Is Netflix the model for future magazine consumption? Some magazine publishers seem to think so, and are rolling out a bundled subscription package that includes titles from Conde Nast, Rogers Media, Hearst, Meredith, Newscorp and Time Inc.
The Next Issue venture will offer a one-price bundled product, aimed to increase readership of digital editions, according to this article in The Globe and Mail.
It’s a bad idea, for at least these two reasons:
Too Much Content, Too Little Value
Bundling so many well-known and well-read titles into one package not only cuts digital revenue potential for individual titles, it also devalues the title and ultimately will result in less time spent reading any particular title.
If, as the article states, “The average American user has 30 digital titles in their monthly library, and spends up to five hours a month reading them,” that’s around 10 minutes per title now. Add in these new titles and the time goes down even more.
And with digital tracking, advertisers will be able to see exactly what those readers are consuming. They aren’t likely to find a brief minute spend here and there to be of much value compared to a print magazine edition or even a stand-alone digital title. Magazine advertisers need engagement, and this model is just not designed to deliver it.
The Balance is Seriously out of Whack
The publishers “hope to create a model that eliminates many of the costs associated with printing and distributing weekly and monthly magazines, while at the same time increasing readership.”
That’s not likely, and not sustainable given the slow and low digital adoption rates of their existing readership.
According to the article, Maclean’s has the third-largest digital edition subscription rate. With 5,600 subscribers and a print circulation of 313,000 only 2% of their entire readership is digital. This is hardly enough to make a difference in anyone’s revenue stream. Staking a new digital business model on a tiny fraction of your readership is a fool’s gamble at best.
Bundling magazines into so much consumable content does a disservice to the publishers, their readers and their advertisers.