There is a lot of talk about how the iPad will be the savior of magazine publishing. The thought is that the iPad’s use as an eReader, combined with its accompanying content store, will revitalize the fading periodical industry. The implicit strategy is to get people to pay for online content. If periodicals can convince readers to buy subscriptions on the iPad, they can also require similar subscriptions on their website.
The music industry placed similar hopes in the hands of Apple with the iTunes store. It didn't work out for them and it's not going to work out for print. Instead of placing their hopes in a consumer electronics company, they need to look to a company that figured out the publishing industry’s business model years ago; LexisNexis.
Asking someone to decide between an online subscription to the New York Times and the Washington Post is an absurd choice. Years ago all news was pushed to readers by a single newspaper. People didn't need to read about the same story from two different papers, nor did they have the time. With the Internet, readers are pushed news by many sources (Twitter, Facebook, feed-reader, email), and they pull news from search engines and browsing. Given these various channels, choosing a content source to subscribe to becomes impossible. At any given moment a person can be sent an article from thousands of publications. Without p
rior knowledge of where they will receive their content from, how can they decide which publication they should subscribe to?
What happens when a story breaks in real-time on the Washington Post, but I subscribe to the New York Times? What happens when someone shares an article with me on a publication that I don't subscribe to? What happens when I do a search for a topic and the top result is for a magazine I don't pay to access? These are all common use cases and in each, the concept of paying for a single source of content breaks down. The only logical way to move forward is to charge people for a better quality experience than the one they are currently comfortable with. I’ve said this before; people are willing to pay for content, but it has to be instant, unlimited, comprehensive, and organized.
For the periodical industry, this means one-fee to access to all content across magazines and newspapers. LexisNexis has been offering this to libraries for years and now it's time to bring that service to consumers. The library is charged a single fee to access the digital version of thousands of publications. Doesn't that make more sense for everyone?
Apple will eventually offer this for both publishing and music, but nothing is stopping these industries from acting now. Maybe LexisNexis will step up to be publishing’s killer app.