…magazine readers’ habits have changed.
It’s been a while since we looked at the future of magazine publishing. In a recent article in Toronto’s The Globe and Mail newspaper, contributor Navneet Alang writes a critique of a new app called Next Issue Canada (available as simply Next Issue in the US) that promises to deliver dozens of magazines to the user’s device for one low monthly fee. It bills itself as “the Netflix for magazines.”
Alang is very insightful when he says that the problem is not getting access to dozens of magazines every month—it’s filtering through all the thousands of magazines out there to find the best articles and sort the wheat from the chaff. Alang notes that magazine readers’ habits have changed. They’re no longer loyal to a certain number of publications, but rather read more “promiscuously,” grabbing select content from a much wider variety of publications.
This is basically what news aggregators have been doing for years, such as those offered by Yahoo! and Google—searching the web for the top news stories, including stories their algorithms say you’ll like, as well stories on topics you’ve selected, and placing them onto one web page.
Netflix, while making hundreds or thousands of movies available, uses algorithms to determine what movies it thinks its customers would like to see and suggests them. Alang points out that the Next Issue app doesn’t even attempt to address this.
It’s true that consumers don’t want a dozen periodicals stuffed into their digital inbox, so to speak. What they want is someone or something to filter out the junk and offer up the best or most popular articles, to save them the time of having to sort through letters to the publisher and other content that doesn’t interest them. And that probably includes a lot of the advertising.
The future of magazines, if consumers get their way, won’t be the monthly publication of a monolithic edition. That notion may become as quaint as the idea of publishing a set of encyclopedias. However, it remains to be seen if magazine publishers, who rely on circulation statistics to sell ads, and advertisers, who rely on circulation statistics to know where to advertise, can change.
What consumers want is good content from a variety of sources assembled into one place. Magazine publishers need to learn to publish articles as they’re ready, and not held up so they can be bound together with other articles and released to the public in an “issue.” A change of paradigm? You bet. But maybe it’s time magazine publishers stop viewing themselves as creators of monthly bound editions (either bound with glue or electrons), and instead view themselves as creators of quality, timely and easily aggregatable content.