Taking Magazines Digital

Times are changing fast for the print industry. It is at a point in time where survival has become difficult. To put things in perspective, the magazines FirstCity and Parenting have been in print for 23 and 21 years respectively. This was at a time when people got their information from print and broadcast media. Now, we have the Internet – blogs, social networks, news websites and applications to get information from. We are up to our necks in content, with too many options and that has resulted in a major drift in our reading habits. In the midst of so many choices, where one is more convenient than the other, the print medium, especially in the case of magazines, has languished.

Fewer people are reading magazines, as a result of which, fewer people are advertising in them. Meanwhile, the cost of running the magazine still remains exorbitant. Eventually, the magazine will start making losses. So how will it survive in such circumstances?

Our world, these days, seems to have condensed more and more into a phone screen. Send a message? Phone. Update status on Facebook? Phone. Put up a picture on Facebook? Phone. Post a tweet on Twitter? Phone. Watch a video on YouTube? Phone.

So we decided to reach out to the phone generation; build an app for FirstCity and Parenting. But building an app isn’t enough; people need to know that you have an application. We decided to promote the apps in the one place that we know the phone generation takes seriously: Facebook. Our concept was that we would introduce the magazines to people via FirstCity and Parenting Facebook pages, where they would get images from the latest issues, a line or two about a story in the magazine with a link to the FirstCity or Parenting website. On the website, visitors could read a little bit more about the story and then choose to buy the latest FirstCity or Parenting issue for their smartphones or tablets. The purpose was to move people from Facebook to app purchase, via the website. This was done so that they could see and read what the issue was about before they purchased it.

With a little promotion budget, we were able to get 10,000 views a month, on each of these websites. One would think that this would result in a decent amount of sales on the app. But it didn’t.

So what went wrong? FirstCity has been running for 23 years and it’s covered some brilliant stories over time. But these older issues weren’t showcased anywhere. Also, another possible solution could have been providing the reader with the option of purchasing selective content, as something in the month’s issue might be relevant for a reader while the rest may not be.

Now, both FirstCity and Parenting are in the process of closing down and we’ve surely picked up a thing or two in the process. First being that for magazines, driving traffic to the website should be of primary importance and apps should take the backseat. Second that it makes a lot of sense for the app and its content to be free for all. This way, more people will download it, seeing which, more advertisers will want to advertise on it and as a result, the magazine will be more profitable.

This is yet another example of the survival of the fittest, and it’s only getting tougher.



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