In October 2012, Marco Arment, of Instapaper fame, launched an iOS Newsstand app named The Magazine. This month, Jim Dalrymple, renowned reporter on all things related to Apple, launched an iOS Newsstand app named The Loop. Folks, we officially have a trend.
What is that trend? Quite simply, it is the trend of creating 'magazine-like' experiences that are accessible via mobile apps and/or the web and are targeted at comparatively small (yet loyal) audiences. Why is this a successful model? Remember, News Corp had to shut down its iPad-delivered magazine called The Daily because its business model was not sustainable. Marco Arment, in his blog post announcing The Magazine, describes how this model works:
There’s room for another category between individuals and major publishers, and that’s where The Magazine sits. It’s a multi-author, truly modern digital magazine that can appeal to an audience bigger than a niche but smaller than the readership of The New York Times. This is what a modern magazine can be, not a 300 MB stack of static page images laid out manually by 100 people.
From a business model perspective, magazines such as The Magazine and The Loop can provide an experience that meets the needs of its readers with a much lower cost base than is typical for traditional magazines. The implication of a lower cost base is that the 'break even' or profitability point for these magazines is also lower. The Magazine and The Loop don't need to have millions of subscribers to be profitable; they can probably be nicely profitable with a subscriber base that numbers in the tens of thousands.
It's worth noting that an incentive for subscribers to continue subscribing is the fact that The Magazine and The Loop deliver excellently curated articles in an attractive package (in the case of the iOS Newsstand apps). The content curation is a large selling point. People subscribe to these magazines, at least initially, because they trust the opinions of Arment and Dalrymple. Of course, subscribers continue to subscribe based on their continued interest in the content. The monthly payment nature of these magazines acts as an incentive for their publishers to continue to deliver excellent content.
Will micropublications such as The Magazine and The Loop prove to be the future of magazine publication? Time will tell, folks.