Thursday, April 05, 2012

Why Conde Nast, Hearst, Time Inc, Meredith and News Corp may be about to fail

Next Issue Media, an online store for magazines that challenges Apple's Newsstand, is about to launch.

It's a joint venture between Conde Nast, Hearst, Time Inc, Meredith and News Corp, so there's some serious firepower behind it, but an article in suggests that there may be some fundamental misunderstanding of the market.

In a piece entitled A Netflix For Digital Magazine Subscriptions. Will It Work?, Jeff Bercovici looks behind the scenes and asks CEO Morgan Guenther about the new service. One of the things Guenther says suggests the answer to Bercovici's rhetorical headline may be "No".

Guenther spouts the expected guff about innovation and customer benefits but – for me – gives the game away when he justifies launching with a fairly limited selection of top-selling titles from the group of publishers, titles from the 'short, fat part of the curve rather than the long-tail niche properties ... “These are the titles people care about,” he says. “They aren’t Arctic Birdwatching magazine.”'

If Guenther does not understand that (hypothetical) readers of Arctic Birdwatching are more likely to care passionately and deeply about their magazine than any given reader of a mass circulation title, then he simply does not understand magazines.

It's a classic mistake, one that nearly everyone outside the magazine industry makes.

The other thing Guenther and all the companies involved should be concerned about is the fact that Android users generally do not like to pay for stuff they see on their phones or tablets – that's why they buy Android-powered devices rather than an iPhone or iPad.

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