No-growth scenarios

In the past, I have been skeptical about demand for the "all you can read" subscription service offered by Next Issue Media. It debuted last year in the United States, where readers can access a cross-section of monthly titles for $9.99 a month and an additional set of weekly titles for $14.99 a month.

In Canada, Rogers Media recently announced that it had partnered with and invested in a Canadian version of Next Issue Media. The service went live in Canada on October 15, with access initially provided to Rogers' cable customers. A wider rollout is expected later this year.

The Canadian offer includes many of the titles available in the United States, along with Rogers' publications. The subscription price points are the same. As the Canadian version was announced, a senior executive at Next Issue Media made a somewhat pointed argument for the new service:

“We aren’t competing with other digital magazines,” Morgan Guenther, chief executive officer of Palo Alto-based Next Issue Media, said in an interview. “We are competing for a share of leisure time against Netflix, against Google, against Amazon. We are competing for the last $10 of wallet share that is out there.”

To date, demand for digital versions of Canadian titles has been limited. In his Globe and Mail report, Steve Ladurantaye observed:

Digital editions are likely to play a key role in any transformation, but they are yet to be widely adopted by Canadian readers. Maclean’s has the third-largest digital edition subscription rate with 5,600 subscribers compared to a print circulation of 313,007 (Canadian House and Home leads the industry with 11,000 followed by Readers Digest at 6,700).

As it announced the Canadian service, Rogers itself was said to be looking to save money on production and distribution expenses while pursuing workflow efficiencies.

Maybe Next Issue will offer enough of a catalyst to push digital penetration for a weekly like Maclean's past 2%. For its part, Rogers claims to have invested "eight figures" in the new venture. Still, talk of cost containment and "competing for the last $10 of wallet share" doesn't suggest that future of periodical publishing in Canada includes much of a growth scenario.

A bit of disclosure: I've consulted with Rogers Media, an assignment that was completed in 2009. All of the information contained in this post is derived from public sources.

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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