Delicious discount gnaws at future of food magazines

Delicious_Magazine_LivingSocial_discount

Delicious magazine discount raises questions about viability.

I had to stop myself from snapping up a heavily discounted one-year subscription to Delicious magazine that was recently offered through the LivingSocial whopper deal site.

I love a good bargain. And at $32 (normally $65) for a year’s subscription, the 51 percent saving on a magazine that i’ve previously subscribed to and enjoyed was a bargain alright.

In agreement were 9310 other food lovers. That’s how many had bagged the deal by the time it expired on Wednesday morning.

But these days i’m pursuing my food reading pleasure in digital format wherever possible. With a shortage of shelving at home, an eye on the future of digital media – ‘digital first’ the major newspaper publishers Fairfax and News Ltd are now saying – and a determination to make better use of my nifty little iPad, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make.

I’ve embraced the Australian Gourmet Traveller iPad application for that very reason. I find the digital edition a practical, enjoyable and interactive experience. No more paper magazines for me!

There’s certainly a time and a place for a colourful, hardback cookbook that weighs a tonne. But according to the majority of respondents to my last blog piece on this theme, digital magazines are increasingly favoured over hardcopy editions.

There is no question that the future of print publishing is in serious in doubt. Fairfax (publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Australian Financial Review) and News Ltd (publisher of The Australian and The Telegraph) both announced major redundancy programs and a shift in focus to digital strategies in the past few weeks. Newspapers may not survive the shake-out.

Food media is not immune to this metamorphosis. Questions are increasingly being raised about the future of food writing – once a darling of print media – as advertising revenue declines and electronic platforms create a more competitive arena.

To quote Amanda Hesser of Food52, who stirred the food media into a tizz earlier this year with her article Cooking from every angle: Advice for future food writers:  “Just 10 years ago, food writers with staff jobs were able to earn $80,000 to $150,000 a year, and freelancers were regularly paid $2 a word; today, these jobs barely exist.”

Which brings me back to the Delicious discount. What was that all about?

Competition is undoubtedly tough in the food media market. There was already a plethora of food magazines available, before MasterChef Magazine debuted in 2010 and SBS sashayed into the market with Feast last year.

According to this article in The Australian, ad page volume for magazines dropped 7 percent in the 12 months to December 2011, according to Nielsen data. In the June half, magazine advertising revenue fell 5 percent year-on-year to $457 million, and full-year figures were expected to show a similar level of decline.

It’s no wonder that a fight for subscribers – who have a growing penchant for digital (preferably free) content – is under way. But discounting a product by half smacks of desperation. Discounts might be attractive to customers, but it can seriously damage a brand.

Delicious is published by NewsLifeMediaNews, the magazine unit of News Ltd, which is pushing full steam ahead into the digital future. NewsLifeMedia closed two magazine titles last year year: Alpha and Notebook.

I haven’t been able to find a Delicious iPad application, although the group does have them for other food titles such as Donna Hay Magazine.

The question is, has Delicious got what it takes to ride out the industry’s transition from print to digital? And how will other food magazines fare in media sector shakeout?

Note: The author works at Fairfax.

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10 Comments

Filed under Food Issues

10 responses to “Delicious discount gnaws at future of food magazines

  1. Interesting story Rachel. I too find myself tending towards online magazines and Donna Hay and Gourmet Traveller area great examples of how they can work particularly well. I do still long for a magazine to hold in my hands and turn over the corner on a good recipe. Just doesn’t seem the same on the iPad, somehow it is less engaging.

    • I agree. I am still a little torn between paper v digital. However, i like the interactivity which comes with subscribing to an iPad magazine app like GT, such as being one click away from additional information that springs up on the screen, being able to email recipes straight from the digital page, and links back to the website, etc. Just wish there was a built-in way to write a shopping list!

  2. I agree things are getting increasingly digitalised thanks to cost and convenience. I don’t buy that many books and magazines, though, so when I do buy them I still prefer to get a hard copy. But I can see e-versions would make more sense for those who make frequent and regular purchases.

    As for the Delicious discount, half-priced deals are the norm in group-buying websites, so I don’t know if it will necessarily damage the brand (unless they repeat this deal over and over again – in which case it will indeed look desperate). And now they’ve got guaranteed sales of close to $300k – not bad really considering how little it takes to sign up for a deal (as opposed to some nationwide marketing campaign with harder-to-track results) and with that quantity sold, I’m sure it’s still a tidy profit after overheads and whatnot.

    • Yes, it will be interesting to see if the deal is repeated – and if the magazine survives.
      While they’ve bagged a number of subscribers, which brings more money in, they will only get about half of each $32 subscription back from Living Social (that’s how the deal typically works – the voucher site gets half). 150k in sales is nothing to scoff at, but whether it will cover overheads in the hugely expensive publishing industry is a question only they can answer. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Lindi Sheehan

    Hi – I am a former Delicious magazine groupie. I say, former, because the recipes and articles are easily assessed online; & with my bookshelves groaning with cookbooks and related magazines – it was an easy choice.

  4. Interesting snippet, Rachel. I used to have a HUGE pile of food magazines many years ago… GT, Vogue E etc etc. And then when I had to downsize, I simply had to give them away. Love looking at them and drooling over the pages… but it also gets expensive! Still not doing the online mag thing, but very happy to read well written, well photographed blogs.

  5. It makes so much sense to switch to digital but … I can’t seem to. I feel that the digitial versions of Donna Hay and Gourmet Traveller are actually leaner versions of the hard copy – could that be true? If a digital recipe index could be provided for these magazines, I think I might be more persuaded. And what happens when all of the memory on your iPad is taken up by e-magazines? Buy a new iPad?? (Here’s hoping ;-))

    When I lived in Australia, I didn’t subscribe to any magazines, preferring to flick through the latest copy at the newsagent each time it was released, but inevitably buying it each month anyway. Now that I live overseas, a subscription is the only way for me to get my magazines, albeit at double the price. That alone should convince me that digital is the more cost-effective choice … let’s see :-)

    • Good question … are the digital versions of the magazines actually leaner?
      I don’t know for sure, but i suspect not. I think it’s just the perception because you have often have to scroll down pages to access the full article and associated copy (recipes, for example), rather than scrolling across the page. Hence, you feel like you are flicking pages less.
      However, i haven’t compared the digital to paper versions ‘page by page’ so i don’t know for certain.
      I can tell there is a digital warrior in you Thanh, just bursting to get out!

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