Is Amazon the Next Big Thing for Magazines?

Amazon has been notoriously unfriendly to magazine publishers, with precious little in the way of magazines offered on the retail giant’s site outside of what’s offered digitally with their Prime membership.

According to D. Eadward Tree, that could all be about to change.

“It was recently revealed that TNG, the U.S.’s largest newsstand distributor, has a deal to supply magazines to Amazon’s rapidly growing chain of bookstores,” Tree notes in Publishing Executive. “That’s a switch from Amazon’s website, which doesn’t really have a home for single-copy magazines.”

That could be a huge boon to magazine publishers, especially in light of reports that Bezos et. al. are actively pursuing more brick and mortar locations.

With distribution problems continuing to plague the newsstand model, there’s been much talk in the industry of how to get magazines into the hands of readers. Perhaps Amazon – long vilified for “killing” print books (which, btw, is nonsense) – could be a boon for the magazine industry.

Yet Tree advises caution.

“No doubt, some optimists will herald these developments as representing a renaissance for magazines, while our friends in book publishing will be inclined to warn us about an invasion of the Evil Empire,” he writes. “But Amazon’s history suggests it has no grand scheme for the magazine industry, either to rejuvenate it or to destroy it. It is prone to experimenting, failing fast, learning from its failures, and moving on.”

Given that their bookstores are only partially involved in actually selling books – the real motivation is exploring the vast cross-selling capabilities of a data-driven consumer experience – he’s probably right to advise viewing this from the retailer’s point of view.

Some of the benefits to publishers could be data-driven inventory, new subscription pathways, and good visibility and exposure for the titles they stock. Meanwhile, Tree tells us not expect them to push Kindle-replica editions.

“Though it dominates the selling of ebooks, Amazon’s Kindle software is notoriously unsuited to ‘fixed-layout’ books – the kind containing photos or graphics that can’t be easily ‘reflowed’ for small screens. So don’t expect Amazon to make much of a push to sell Kindle-edition magazines,” he notes.

So yes, more magazines in more Amazon shops is a good thing. Yet we need to think beyond the obvious as an industry and understand the real potential this offers.