Why we’re going free with the Encore iPad app

So three months ago, we made something of a leap when we launched an iPad edition of Mumbrella’s sister title Encore magazine.

Today we’re making another leap – we’re making it free. You can find it on the App Store here.

At the time, I promised to share what we learned along the way – and our numbers, no matter “how embarrassingly small”. And I’ll do that in a moment.

A lot has happened since then, and we’ve learned a lot.

For starters, I’m still in love with the iPad as a means of delivering a magazine.

When you’re writing about visual content such as ads, it makes a huge difference to be able to play them right there. And the experience of reading longer pieces beats doing it on your average website.

I’ve also found myself in various conversations – including at the Oomph-curated tablet session at Mumbrella360 and in private – about whether free or paid is the way to go. As you’ll see from the video of the Oomph chat, I was arguing (admittedly slightly as devil’s advocate) for paid little more than a month ago.

Before beginning this exercise, I leaned towards the view of many publishers that this was their last chance to put the digital genie back in the bottle and get people to pay for content after ten years of training them to expect it for free online.

So how have we done since we launched the app?

(Bear in mind that the numbers that follow are unaudited – the Circulations Audit Board which audits Encore and Mumbrella has not yet introduced a tablet reporting standard, although I think it’s on the way.)

In April, 147 people paid; in May, it was 61. The drop, wasn’t a surprise though – we made more noise when we launched it. In June, it rose again to 104. So just over 300 sales made.

Along with print subscribers who are also entitled to free access to the app, we’ve so far delivered 513 issue downloads.

Which on the face of it might be something to feel a little downhearted about. We’re really proud of the Encore app. People love it when we show it to them. Of the few reviews it’s had on the iPad store, it’s been mostly five stars. And yet, we only persuaded 300 or so people to click on the buy button.

But here’s the stat that encourages me – reading the Encore app is a two stage process. First you download the Oomph viewer from the store for free, then you download the individual edition.

But… despite the fact that we were always very clear on the price structure, more than ten times as many people downloaded the free viewer as then went on and made a purchase.

A total of 4620 people have downloaded the viewing app. Which suggests there is an audience – once they get to see it.

It then becomes a publishing decision – if we switch our strategy to building an engaged industry audience, and then helping advertisers to speak to that audience – in other words the same strategy as Mumbrella – how many ads do we need to sell before we’re ahead of the paid content model?

So far, I reckon our paid subs revenue from the iPad app is less than $2000. So the answer is one ad.

So that’s the rational reason.

But there are two more reasons.

First, the selfish, journalistic reason. I really believe in Encore. It’s good. I, and the whole team are really proud of it. We’re proud of the print edition, and we’re blown away by the iPad edition. At various points over each publishing month, I still find myself opening it up and playing with it – despite the fact that I know pretty much every word in the edition. So I want as many people as possible to see it.

The latest edition – which I hope you’ll look at – is a case in point. Appropriately enough, it’s the money issue.

Stuff you’ll see in it:

  • Our feature on pay in the media and entertainment industries;
  • Our nine columnists covering TV, games, magazines, online, radio, print journalism, advertising, content and film. That includes Andrew Mercado on the finances of TV drama; Guy Gadney on the business of virtual goods within games; Paul Merrill on chequebook journalism in magland; Jason ‘Jabba’ Davis on radio giveaways; Robin Hicks on million dollar ad budgets; Cathie McGinn on piracy and Game Of Thrones and film maker Enzo Tedeschi on movie marketing;
  • Our guide to the bosses of Australia’s major seven screen funding bodies;
  • Chats with John Laws, Shaun Micallef, Omnilab boss Chris Mapp and publicist Max Markson;
  • The making of the new Herringbone ad
  • Initiative’s Ashley Brown singing the praises of Spotify
  • An examination of piracy in the Australian content industry;
  • Robin Hicks’ exploration of what the Cannes Lions results say about the Aussie ad industry;
  • Our debate on when to work for free;
  • Behind the scenes at one of the biggest ever Australian web productions;
  • We ask whether the Nikon D800 will be a Canon 5D challenger; and review an iPhone tripod;
  • We talk spreadsheets with BRW editor Kate Mills;
  • A comprehensive guide to Australian TV shows and films currently in production;
  • McCann’s John Mescall and Banjo’s Dav Tabeshfar review the best and worst of the current crop of insurance ads

The second reason is that this is one of our punts on the future.

As you may have noticed, we shoot a lot of video content for Mumbrella. I reckon we lose money on that – but it’s fun to do, it gives us a point of difference and it gives us access to interesting people. (Like Ita Buttrose this week for instance. I’m glad she’s excited about iPad editions too.) And I reckon video will pay off for us one day.

I’d put the Encore iPad app in that same category as the reasons we do video. There will come a time when magazines are not in print – we’re not there yet, but that time is coming fast. In our little niche of the media, marketing and entertainment world, I’d rather have my plan B in place when that moment comes. In fact, by that point, I’d rather it was Plan A. Clearly we’ll have to get to grips with non iPad tablets soon too.

So we’re going now, and we’re going hard.

I hope you tell us what you think of the Encore iPad app. And now it won’t cost you a cent to do so.

Here’s a link to the App Store.

