What we're doing now doesn't work.
The launch of the iPad renewed hopes among "old media" loyalists that some sort of future existed for classic-style newspapers and magazines. These people have mostly looked to two publications when imagining the future of 'print'. The Wired app was the first magazine/iPad crossover to generate buzz. It launched to great fanfare...and then saw sales die down as soon as the hype did. The Daily- Rupert Murdoch's stab at the paywalled newsroom of the future- is also bleeding readers.
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Today's customers don't want to buy a magazine off the newstand and they aren't keen on paying a regular feet to download one either. The Wired app is too expensive to draw buyers back every week, and The Daily just isn't interesting enough to justify the cost. We don't like the idea of buying a magazine- forever- that we'll read once and then delete.
So what is the answer for publishers? Apps like PressReader and Zinio seem to be closer to right, but they still aren't raking in readers. All we've seen so far have been stop-gaps and desperate ploys to "modernize" without actually adapting to the new rules of a digital world.
If Big Content wants their magazines and newspapers to pull a profit again, they need to turn their eyes to a service like Netflix. Consumers may not like paying once to own content, but they've proven very willing to subscribe to services that offer a never-ending carousel of content. There's no Buyer's Remorse with a service like Netflix. If you don't like what you're watching, there's plenty of other stuff to stream.
Imagine if you could pay $10-$15 per month to have access to the daily editions of hundreds of newspapers, or the latest issue of any magazine that crosses your mind. Yes, publishers would need to get used to running with lower profit margins than they'd like. But those margins are going to get thinner every year unless the industry finds some way to meet the digital age head on.