Unlimited breaks its paper habit with shift to digital

  • Media
  • February 5, 2013
  • Skye Wishart
Unlimited breaks its paper habit with shift to digital

That new ink smell of glossy pages will now be thing of the past for Unlimited magazine because, following in the footsteps of magazines like Newsweek, it’s going fully digital in April.

The business title, which was founded in 1999 and sold by IDG to Fairfax in 2008, has been looking at what its options are for a while, says Fairfax magazines general manager Lynley Belton (ABC figures show average net paid sales have decreased from 3,667 in December 2008 to 1,379 in December 2012. Readership stats aren't available). And testing the digital waters by publishing content on Stuff.co.nz’s Business Day, as well as launching a digital magazine 'Kea Unlimited' to Kea’s global network in December, paved the way for a complete shift away from print. 

While it is currently posting content multiple times a day on Stuff.co.nz, the digital magazine itself won’t change in format, but subscribers will get double their Unlimited fix as it jumps from a bi-monthly to a monthly publication.

“We think it’s a reflection of where our readers are and gives us an opportunity to increase frequency,” says Belton.

Belton doesn’t have specific figures to gauge the success of the Stuff.co.nz partnership so far, but she is positive, both about the new and wider audience and the prospects for Unlimited’s future success.

“I think we are still well and truly are print fans, but it’s about having lots of different platforms on which you can publish. We’ve launched other digital magazines in the last few months, so it’s just part of that overall programme ... We think there’s definitely a reasonable business model there. Obviously the numbers in digital are different, but we wouldn’t be going into this if we didn’t think it was a sustainable model.”

In a press release, editor Caitlin Sykes says she is looking forward to bringing Unlimited to life with more interactive content such as video, recognising that her readers are "part of a mobile and global community who are increasingly accessing content digitally". 

And in an opinion piece explaining the decision, she says: "I'm excited, but, quite frankly, a little daunted to be standing on the edge of something new. While some may laud the leap, undoubtedly we'll also cop some flak for making such changes, but we want to see what we can find over a different horizon all the same."

We hope our digital editions, delivered to your inbox by email, will carry with them a sense of expectation when opened - an expectation of choice as you flick through the pages - and of allure with beautiful photography and design. As a magazine that constantly espouses innovation, we're excited about the new possibilities digital editions can offer in terms of additional features, like video, photo galleries, and other enriched content. Going digital also offers us the flexibility to publish our content more often, and for readers to be able to view a weightless magazine on a range of the devices that are now ubiquitous in our lives. But, ultimately, what I feel is at the heart of what we try to produce will remain unchanged. It's what picked me up by the shirt collar and shook me when I read that first Unlimited piece: a great story, well told. We don't just write about business, we are one — and one that's undergoing massive changes in a digital world. People are increasingly reading more on screens — their computers, tablets, phones — and less on paper. So why the change? For a business that's largely based on selling paper magazines, that's an issue, and one we need to address to survive. 

A 12 month sub to the new digital magazine will cost $19.95 and existing subscribers will be offered a conversion deal. Let's just hope the shift to digital is in "the heaven-sent opportunity" category rather than "the gentle nudge by the minions of magazine hell to push it into its final resting place".

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