More on Magzter: Why This Won’t Fly

[responsive]magzter[/responsive]Last week we reported that Magzter would begin offering a Netflix-esque model for magazine titles. Our take was that nobody is going to be the Netflix of the magazine industry, based on tepid consumer demand for digital magazines.

D.B. Hebbard in Talking New Media has another angle on this story. In this article he asks “What is a magazine?” and observes that many in the industry don’t seem to differentiate between a magazine, and a magazine brand’s content online.

Case is point is The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson who said “a ‘Netflix for (apps of) magazines’ has the pretty, pat sound of an idea with a commercially successful future, except that magazine apps have a minuscule market and the Internet is already Netflix enough for most news and entertainment consumers,” according to Hebbard.

Hebbard contends that Thompson got it wrong on the second part of his statement by not understanding the difference between a magazine (the entire title) and other content published online by the magazine’s brand.

It’s a good distinction, and one we agree with. We do give Thompson credit, though, for pointing out the miniscule market and consumer demand for digital titles, not simply digital content. Innovation in the digital magazine field has been slow, leading to lackluster appeal to consumers.

On this point, Hebbard agrees.

“I doubt readers truly are craving a Netflix experience for magazines, however,” Hebbard writes. “Many observers question whether readers, who read both print and digital magazines as a leisure time activity, want to consume vast numbers of magazines in the same way they binge view TV shows and films.”

He does bring up an interesting point, one that parallels much of the discussion surrounding Kindle’s book subscription experiment and whether or not it short-changes the creator of the content, in favor of the distributor.

“But my biggest objection to these subscription services is as a business,” Hebbard explains. “Building a Netflix for TV and films is difficult, requiring lots of negotiations with studios and networks. This is the barrier to entry. But with digital newsstands, the barrier to entry for a subscription service is practically nil. Magzter merely needs to send out an email to publishers asking if they want to participate and most publishers are more than happy to join in (such is the fear of being left out of a distribution platform today). These digital newsstands may successfully launch their monthly streaming services, but publishers are unlikely to find them terribly lucrative.”