Forget me (not)

Last month, PandoDaily's Hamish McKenzie asked "Who hates Jony Ive's iOS7?" His answer: "Publishers, that's who".

McKenzie picked up on a claim by Glenn Fleishman, editor and now owner of The Magazine. The digital periodical got off to a fast start in October 2012, but it has recently begun to lose subscribers. Fleishman claims his magazine is being hurt by changes to the Newsstand app.

If you're not familiar with the most recent version of Apple's iOS platform, the update changed the Newsstand app's appearance from " a bookshelf hosting a row of magazine covers" to "a diagrammatic representation of generic magazine covers." Users can also now nest Newsstand inside another folder, something not possible with earlier versions.

As a result, Fleishman is concerned that "readers might be forgetting that his publication even exists."

I can see why that might be a problem, but I'm sure I wouldn't be blaming Apple for it. Digital formats make it much easier to create and distribute content, but they don't naturally solve a marketing challenge. Go to a physical newsstand and spend some time trying to pick out an interesting title. The nature of the display may play a part, but title design and content (particularly on the cover) determine what gets bought.

More than that, what gets bought doesn't always get read. I subscribe to two dozen print periodicals, and it won't surprise you that I don't read every issue cover-to-cover. The titles that get me to spend at least some time with an issue are the ones that I renew. Relevance is not a new problem. Neither is limited time.

The Magazine launched with a promise to create a limited amount of content every couple of weeks, distributing it primarily through third-party platforms (Apple's iOS, Amazon's Kindle) that took care of financial transactions. Within iOS, users can be notified when a new issue is available (a red number sits on top of the app that has updated content). It's not subtle.

People who bought an annual subscription to The Magazine in October or November 2012 had a chance to renew this fall. Those that were not engaged by the content are less likely to pay for another year. It's easy to say "They forgot the issue was there", but that still begs the question. How sticky is content that will only be consumed if it is spoon-fed to a subscriber?

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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