I'm an unabashed fan of Rolling Stone magazine and have been a subscriber to the print edition (on and off) since I was a teenager. It, Wired, and Macworld are probably my top three "desert island" magazines and the last remaining print subscriptions that I'm willing to actually pay for.
But I'm not enough of a fan to pay for it twice.
I was elated to learn that Rolling Stone and publisher Wenner media had finally gone digital earlier this month and ran excitedly to my iPad to set up my digital subscription. The RS app for iOS' Newsstand is free, but individual issues cost $4.99 each and an annual subscription costs $19.99. Semi-reasonable prices for new subscribers and in line with what they charge for the print edition. Setting aside the fact that the incremental cost per subscriber for digital is zero, because they don't have to pay for paper, ink, and postage--but that's a topic for another blog post.
My enthusiasm was dampened when I looked for the "subscriber log-in" area inside the RS app that would enable me to enjoy the digital version of my print subscription for free. It doesn't exist. Enthusiasm gone.
A quick peek at the Customer Reviews on the App Store revealed a pretty agitated subscribership--as they should be. Print subscribers are up in arms that they're forced to pay again for the digital version of a magazine that they already paid once for.
Why does Jann Wenner think that he can get away with double dipping? It didn't work out for Wired, which originally tried the same stunt, until publisher Conde Nast came to its senses.
It's better to have your magazine (and ads!) being read by more people in more venues than less. Simple math reveals that RS advertisers would probably be thrilled to get additional exposure for their ads on the white-hot iPad. I'm guessing that they wouldn't be thrilled that Wenner is poking a stick into the eye of its precious subscribers, some of whom are threatening to cancel their print renewals in protest.
Not to mention the fact that digital editions provide much more in the way of metrics to appease and retain advertisers over their dumb, dead-tree counterparts. Hopefully Wenner and company will come to their senses and provide the digital version of Rolling Stone for free to print subscribers.