MacUser UK Exploring Worldwide Digital Edition

Dennis Publishing, the publishers of MacUser UK magazine, are exploring the possibility of launching a universal, electronic version of their magazine with a focus on overseas markets, sources close to the company have confirmed to The Mac Observer. The company has asked thousands of international readers who have registered their e-mail addresses on the magazineis Web site to take a survey to determine if the market is ripe for another entry into the growing pool of digital, paperless Mac magazines.

The survey asks Mac users a variety of things including do they currently read any other digital magazine, specific interests in a Mac magazine, what version of the Mac OS they are currently using, what Mac news Web sites they regularly visit and how much they would pay for a subscription to a digital version of MacUser. Although the survey is being sent out to a selected list of people, it is also available to the general public to fill out. In return for filling out the survey, participants are eligible to win an Apple iPod.

Those who were asked to take the survey, began receiving e-mails Friday.

When asked for comment about the survey and itis possible plans to release an electronic version of the magazine, Dennis Publishing declined to comment.

In a letter to those being asked to fill out the online survey, the company made it clear it is considering offering itis bi-weekly magazine in digital form, but made no guarantee that it would definitely launch such a product.

It is not clear how much Dennis Publishing would charge for the electronic version, but the online survey asks readers to consider a number of prices in the range of less than US$60 a year. At present, a subscription to the print version of the magazine costs an American subscriber over $200 a year.

It is also not known if the electronic version will include advertising focused on specific markets.

If Dennis Publishing goes ahead with the project, its competition would be formidable in the US with three regular monthlies - Macworld US, MacAddict and MacHome - and the newsstand distribution of international Mac magazines Macworld UK, MacFormat and iCreate, to name just a few. Currently only Macworld US is available in digital form in the U.S.

In the survey, the company mentions the Zinio publishing format as one possible distribution method. Macworld US and Macworld UK currently use Zinio to deliver their magazines monthly. Users subscribe online, download the magazine, and then view the magazine on screen using the Zinio Reader. Zinio makes its money by taking a profit of each issue sold.

The MacUser name will be familiar to many longtime Mac aficionados. MacUser UK is the second oldest Mac magazine only to Macworld US. MacUser UK was one of the very first magazines published by Dennis Publishing magnate Felix Dennis, who is best known in the US for its menis magazine, Maxim. MacUser UK is now in its 19th year of publication.

Not soon after its launch in 1985, Dennis Publishing sold the rights to the name MacUser to Ziff Davis Publishing, who then started an American version of the magazine. MacUser US stopped publishing in October of 1997.

Magazines, newspapers and book companies worldwide have been slow in adopting electronic versions of their publications. Industry executives have long thought that the psychological barriers of getting people to read traditional print periodicals on a computer screen versus in a paper version they can hold and touch have been difficult to overcome.

While the numbers of subscribers to digital versions of publications might be decades away from equaling those of their print counterparts, however, publishers are slowly trying to change public opinion and offer choices. It appears the strategy is making some headway.

In its recent bi-yearly circulation report to the Business of Performing Audits (BPA), the not-for-profit organization which audits media circulation, Macworld US reported itis highest number of paid digital issues ever at 1,306 in November of 2003. An additional 3,281 free copies of the digital edition were distributed in the same period, for a total of 4,587. In comparison, Macworld US sold 253,547 copies of its November issue to subscribers and on newsstands. With free issues to non-paying readers of 154,181, it circulated a total of 407,728 copies.

In December of 2003, Macworld US distributed 10,256 electronic copies of its digital version. The BPA audit did not break down how many of those copies were paid or distributed at no charge.