Techie Pub Goes Digital to Add Readers

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The publishers of a new magazine aimed at consumers living the digital lifestyle hope to attract readers without the expense of direct mail.


Dig_iT magazine, pronounced "dig it," began as an idea that creators Fred Davis and David Bunnell had in late 2001. They formed Prosumer Media Corp. to start a magazine for technology enthusiasts that was both fun to read and useful to consumers on the cutting edge of digital technology.


Both men have a background in tech publications. Davis is a founder of the Ziff-Davis computer publishing division and a former editor of PC Magazine, PC Week and MacUser. He also was instrumental in the launches of Wired, CNET and Ask Jeeves. Bunnell is best known for starting magazines including PC Magazine, PC World and Macworld.


Prosumer published 100,000 copies of Dig_iT's first issue in mid-December in the guise of a product guide for the digital consumer market. About 70,000 went to newsstand and bookstore outlets, 12,000 were distributed at a consumer electronics show and the rest were earmarked for fulfillment.


But unlike other publishers, Dig_iT had done little yet to attract subscribers, said Rodney Brooks, director of marketing for Dig_iT, Berkeley, CA.


"The major cost for any publication is acquiring subscribers," he said. "We don't have deep pockets or the backing of a big publishing company, so we are trying to do this in a more unique way."


Part of that strategy involves offering subscriptions, or in Dig_iT's case club memberships, only on its Web site, www.dig-it.com.


And the magazine is not offered in the typical annual subscription model. Aside from retail outlets, it is from the Dig_iT Web site as part of a membership that includes the print edition as well as special online-only content.


The monthly fee for the club is $2, though that probably will rise after the print publication goes monthly later this year, Brooks said. So far, the club has about 2,000 members.


Dig_iT does not offer annual memberships. All members are on a month-to-month basis, and all payments are made online.


"We know that these people have a computer and access to the Internet," Brooks said. "If not, they aren't in the target audience."


So how are consumers expected to find the Dig_iT site? The company is working on several marketing initiatives, which do not include direct mail.


When Prosumer was formed in late 2001, Brooks said, Davis and Bunnell bought the assets of a company called Prosumer.tv, which published a tech-related e-mail newsletter called Iconocast. On Feb. 4, Dig_iT began sending e-mails to the nearly 40,000 opt-in subscribers to that newsletter. Brooks said it was too early to gauge the success of the initial campaign.


Dig_iT also is working with a few manufacturers and retailers to offer the magazine as a value-add with consumer purchases of a certain product or dollar amount, he said.


Initiatives in the discussion phase include bartering for the use of lists from consumer electronics companies in exchange for ad pages or having such companies use the magazine as an incentive to have consumers fill out product registration forms.


Dig_iT also hopes to do a viral marketing campaign to get members to tell a friend.


Based on research Dig_iT's publishers have seen, its broad target audience has about 27 million people. Other statistics Brooks cited were that tech enthusiasts are about 51 percent male, 44 percent have household income exceeding $75,000 and 80 percent are homeowners. But its true target group is the top 10 percent of that figure who fall into the "early adopter" category.


"You know the type," he said. "The one who always has the latest gadget or the newest cell phone. They really lead the pack when it comes to new technology."


Even so, Dig_iT is collecting its own data from registrants for its club membership. Upon registering for the club, they are sent a confirmation e-mail with a survey that asks for gender, age, income, education, occupation, ethnicity, marital status and presence of children as well as questions about consumer electronics. Survey submission enters the registrant into a drawing for prizes.


Dig_iT's next issue is tentatively set for May. The magazine then begins its monthly print schedule with the June issue.


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