There are two ways that digital magazines and ebooks are working their way into the marketplace. From the bottom, it’s consumers voting with their wallets; every Kindle that’s purchased, every NOOK app downloaded, and every ebook zooming through the interwebs all boost the adoption of digital reading. From the top down, it’s changes in management. B&N is struggling, yes, but look at how many devices and changes they’ve made to the ebook market since William Lynch became CEO. Previously, Lynch was the president of BN.com, and his experience with the internet has translated to a strong ebook strategy as CEO.
Along those same lines, I have a lot of hope that we’ll see changes in digital magazines with the newly appointed CEO of Time, Inc, Laura Lang. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lang comes from Digitas, the internet ad firm. Essentially, she’s someone who is more likely to embrace Zinio, NOOK, Amazon, and Apple’s newstand.
The WSJ is indicating that’s exactly why Time switched CEOs:
Mr. Kenny adds Ms. Lang will be able to help Time Inc. monetize its content beyond the traditional ad pages since her time at Digitas included figuring out how people were consuming content online. Such consumer insights helped American Express, one of the clients that Ms. Lang was closest to, do more marketing online, he says.
“Lang pushed the envelope in having digital agencies play a bigger roller in the media business,” says Michael Kassan, chief executive officer of MediaLink, a media and ad consulting firm. Mr. Kassan points out that Digitas began putting on an annual conference dubbed “The NewFront” that brings together content producers, advertisers and media executives. Past attendees included Martha Stewart, Ben Silverman and Michael Eisner.
Time’s new CEO has her work cut out for her, and I hope she is able to really push digital magazines to the same levels as ebooks! Time has such a huge portfolio of magazines that if they really make changes so will other publishers. Here’s my wish list for what I would love to see changed:
1) Better pricing. Occasionally eMagazines have sales, but paper magazines regularly offer crazy deals like a year for $9.99. At that point, paying $1.00-$2.00 per issue for an eMag is just madness.
2) Bite the bullet and team up with Amazon and B&N. Slowly but surely more periodicals have been creeping into ebook apps, but that’s a drizzle when we need a downpour. NOOK an Kindle apps are where many consumers are heading for their books, and while separate apps like Zinio and Apple’s newsstand are nice, they’re still separate apps. Hitch a ride where the growth is, and that’s in ebook platforms. Bonus: tie-in books to Sports Illustrated and Time Life can be sold easily alongside magazines!
3) Advertise!!! With a CEO from the ad industry this is probably a given, but seriously, aside from Amazon and B&N bragging about their platforms’ periodicals library no one is talking about magazines in e-form. People know they exist, but they need to know that their specific favorite magazine is digital. And I am not talking ads in the print version of the magazine; I mean banner ads on related sites, commercials on Pandora, etc. Places where the consumer who might snap up a digital magazine would notice and care.
4) Come up with a universal subscription plan. This is a bit more of a pipe dream, but what would be perfect is if magazine subscriptions worked like Pandora, Netflix, Hulu and others where the membership is portable and across multiple platforms. Zinio is a good stopgap, but it would still require some juggling to get everyone on board. Sadly, that’s probably not likely, but more realistic is offering some digital perks for subscribing. Maybe free web access to articles, access to back issues, special deals on merchandise related to the magazine content, all of these things are totally doable. Not only would they lure paper subscribers to digital platforms, they offer incentives to bring in non-subscribers, which means more growth!
That’s my wish list for what I hope Laura Lang brings to Time, Inc. What’s yours? Are you already a fan of Time’s various magazines, or do they need to work harder to get your hard earned cash?