magazineGigaOM had a neat little story in today’s Morning Links which merits some further attention. The story discusses why ‘Spotify or Netflix for print content is probably doomed’ and Matthew Ingram has his to say:

“Another big flaw with the “Netflix for magazines” model is that it tends to see the magazine itself as the most important thing, despite the fact that in the current media environment — a world in which social sharing is rapidly becoming the most important tool for discovery — the article has arguably become the atomic unit of content. It’s as though iTunes or Spotify forced you to navigate by album instead of by song.”

I must say, I wholeheartedly agree. I recall that last year, I had predicted that ‘Netflix for magazines’ would be big, and it wasn’t. I concluded that my mistake had been in the unspoken assumption that people cared about magazines enough to improve the model for them. I found this was not true.

On an anecdotal level, I have two examples. The first is my own experience with a trial subscription of NextIssue. I found, as Ingram notes in his article, that the model was burdened by slow and bulky PDF-esque content. Even when I tried to cache a magazine to view offline, it still took forever to load the darned things while I was reading them. I got tired of having my reading be constantly interrupted by screen refreshes that seemed to last forever. If the reading pace could be a little technologically brisker, I actually might have enjoyed the service; I did used to like magazines. But it just isn’t here, as a reading experience, and they are going to lose their whole audience to boredom before they get it there.

And then there is the Beloved and his baseball magazines. There is one he used to buy which had all the stats on his card collecting hobby. He bought it every other month, to save money. And then he found that you could buy access to a website which had all this information, and it cost about as much as he was spending for the magazine—but you could log in at any time and see the latest up-to-date information, He cared more about the content than he did about the container of the magazine. When the information could be liberated from that constrained every month or two cycle, he was happy to dispense with the rest of the magazine’s features.

I still do miss the magazine sometimes. I enjoyed those glossy fitness magazines with the tear-out charts of yoga plans and new little exercise routines. I did enjoy the experience of browsing through the magazine. But I don’t have the space in my house for all the paper, nor the budget to buy each issue individually. And when I tried the all-you-can read digital subscription version, I found it lacking. So, I have adapted. I get my news via blogs and RSS feeds, and I get my new yoga routine fix via YouTube. It turns out I didn’t really ‘need’ the container of the magazine either.

And that is the problem, in a nutshell. It’s not that the magazine model needs to be ‘improved’ in order to be successful. It’s that people need to care about magazines. And my sense is, they don’t anymore.

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. I still like magazines, I just get them from Amazon and Zinio. Our large metro library also has a contract with Zinio where I can checkout and add issues to my Zinio account and they never expire. I’m also able to share them with everyone else on my account without piles of paper building up in my house.

    They make for light reading when I’m not in the mood for a novel or non-fiction.

    Some are great about the digital format with links to active content, a few others don’t display quite correctly but are still readable.

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