Hearst president David Carey: Apple taught people 'how to buy digital content'

David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, sat down with AllThingsD's Peter Kafka to kick off Day 2 of D:Dive Into Media here in Dana Point, California, with the interview centering on Carey's take on how digital magazines are working out in a world that seems less and less intrigued by physical books. Carey confirmed that 40 percent of its total unique views [on magazine websites] are mobile, with the majority of those coming from smartphones, and presently, it has around 900,000 paid magazine subscribers (on the digital front) here in America. That's around 100,000 short of the company's goal to hit a million by the end of 2012, but it's now gunning to secure 3 million paid subscribers by 2016.

Moving on to the topic of Apple, Carey noted that Steve Jobs doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves for accomplishing one thing in particular -- "teaching consumers how to buy digital content." He continued: "It used to be something that people would steal, but if you make it easy for them, they'll buy it. More than 70 percent [of Hearst's customers] renew because it's easy. On the traditional side, the most frustrating thing is how difficult it is to get people to resubscribe through mailers."

Kafka then asked about the subscription split, and where the iPad fit into that mix. Carey's response? "The iPad is the dominant player, because the volume is there. What Barnes & Noble and Amazon figured out early was the 7-inch screen. Our men's products did well on the 10-inch iPad, but our women's products did not. But, they did really well on the 7-inch units -- something that you can easily slip into your purse. We saw the 7-inch devices having more traction with women, while the larger 10-inch devices had more traction with men. We're really happy that Apple introduced the iPad mini, and we're awaiting the most recent numbers on how our publications are doing on that." When Kafka specifically asked about Android traction, Carey added: "Google Play isn't the biggest storefront at this point, but we want to work with everyone."

Hearst president David Carey Apple taught people 'how to buy digital content'

Finally, Carey touched on a fairly hot-button topic: varying screen sizes. While app developers have long since kvetched over the difficulties in building programs that scale up / down beautifully across a wide range of LCD sizes, publishers have it even worse. As Carey aptly put it: "While we love the varying screen sizes for consumers, as a publisher there are enormous complexities in formatting our materials for so many screens." He also confirmed that publishers around the globe are dealing with the reality that it's tougher to make money on mobile and digital, given that every major storefront demands that publishers give them a slice of the profits.

We'll be reporting live from D:Dive Into Media as it continues on February 11-12. You can follow our coverage by using the "dmedia2013" tag.