The power of "all-you-can-read" models
What happens when the all-you-can-read content subscription model gains momentum? I'm talking about services like Next Issue, where I pay $15/month for access to 90+ magazines. If my experience is any indication I think we'll see some very interesting trends develop from this model.
I've been a Next Issue subscriber for several months now. When I started I still had a handful of active print subscriptions. Over the past few months though I've started letting every one of those lapse. Some of these magazines are in Next Issue, but, more importantly, a couple are not. IOW, I'm starting to let the service dictate which magazines I read, regardless of whether they're part of the all-you-can-read subscription. Why?
First of all, $15/month isn't exactly cheap. If I had the time (and interest) to read all the 90+ magazines I'd feel I'm getting a deal. But since I only care about 6-8 of them it's not that much of a bargain for me. That's $180/year for about seven magazines, or roughly $25 each. I could subscribe to several of those in print for much less than $25/year. The psychological impact is important here as every month I'm wondering if I'm getting my money's worth from Next Issue. Just as some people binge at the all-you-can-eat buffet, I find I'm trying to binge at the all-you-can-read magazine trough.
Next, there are only so many hours in a day. At first I seemed to balance my Next Issue reading time with my non-Next Issue magazine reading time. Now that a few more magazines I like have been added to Next Issue though, all of my magazine reading time is now dedicated to Next Issue.
It's gotten to the point where I don't really even care about a magazine if it's not part of this subscription service. So for me, Next Issue itself has become more powerful than the magazine brands Next Issue carries. Just as Comcast has long determined which TV networks I can watch, Next Issue is now dictating which magazines I read.
If I'm a typical consumer that means Next Issue has some pretty powerful leverage with the magazines that aren't yet part of their program. After all, those magazines can get some portion of that $15/month from me if they join Next Issue, or they can get 100% of nothing from me if they stay on the sidelines.
A service like Next Issue has the potential to become the primary pipe for magazine content consumption. It's not exclusive, of course, but I haven't found any other service like it. It's certainly caused a dramatic shift in my magazine subscription and reading patterns.
Joe, I don't fully agree with your analysis. The closest analogy I can think of to Next Issue is that of a neighborhood mall. Sure, it's a just a short drive away, but if the mall doesn't have the product you want either that day or as a norm, then you have no reason to shop there. You will go the store where the product you want is available. So, I think your premise that Next Issue will lead to substitution of consumer choice is exaggerated. Some consumers who are not brand loyal or particular about what they consume will surely behave the way your predict. But I don't think such a change in behavior will happen across the consumer spectrum.
Posted by: Sri | August 06, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Hi Sri. That's a fair point, but your local mall has all sorts of competitors, or at least mine does. There are stores closer to my house, many of which offer the same things I can find at the mall. IOW, the mall has serious competition. Right now, I don't see anyone else offering the package Next Issue offers. As long as that's the case I'd say the mall analogy doesn't match up so well here.
Posted by: Joe Wikert | August 07, 2013 at 09:13 AM