Am I Really Going to Pay $4.99 for One Issue of Time Magazine?

by Joanna Pineda Posted on June 4, 2010

I blogged last week about how excited I am that some of my favorite magazines are now available on the iPad.  Last week, I discovered that TIME Magazine has a free iPad app.  Turns out, the app is free, but issues are not.  Each issue is $4.99.  $4.99!  When a print subscription is $20 through Amazon!

A recent article in Ad Age Daily tries to explain why we should expect to pay more for online subscriptions on the iPad.  According to Ad Age, we should expect to pay $4.99 for an issue of TIME, Popular Science, Maxim, Popular Photography, Sound and Vision, Transworld Skateboarding and Islands because publishers are suffering, there are fewer tablet PC owners, and magazines are still burdened by their huge editorial costs.

But here’s the rub: I purchased an issue of TIME for $4.99 and discovered that the content was the same as my print issue!  C’mon, TIME.  I pay about $0.50 for a print issue, but you want me to pay $4.99 for the same thing!  If you’re going to charge me a whole lot more, I expect a different experience and additional content I can’t get elsewhere.

This reminds me of publishers that put up PDF versions of their print publications and post them to the Web site.  It’s easy to do and gets the job done.  Problem is, the Web is a different medium from print.  Have you ever tried to read a PDF of a print magazine?  Try going from page 2 to page 36 on a Web browser.  Try reading a two-column page that scrolls up and down past two screens on a monitor.    And now companies are putting out software that will take print files and convert them to iPad apps!  Once again, ignoring the usability and user experience capabilities of the device and merely re-purposing content.  How does this create value?

If publishers hope to create valuable new content on the Web and hope that we readers will be willing to pay a premium for it, they need to give us great content and a user experience that matches the capabilities of the device. On the iPad, give me additional content, HD videos, podcasts, interactive apps that take advantage of the iPad touch technology, and on and on.

So, am I really going to ever pay $4.99 for an issue of a magazine in the future?  Realistically?  Probably not.  But I would be willing to pay for another subscription to the same magazine if I got additional value, and not just the prepackaged stuff we’re getting now.

How about you?  What’s your take on publishers putting out content across platforms and devices?

6 replies on “Am I Really Going to Pay $4.99 for One Issue of Time Magazine?”

Agree that a digital version of TIME is just not worth 10 times the price of a print edition of the same thing. I would be willing to pay perhaps twice as much for a cool digital edition with lots of extras–although, there is already extra content available at (not, of course, tailored to the capabilities of the iPad).
The future of journalism is definetly digital, however, publishers are still struggling to define what that means and what business model will work to keep them solvent. I certainly hope it doesn’t lead to a world where the only quality content is priced at $4.99/week–that will surelyhasten the demise of much of what we have available today in printed form.

I agree, $4.99 is rediculous! That would be $60/year…!

My thoughts on the why – the magazine cost itself is deeply subsidized by its advertisers. Perhaps advertisers are willing to pay less for ads in the iPad version or they were able to sell less ads on the iPad version? So in order to break even they need to inflate the price. This is just a theory.

As for usability, I agree that publishers need to figure out how to leverage the platform that they are on. Looks like Wired is on the right path –


How much does TIME cost on the newsstand? That seems like the equivalent price to compare it to.

They should offer a digital subscription rate that offered a reduced cost for immediate access to a full years’ magazines.

I pay $20 for a year’s subscription to the print version of TIME. There isn’t a price listed on my print copy, but a search online says the cover price is $3.95. So for now, I’m happy with my print subscription and accessing for free on my PC and iPad!

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