Here are a few circulation figures for some U.S. newspapers’ digital editions:
With one expection, none of those newspapers have been able to signup a number of digital edition subscribers equal to one-tenths of one percent of that newspaper’s print circulation.
Among the major reasons why these digital editions haven’t been popular and we think it is safe to state that editions with so few subscribers are clearly are unpopular are that personal computer screens aren’t orientated or designed for reading broadsheet or tabloid formatted content; digital edition files are too large to comfortably download with any regularity; some digital editions require that subscribers first to download and run proprietary software; most digital editions don’t feature multimedia; and that most newspapers don’t promote and market their digital editions very well.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette‘s digital edition is somewhat successful. It’s achieved 30-times better subscribership relative to those other newspapers. The major reason for this is that its digital edition is offered as an equivalent product to its Web site, not a separate product.
Neither Web sites nor digital editions are the answer for electronic publishing of newspapers. Both are worthwhile experiments. The future still holds the answer, and that answer will use technologies from both. But the answer’s technologies aren’t yet formed.