The hawkers of magazines now have competition and it is not in the form of more hawkers or a retail chain selling subscriptions in an organized manner but from a technology based digital newsstand called QMags. Founded in 1999, QMags markets and delivers to readers the electronic issues of printed magazines. Using proprietary technologies, QMags converts a publisher’s digital files to compressed QMags issues. The magazine is then downloaded onto a reader''s PC (or Macintosh) and read using a customized version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Leading Indian publications like Chitralekha in Gujarati and Marathi, Hathaway’s Outlook, Intelligent Investor, Magna Group’s Stardust, Society, Savvy and Health and Nutrition are also available through this platform. These magazines are currently available at a much higher price than they are on physical newsstands e.g. Outlook’s current issue is available at 2.25 US$ as they are probably targetted at NRIs. Also the minimum price order has to be 1 US$. Delhi Press with magazine titles as Women''s Era,Alive etc has also been selling digital PDF subscriptions for Woman’s Era, though not at QMags but on its own Woman’s Era’s site since mid January and has more than 200 subscribers who have signed on using digital subscriptions. Divesh Nath, Director, Delhi Press believes that digital PDF based subscriptions have a twin advantage “ One it is revenue generating as a digital copy and secondly a lot of subscribers who sign for PDF then sign on for a regular Print subscription”. Nath, further adds that the digital offers a price advantage for the subscriber “ We offer the one year subscription of PDF format as 7 US$ whereas the print copy subscription is ten times more at 70 US$ ” He also shares that 15% of the subscribers who signed for digital have signed for the regular print copy of Women''s Era.
What appears on the reader’s screen is an exact copy of the printed magazine cover to cover, two pages at a time - preserving ad adjacencies and two-page spreads. The QMags edition can be read and perused just like the printed version, plus it offers many special features that were never before possible with print. With these service subscribers of interactivity as each page can be linked to any other web page so that the reader has connectivity to editor or advertiser. With QMags, the editorial and advertising content can also be made rich and lively in Multimedia by addition of audio and video clippings. The searchability also tends to get improved as a person can quickly search on the person or topic.
The feature the most of the subscribers might value a lot is the ability to archive old issues on a unique customer page on the Internet. QMags not only delivers, but also sells magazine subscriptions, single copies and articles through its electronic newsstand. Publisher’s license QMags to produce and deliver their electronic issues, as well as it serves as an electronic agent over the Internet.
QMags recently tested its beta service with a large database of active magazine subscribers in association Mediamark Research Inc.(MRI) to measure acceptance of this new magazine technology. The test revealed that 16% of the subscribers preferred digital copies to print.
The results of this study in US might or might not be necessarily true for Indian market and Indian readers. It is unclear at the moment whether the availability of digital subscriptions in a rich multimedia format will pull in more subscribers for the declining magazine readership. Another key issue to note will be whether digital subscriptions will form a part of circulation numbers as released by ABC. These are issues that will get clarified as months pass but for now the NRIs and technology savvy subscribers can satiate their love and longing for Indian magazines digitally.