Much has been made in the last few years about the death of paid content and how the traditional publishing industry is in a bit of a bind in today’s web connected and increasingly mobile world. I’ve long felt that the rumors of the death of paid content have been greatly exaggerated and that seems to be the case as we have (just in the last few weeks) seen some heartening numbers from the NYTimes who are seeing some success its new ‘paywall’, which might accurately be described as a freemium model for content. I think that’s great. We need publications like the NYTimes and other established journals as much today as ever. Still, it’s hard not to notice all the magazines that are no longer on store shelves; anyone else remember Nintendo Power? To be sure, magazines have been hit the hardest in the web and mobile revolutions but there does seem to be a glimmer of hope: Marco Arment’s The Magazine.
Arment’s magazine is a bit unusual when compared to most iOS Newsstand magazines in that it attempts to make all of its revenue directly from readers and takes open submissions from the wider community for content. Content is not exclusively licensed to the publication. Think about that for a second; that means that authors are likely to republish content they’ve submitted to The Magazine on their own blogs or other publications.
Now, this might sound crazy. Sure the subscription is only four dollars a month but, assuming all or most of the content will ultimately be free, why would anyone purchase the subscription? Curation. Curation is key here. This is something that I feel most publications have forgotten how to do when the scrambled to move to mobile devices in an attempt to salvage their business model. Think about curation is what separates such high brow publications as The New Yorker from ‘popular’ publications. Arment seems to be one of the only really innovative players in the space to embrace a more traditional role as Editor-in-Chief in this digital age and hope he keeps his exacting standards.
This wouldn’t be a fair look at the publication (app?) if I didn’t mention some concerns I have. Arment is brilliant guy, but he’s also a bit snobby. This less than flattering trait can occasionally be seen on his (usually excellent) podcast “Build and Analyze”. Still, when he’s not criticising consumer household products for lacking something akin to Sir Ive’s design sense, he shares his often insightful views on the mobile development space. Hopefully, Arment will stay on the tech and coffee (I share his love of odd blends) side of things and leave the poor folks at Home Depot alone.
The Magazine has a free trial and is a must read in my book.