I wanted to write about the week of layoffs in the newspaper world, but Mark Potts summed it up well on his site Recovering Journalist: This has been a particularly rough week for the newspaper industry, whose decline seems to be gathering speed.... Total: Roughly 900 jobs eliminated just this week (and the week ain't over).
Of note: the Palm Beach Post is cutting 130 newsroom jobs, or approximately 40% of its reporting staff. You can argue the whys -- it's a combination of a changing marketplace and executive mismanagement in varying proportions -- but there's no way that the Post can spin that as cutting fat; it's cutting bone and limbs.
More interesting (and, I suspect, doomed) is a new concept called Maghound -- something that Folio is calling a "Netflix-style service for magazines." It launches in September, and here's how it's supposed to work:
This has been a particularly rough week for the newspaper industry, whose decline seems to be gathering speed....
Total: Roughly 900 jobs eliminated just this week (and the week ain't over).
Maghound.com allows consumers to choose titles from a variety of publishers for a mix-and-match “subscriptions” where they pay one monthly fee and have the ability to switch titles at any time. Unlike traditional subscriptions, members aren’t locked in their memberships and can cancel whenever they wish....
The pricing for a membership is tiered—three titles for $3.95 per month, five titles for $7.95, seven titles for $9.95, and $1 per title for eight titles or more.
The site isn't fully functional yet, but it sounds like the people behind Maghound expect customers to sign on to the website and futz around with their subscriptions, Netflix-style. Queues are great for online rental of DVDs, but can you imagine anyone dinking around on a magazine site -- "Oh, I think I'll take a couple of issues of Motor Trend, then next month switch over to Esquire for an issue or two. Might as well try one issue of Brides while I'm at it, and I think I'll swap out Cargo for Food & Wine."?
The whole point of magazine subscriptions is the set-it-and-forget-it model, which is why they always try to entice readers with steeply discounted 2- and 3-year plans. Magazine subscriptions are cheap enough already -- I can get a year of nearly any men's magazine for around $6 or $8, or a 52-week subscription to The New Yorker or Entertainment Weekly for about $25. (This morning I got an offer for 48 issues of New York for $12.99.) And if I want a single copy of a title, I'll pick it up at a newsstand or bookstore and get immediate gratification. Who wants to sign onto a website and dink around with an account just for one issue?
Then there's the customer-service aspect. Do the Maghound people really want to deal with angry customers emailing complaints like "I wanted the Tim McGraw issue of Redbook, and you sent the LeAnn Rimes! And you sent the November Better Homes & Gardens when all I wanted was Halloween recipes!"
I give them credit for trying something new, but people want things to make their lives both richer and less complicated. The current round of newspaper cuts will do nothing to make anyone's lives richer, and something like Maghound promises nothing but complications.