with 29th Street Publishing to develop their iOS and Android apps. They are optimizing the entire magazine experience for larger screen displays, such as the iPad. David Jacobs, the CEO of 29th Street Publishing, says there are a few options for magazine brands like Harper’s that want to make their content shareable without giving away the store including limited online subscriptions or giving subscribers the ability to share articles. Barring such innovations, a new app will be a big step. Harper’s will be available on Apple’s Newsstand, giving it much greater visibility. Best of all, consumers will be able to buy single issues of the magazine on their tablets.
When it comes to establishing a digital infrastructure, most companies can take a page out of The Atlantic’s playbook. This company has embraced online digital distribution and has generated exclusive online content, doing a weekly magazine. The gambit has payed off, their circulation rose by about 50,000 to 488,332 between 2007 and 2012 while Harper’s fell from 214,840 to 186,839 over the same period.
It will be interesting to see if Harper’s can raise circulation by putting their magazine into the hands of digital buyers. They tend to take the long-term approach, but sometimes the inability to pull the trigger early enough, may result in an up-road battle.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and Verge.