The Economist today makes its first foray into mobile subscriptions by launching apps for Apple devices including the iPad, and is aiming for 1 million digital users within three years.
Despite the magazine having been largely immune to the decline in circulation afflicting most print publications – the weekly title has recorded 58 consecutive six-monthly increases in global sales –its management has decided it is time the venerable title embraced mobile.
"Our readers have always preferred the Economist in print because it is a lean-back, immersive reading experience," said Oscar Grut, the Economist's managing director of digital editions. "The internet has not been a threat so far, because it cannot replicate this reading experience."
The Economist will today launch apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch using a subscription model similar to that used by the Financial Times. The FT is owned by Pearson Group, which holds a 50% stake in the weekly magazine.
Existing subscribers to the title, whether to the print edition or to the Economist website, will be able to download the apps for free. An annual subscription to the magazine costs up to £120, while a single print issue costs £4. Access to the website costs £99 a year, or £24.99 per quarter; a digital version of a single issue costs £3.49.
It is thought that the Economist already has in the region of 100,000 digital subscribers and has ambitious plans to reach 1 million – including people paying for its existing Kindle and online magazine subscription service Zinio – in three years.
"It took us 160 years to reach the first million of our 1.5m print readers and we expect to reach a million in digital in three years," Grut said. "With the growing popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, like the iPhone and the iPad, which offer an immersive reading experience, we are seeing strong demand and as a result a big opportunity for a publication like ours is emerging."
Each week's issue of the Economist will be available to download by 9pm on Thursdays in the UK and 4pm in the US. A full audio edition will also be available.
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