Is a digital magazine worth more than a cup of coffee?

16/05/2013 — 4 Comments

Is a digital magazine worth more than a cup of coffee?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.

4 responses to Is a digital magazine worth more than a cup of coffee?

  1. It seems Zinio is reacting to the pressure they’re probably feeling from Next Issue. For $15 a month you can get all 80 of Zinio’s magazines which is similar in price to the $14.95 of Next Issue.

    You pose a question I’ve been wondering about since Next Issue’s inception though.. how much of the cut do the publishers get? 80 magazines a month for $15.. we’re talking a very small percentage of the cover price.

    Are magazines doing that badly that this would sound appealing to them?

  2. My instant knee-jerk reaction to this is:

    1. You’re right, it’s hard to come back from giving away content at this early stage of the game – but too many (most) magazines aren’t getting the digital sales they need to be sustainable today…so it’s kind of inevitable.

    2. Some digital magazines (PDF replicas for example) don’t seem to offer the value more than a cup of coffee. “I’m an iPad reader, I want interactive content – this experience is sub-standard.” Also, “there’s too much here, and I just wanted to read for an hour.”

    3. I think most readers find the digital reading experience throwaway. They want to ‘snack’ (hate that term but it works), not read 200 pages of in-depth content and wait 30 days for the next deluge. It’s suicide to sell 300 pages of content for $1.66, but why not sell 4 x 50 pages of content for $1.66 a piece. Or 30 x 10 pages for $0.20.

  3. David Hicks 21/05/2013 at 8:33 pm

    I really think it depends on just how good the coffee is…

    Plus, you cannot really compare the two things. One is a hot beverage, and the other is a curated work of editorial stories, bundled up into a downloadable package.

    The perceived value of a product is led by (a) market demand and (b) quality. The price that product is actually sold for is led by (a) profit margin and (b) perceived value.

    So, I’d say that in most cases, digital magazines are actually worth MORE than the price of a (decent) coffee, although the comparison is irrelevant.

    Now, back to the coffee… is it Columbian?

  4. Considering the massive popularity and acceptability that digital magazines are gaining, it is not wrong to say that eventually these will replace other forms of magazines. The prices at which digital magazines are now available are becoming more and more competitive but this was expected. I created my own magazine using http://www.presspadapp.com and I would suggest that you people take a look at this site too!

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