I’m not sure about Zinio’s new Z-Pass. It’s only available in the US at the moment, but from what I can make out, Z-Pass subscribers pay $5 a month to pick three magazines from a catalogue of 300 publications. If they decide they’ve had enough of one particular title, they can swap it for another. Sounds like a reasonable deal for readers, like a discount deal in fact. Like the kind of discount deal that torpedoed circulation revenues in print.
The Z-Pass concept sprung out of market research that identified price as a barrier to digital magazine adoption. So Zinio came up with what CEO Rusty Lewis described in Forbes as “… a price point they couldn’t resist.” To be more precise, $1.66 per magazine, or as Mr Lewis sees it “the price of a cup of coffee”.
I reckon it takes about 90 seconds to make a decent cup of coffee. Believe it or not, it takes way longer than that to make even the crappiest magazine. Yes there’s the whole “make it once sell it a gazillion times” thing, but, really! At a time when our industry is trying desperately to convince people that there’s a real value to content, comparing a magazine to a cup of coffee doesn’t strike me as particularly helpful.
“We’re not looking to make this a discount program,” says Lewis in the Forbes piece. “We’re looking to make this a value-added program.”
Sorry, but it doesn’t sound that way to me. I’m a fan of Zinio – they’ve been banging the digital magazine drum longer than anyone, and they do what they do very well. I also get the need to increase adoption rates for digital magazines. But we’ve been here already – start giving away your content just because you can and it’s a long road back to charging what it’s actually worth.