The Encore iPad experiment – how we’re doing so far

So you may recall that a fortnight ago I somewhat rashly promised to update you on how sales of our Encore iPad app went, “even if the number of subscribers is embarrassingly small”.

I can now share those first numbers. And I’m feeling optimistic but not ecstatic.   

Our experiment began on April 5, two weeks ago today.

encore appIt’s our first effort at an iPad app. You can download it here.

An early dilemma was whether to do something with Mumbrella, or with Encore magazine. There were a couple of reasons to go for Encore.

First, the opportunity to do what a magazine does best, but enhance it. In Encore’s case, where so much of the discussion centres around screen content, the opportunity to embed video right there with the articles is exciting.

Another reason was that we wanted to experiment with a paid content model. Apps is one area where digital consumers seem more willing to spend money. And in Encore, we already have a subscription model.

A further quandary was what platform to build it on. We went with a company called Oomph.

So how has it done?

As of yesterday, 1805 people had downloaded the application. That’s great. But, that part is free.

As you’ll see from the Oomph analytics, those downloads started off with a big surge. This was helped by our own coverage, along with it featuring on the Apple newsstand over the easter weekend.

oomph analytics

The critical next stage is how many subscribers have then paid – either for the $4.49 for the April edition, or $19.99 for six editions.

The answer is that so far we have sold 45 six month subscriptions and made 75 single issue sales.

So we’re not going to be rich any time soon. By my maths 45 x $19.99 plus 75 x $4.49, minus Apple’s 30% is $865.41.

I’ll try not to spend it all at once.

Once you factor in the staff time spent on repurposing the content from the print edition, I don’t think we could claim to have broken even. But that’s not bad for the first month. Of course, the crunch question is whether we continue to grow, or fall back once the excitement fades over that first edition. Happily the six month subs give us an opportunity to build. The importance of that model is a learning right there.

It’s also worth noting that the numbers do not include our paying print subscribers who have free access to the digital edition.

But what does this mean for my sales colleagues who need to sell ads on the edition?

It’s a very different conversation with advertisers to one that takes place around a website that delivers 150,000 unique Australian browsers per month.

It’s going to have to be about engagement, rather than reach. And actually, I’m okay with that. We’re often able to find sponsors who will pay to reach 100 or so people at one of our Q&A breakfasts, for instance. There’s a similar conversation to be had about somebody willing to part with money and spend (I’m willing to bet) quality time with the product. I bet the ads have very high reader engagement too.

The other metric is what people think of it. We’re very proud of the app. I must confess that from time to time I open it up on my own iPad and just browse through it. So far, there’s been just one review on the iTunes store. I don’t know who “BRTDM” is, but I like them:

iTunes review

(If you have tried the app, please do take the trouble to make your own comment in the store.)

And iTunes reviewers can be tough. This is what they said about the effort of our rival AdNews:

adnews itunes

There are also insights to be gained from the fact that more than 10 times as many people take the trouble of downloading the free app, as are then willing to pay to see the content. That suggests there is also much to be learned from experimenting with a free model. (A Mumbrella app at some point?)

For us, the experiment has only just begun. We’re already learning. My first impressions: This isn’t a commercial silver bullet. But it’s not a dead duck either.

Tim Burrowes

Editor-in-chief – Mumbrella and Encore


  1. Kelly Exeter
    19 Apr 12
    2:27 pm

  2. As someone with an interest in e-publishing this is amazing info that you are sharing. Thank you Tim :)

  3. Adam
    19 Apr 12
    3:19 pm

  4. I’m one of the subscriptions. My rationale was that I read Mumbrella every day and pay nothing, so $20 was a risk worth taking.

    I’ve not read the whole first edition yet (hence no feedback until now; busy time of year) but it’s very impressive. The content is up my alley anyway, but the layout and navigation make perfect sense on an iPad. I also appreciate you not lazily chucking the text into giant images, a technique that results in a 130 MB download per issue (I’m looking at you, Condé Nast).

    The only quibble I had out the gate was that the reader must stare at Hinch’s face for the entirety of a rather lengthy interview, the text of which is jammed into a small box in one corner. It’s a format that’s used throughout the edition, and it doesn’t really work with feature-length articles.

    I’ve no idea what Newsstand uptake is like in Australia, so I can’t comment on potential customers or subscribers, but I didn’t know Encore existed at all – in print or otherwise – until I saw your plug two weeks ago. That could be your single biggest barrier.

  5. mumbrella
    19 Apr 12
    3:50 pm

  6. Thanks for the feedback, Adam. And the text box issue is one we’re looking at for future issues. I agree that we need to give more visible text at once on the longer reads.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  7. Dan Warne
    19 Apr 12
    4:51 pm

  8. Woo! I’m one of the 75 single issue subscriptions. I feel like a limited edition — let me know if you’d like me to sign myself.

    I’ve only started reading the mag, but I did find the QR code in one of the advertisements linking to a conference website quite amusing. Because, you know, it’s not like you can click on a link on an iPad and open a website directly.

  9. Dan Warne
    19 Apr 12
    4:51 pm

  10. (Single issue sales, rather.)

  11. Eric
    19 Apr 12
    5:05 pm

  12. I thought it was a solid effort. I was looking at any chance for it to break. I was also, unfairly,comparing it to my Esquire USA and FastCompany Digital efforts, which was totally unfair of me, but although it wasn’t as ‘sexy’, IT WORKED. Great effort Tim and team and as mentioned- thanks for the details. One question- was Apple hard to work with or did Oomph deal with the whole thing?

  13. Graham Nunn
    19 Apr 12
    5:09 pm

  14. Have you looked at In App Purchasing? While not directly comparable, 8 of the top 10 grossing apps in the app store are games that use the free + IAP model, number 7 is the latest Angry Bird’s and number 10 is a $75 TomTom app. I’m currently building a free + IAP version of one of my children’s book apps, Ten Giggly Gorillas. It’ll be interesting to compare how it goes versus the existing $4.49 complete version. I’ll let you know.

  15. Troy
    19 Apr 12
    6:41 pm

  16. Tim, congratulations to you for taking the plunge and thank you for sharing your early results. You should rightly be proud. I am confident your advertisers will appreciate the engagement your app delivers. They too will be just beginning to explore what the medium has to offer. Good luck to you and the team.

  17. mumbrella
    19 Apr 12
    7:27 pm

  18. Hi Eric,

    Oomph certainly helped with that relationship, but the dealings we had were pretty smooth. The main advice I’d give is to allow plenty of time and make sure you communicate everything you have in mind ahead of time.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  19. Seahorse
    20 Apr 12
    9:17 am

  20. I can’t seem to find the review of Encore from the article on iTunes, has it been deleted?

  21. Joshua Withers
    20 Apr 12
    9:42 am

  22. I love iPad apps and the magazine subs etc, but I’m not an iPad/Android tablet owner today. I use an iPhone all day, a MacBook at home and a Windows box at work and feel like the world is moving onto iPad magazine subs but leaving the mainstream platforms behind.

    Don’t forget us! :)

  23. mumbrella
    20 Apr 12
    10:43 am

  24. Hi Seahorse, once you land on the link you’ve given above, click on the button “view in iTunes” and the customer review section is towards the bottom of the page.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  25. njk
    24 Apr 12
    1:28 pm

  26. I’ll admit i’m ignorant of what Encore magazine, either in print or digital form, is, but by looking at that cover I don’t really want to find out more. It looks very dated – the photos, layout and colours.