GQ Sells 18,000 Issues on iPhone

By Steve Smith

The mobile applications market is already bigger and more serious than many suppose, says Gartner in a report this week that claims consumers will spend $6.2 billion on the fledgling platform as they access 4.5 billion downloads. The hockey stick trajectory of app uptake will lead to 21.6 billion downloads by 2013 and a $29.4 billion market.

Conde Nast is starting small, however. Its recently released full-issue versions of GQ magazine sold 6,641 December (Man of the Year) copies and more than 12,000 copies of the January issue with Rihanna on the cover. At $2.99 a download, and calculating in Apple’s 30% cut, the publisher realized something less than $40,000 so far, in direct sales at least. Beginning with the March issue, current readers of the GQ iPhone edition will be able to get new issues for the reduced rate of $1.99 an issue.

We’re not sure what to make of the numbers, considering that so many other paid apps sell in the millions. But Conde Nast CEO Charles Townsend has no trouble putting a spin on it. “We believe that the development of our medium will be driven by technology, and are encouraged by how consumers are responding to our unique content in this new format, both in volume and engagement," he said in a statement. He says the idea is “sticking.” GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson contends that the proverbial “level of engagement” with the iPhone apps are high, with repeat visits to each issue.

Conde Nast says that the iPhone model is only the beginning of its plan to extend magazine brands to multiple devices. It has partnered with Adobe to create technologies for digital magazines across platforms.

Gartner believes that about 25% of the revenues produced by downloadable mobile apps will come from advertising, but the bulk of income will be direct from the consumer.

Conde Nast, along with other magazine publishers, appears to be using the iPhone environment as a test for digital magazine ideas that will take more robust forms on future e-book and tablet formats. The upcoming Apple Tablet device is said to run iPhone/iPod Touch apps but at higher resolutions across a larger canvas.