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Condé Nast Champions Growing Digital Editions, Shows Measly Sales

In the lead-up to the release of the Apple Tablet, publishers like Condé Nast have somewhat tepidly ventured out on their own into the digital marketplace. Both the December and January issues of GQ were released as iPhone apps, becoming the first title to supply digital versions that count toward circulation numbers. Now, Condé Nast has released the first batch of stats and claimed success, but the numbers seem small. Is there hope?

According to a press release today, the December issue of GQ, on sale for $2.99, was downloaded 6,641 times, while the January issue nearly doubles that with around 12,000 downloads up to now. Modest figures at first glance, though Condé highlights the growth, as well as vague “engagement metrics” meant to measure how much time each customer is spending with the digital issue.

February’s issue is available now, priced at $2.99, while repeat customers will be tempted with a $1.99 app price beginning with the March issue.

In all, it’s far too soon to say whether the experimentation is working. With a one title test group and only two months of sales, the digital versions remain a giant question mark, despite Condé’s predictably optimistic praise of growth.

Advertising Age, meanwhile, notes that revenue totals “less than $60,000,” mocking that as “a rounding error at the consumer magazine giant” and comparing the GQ circulation totals that were obviously left out of the press release: “GQ‘s December issue sold 240,000 copies at newsstand and was delivered to another 667,851 print subscribers.” When put that way, digital sales are hardly a drop in the bucket, but remain an area of development worth keeping an eye on.

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