A new era of all-you-can-eat digital press could be upon us soon with the launch of ‘Next Issue’ earlier this month in the US.
With most publishers looking increasingly at tablet editions as the future for their brands, 5 of the biggest publishers (Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., and Time Inc.) have come together to create this joint venture.
The publishers argue that despite the success of Apple’s Newstand in bringing magazine titles to the tablet audience, the experience still lags behind that of a physical newsstand in that readers cannot browse several titles easily and in fact need to download a separate app for each one.
Next Issue solves this problem with a single Newsstand app containing multiple titles. The idea is to get the reader to pay a monthly subscription allowing them access to all titles contained on the app (there are currently 32 titles). You can purchase individual issues or subscriptions, and there’s also a free 30-day trial for each subscriber. The catalogue begins with January of this year.
Encouragingly, subscriptions are cheap starting from as little as $1.99 up to $14.99 allowing you to dip in and out of various titles as little or as much as you like, much in the same way as film lovers use Netflix. Revenue is then distributed equally between publishers based on their readership.
Publishers are increasingly looking to tablet editions as a way of stabilising and ultimately increasing circulations, and this kind of concept represents a potentially huge opportunity to bring more readers into the market. iPad editions don’t appear to have cannibalised print editions so far which should encourage publishers to potentially sign up.
Although a groundbreaking idea, there are many obstacles to overcome before this could potentially enjoy the same success as its film counterparts in the UK.
Content and pricing will of course be critical to the success or failure of any launch. For an app such as this to work the major publishers will need to be on board with all the market-leading titles across the main sectors available. A competitive monthly rate would be essential to encourage potential users to spend more than they currently are on one title, make it too expensive and failure wouldn’t be too far away. Make it too cheap and you risk devaluing the print product irreparably. An introductory offer for the first 30 days or so would be a great way to entice people into trying the product, with the content and usability of the app hopefully hooking them into a subscription.
Getting publishers to collaborate and agree on revenue splits could be a potential stumbling block as they wouldn’t want their current subscription revenue compromised by any new venture. This would particularly be the case with national press publishers where there is little love lost between them.
Next Issue is also currently available only on Android but is due to launch in the next few weeks on Apple. For this to work in the UK it is essential that it work seamlessly for iPad users. A significant amount of marketing would also be needed to create awareness and educate potential users as to the advantages of the app. Getting publishers to commit to significant spend for this may also be another hurdle to overcome before any launch.
Whilst it remains to be seen whether publishers can make this work or whether there will be significant consumer appetite for this kind of product amongst UK consumers. However, it is without doubt a great innovation step for the Press and Magazine sector that will hopefully lift or stabilise circulations and revenues, as well as one that will definitely offer unique and valuable audience access.