Tim Burrowes, editor-in-chief – Mumbrella and Encore


  1. Phil
    9 Jul 12
    11:12 am

  2. Thanks for this Tim, highly informative insight.

  3. Anon
    9 Jul 12
    11:38 am

  4. Not everyone has an ipad Tim. You need something that works well on Android too

  5. mumbrella
    9 Jul 12
    11:42 am

  6. Hi Anon,

    Thanks for the advice – and indeed market research.

    Watch the video above if you like – there is a bit of a discussion around that topic.



  7. Cal
    9 Jul 12
    12:34 pm

  8. What’s the breakdown of paid iPad-subscriptions v iPad-issues?

    Just wondering as I purchased the iPad subscription, rather than by issue, but must admit I’ve only probably gone back into the App once or twice and haven’t downloaded all issues available…

  9. Nathan
    9 Jul 12
    12:57 pm

  10. Any refunds for those that paid for a long term sub?

  11. mumbrella
    9 Jul 12
    12:59 pm

  12. Hi Cal,

    As far as I can tell, 93 subs, 219 single issues.

    Actually – perhaps you can give me some feedback… we’ve been cautious on sending out push notifications in case they are annoying. Would you prefer it if we sent one out each time there is a new edition?


    Tim – Mumbrella

  13. mumbrella
    9 Jul 12
    1:19 pm

  14. Hi Nathan,

    If you want to email me at tim@focalattractions.com.au we’ll sort you out.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  15. Jacob Hodgman
    9 Jul 12
    1:34 pm

  16. Great article/piece. I applaud your honesty and openness. Have downloaded and subscribed.

  17. Cal
    9 Jul 12
    1:35 pm

  18. Most mags send out a few notifications and it’s only then that I remember to go and download a new issue, so yes, use them as best you can (once when new issue out/2nd reminder mid-way through month?)

    Was also an initial paid subscriber but happy to have contributed and learn from the data you’re providing :-)

  19. mumbrella
    9 Jul 12
    1:38 pm

  20. Thanks, Cal!

  21. Phil Tripp
    9 Jul 12
    1:46 pm

  22. After talking with you and Sean over red wine a few times before I sold my AustralAsian Music Industry Directory and TheMusic.com.au to the Treweek brothers before I retired in 2010, I’m thrilled that you have taken the plunge into the iPad edition and freemium publishing. I did it first in 1988 with the AMID when we launched with a 96 page biannual edition that was free if picked up at the door of our office and $5 if posted. And we also had it free on the Entertainment Systems Intl bulletin board and email service.

    It was totally paid for by ads up front, every qualified company got one free listing and one free copy. Everyone said it would never work but then, they were Australians who always seem to find reasons why things can’t work and often claim they thought of it but didn’t pursue it if it was a success.

    Several million dollars later, we’d put it up on the Internet for free, then charged for a deeper sub with updates, created a free music industry news service online and created parallel services r products that fed off our traffic and having created a niche in the industry, then cornering it.

    A music business book store people said there wasn’t a market for sold tons of specialist titles, often parallel imported. A music business conference that we were told people would not pay to attend racked up to 700 people at $500 a head every two years–with no distracting band showcases or booths in the end. Representing MIDEM for ten years and then South by Southwest for a decade, we went from a handful of delegates to over 600 and sold stand space and a ads in foreign markets.

    We didn’t need ad agencies and didn’t commission them–they charged their clients the extra 10% if they wished. Selling at the door for $40 instead of $55 by mail brought in people who saw our books, read about our conferences and became our evangelists. We even set up a music industry employment service that was highly successful though we dropped it just before the faces hit the fan in the biz.

    You boys, like the Treweeks, are taking a tremendous risk it would seem, but you will reap tremendous rewards for what you are giving away to attract eyeballs. It will reach to their wallets and they will be loyal as long as you serve them prime cuts of info as data-drug dealers and not spiced shoulder ham (SPAM) as commercial junk food.

    Go get em and enjoy the ride!

  23. Ash Tag
    9 Jul 12
    1:47 pm

  24. Nice one Mumbrella crew… I believe in Encore too… Keep up the good work!

  25. Tom
    9 Jul 12
    3:24 pm

  26. It’s a great mag. Good move.

  27. Offal Spokesperson
    9 Jul 12
    3:33 pm

  28. so.. its not available for Android?

    I know the ad industry is filled with apple fanbois, but i cant believe any item in this day and age is not producing an android option 1st…let alone not at all.

  29. Peter Wells
    9 Jul 12
    7:51 pm

  30. Fascinating. It’s a great read on the iPad, glad i can recommend the free version to others now.

    And it’s ok, I’ve been burnt by buying apps that become free a bunch of times, you can keep my subscription money. Buy yourself something nice.. :)

  31. Phil Tripp
    10 Jul 12
    12:11 pm

  32. I tried to get the iPad app from your front page by hitting the image and was directed to http://mumbrella-uploads.s3.am.....-iPad.jpeg which ended up being an error page. Only when I tapped the hyperlink above it did I come back to this page. But I did get the app and the mag is brilliant in its execution within it. Congrats. It’s taken me back to reading it after a few years off.

    BTW, it would be a good idea to have a music analysis column each issue or relevant news.

  33. Me
    12 Jul 12
    11:12 am

  34. How refreshingly open – well done Mumbrella/Encore.

    I hope the free versions goes on to find a wide readership.