Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Will the ability to launch free tablet magazines put pricing pressure on paid pubs, especially inside Newsstand?

The one thing magazine and newspaper publishers hate to see when they visit their local newsstand (assuming they still have a local newsstand) is the presence of free publications. After all, won't buyers be tempted to grab a free publication rather than folk over real money for their own products?

The same issue arises when one considers Newsstand.

This morning I received notifications for new issues of several free magazines. While paid publications like The New Yorker and others reside in my own Newsstand app, I know there is plenty to read there already without having to pay for additional reading material.

In one short week I've already stocked my Newsstand with so much material that buying additional magazines or newspapers seems overkill.

This issue has faced print publishers worldwide for quite some time: too many publications, too much access. The rise of tablets only makes this situation worse. While the introduction of the iPad, and now iOS 5, allows for independent publishers to realize their dreams of less expensive publishing, as well as access to a international audience, many major media firms will find themselves with new challenges.

Distro, the new tablet magazine from Engadget, offers free issue inside Apple's iOS 5 Newsstand.

Of course, this is precisely what some in the publishing community feared, that magazine and newspaper publishers would face a new reality much like the music labels experienced with the launch of the iTunes stores. But could it be any other way? Was there really any way to avoid the march of the New Media platforms?

In only 18 months we have seen the creation of a whole new ecosystem of publishing with most of the big name publishing houses trying to find their way in the new environment – some enthusiastically, others haltingly. But there is still another universe out there made of other publishers, and pretty much the entire trade publishing industry, which is yet to even begin to launch mobile products, let alone tablet editions.

I think it may be safe to say that the new digital platforms may be more disruptive than even I envisioned – and I find that both exciting and more than a bit frightening.