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The American Magazine is Dead

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Interactive magazine

Well, maybe not dead but it isn’t feeling very well.

Magazine circulation has been declining for many years which means that magazines are caught in a downward spiral of smaller subscription revenue, rising costs for production, and lowered ad spend as advertisers increasingly move to the digital world.  In 2011, the average circulation for the Top 100 US magazines was down by 1.1%.  Like all averages, this figure is somewhat misleading.  The Ladies Home Journal lost 15.3% of their circulation while Car and Driver lost 7% of theirs.  Even AARP, the top magazine in the country dropped more than 5% of their circulation.  How this will play out is pretty clear – Newsweek recently announced that they will cease print publication at the end of the year and only offer an online version of their magazine.

So, perhaps digital replicas of magazines are the wave of the future?  Probably not since digital replicas of magazines currently account for only 1.7% of the overall circulation for the top 100 US magazines.

Publishers are trying various methods to create interest in their magazines and to boost subscription and advertising revenues.  Some publishers have developed websites with both free and gated content that is only available to subscribers.  Some magazines publish more interactive versions of their content for tablets or phones while others embed QR codes that lead viewers to rich media advertising.  None of these enhanced versions can be declared a clear winner – at least not yet.

But what if you could make the entire magazine interactive?  And this interactivity was only available to subscribers?  This is the approach taken by a start-up called NetPage.  Working with Esquire magazine they have, through the use of their “Digital Twin” technology, made the December issue of the magazine completely interactive.

Want to see more of Bradley Cooper?  Point your iPhone (sorry – no Android version yet) at the cover, click, and you get a short video of Mr. Cooper welcoming you to the magazine.  In the market for a new car?  Click on on the Lexus two page ad spread and you’ll soon be watching the latest Lexus commercial.  Need a new football?  Click on the football on page 95 and you’re taken to an order page for the item.

But it’s not all about shopping and e-commerce.  Suppose you want to send an article to a friend?  Unlike other apps where you need to painstakingly screen shot each page of an article, NetPage is able to look at the first page of an article and then send you a nice crisp PDF of the whole article that you can pass along to your friends.

And the platform appears to be very user-friendly.  NetPage’s “Digital Twin” technology serves images and videos from the cloud to your smart phone in near real-time.  Movement from the app to shopping sites happens quickly and sending out saved articles is seamless as well.  All of this presents digital marketers with a new opportunity for integrating and tracking online campaign and print advertising as NetPage doesn’t require digital watermarks or QR codes.

Will this save the American magazine?  Hard to tell since there are two barriers to entry: (1) having a valid subscription to a magazine and (2) downloading the app.  But this does make magazine content more shareable as well increasing the interactive experience for the user.   Since the world seems to be moving to a mobile platform this app is certainly an interesting approach to solving the two problems facing magazines: declining subscriber base and lowered ad revenues.

NetPage says more magazines will be using their technology in 2013 so it will be interesting to watch how quickly they are able to become ubiquitous in the magazine world.

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