Many digital publishers are struggling to scrape by in an era when banner ads trade for pennies and social networks control distribution.
Maybe it’s time for magazines to make a comeback?
That’s been the bet at Issuu, a company that has been helping entreprenuers publish digital magazines for over a decade. Now Issuu is rolling out a new product via which these publishers can charge readers for digital subscriptions.
According to Issuu CEO Joe Hyrkin, there are now 35 million indy publications using Issuu’s free tools, which let creators put togther slick magazines on niche topics ranging from craft brewing to knitting to cycling.
In aggregate, these ‘digi-zines’ reach 100 million unique readers each a month globally who consume close to a billion pages of content, Hyrkin said. Issuu pulls in revenue from selling some publishers premium tools and services.
To date, Issuu publications could make money from selling ads or weaving e-commerce into their magazines. But now, they can sell individual issues or monthly subscriptions at the price of their chosing.
You might ask, why the magazine format? Wasn’t the rise of the blogosphere supposed to enable these kind of narrow publishers?
“I think its an indictment of that system, meaning digital ads, programmatic,” said Hyrkin. “Blogs are often one page, and are random in terms of cadence. Consumers don’t know when or where content is coming from.”
Meanwhile, he argues that in a news feed, sea-of-headlines digital media era, magazine-style packaging still has an appeal.
“A collection, a curated body of work is muchmore interesting,” said Hyrkin. “And five years ago, if you wanted to do a publication like this, you had to get get blessed by [legendary Vogue editor] Anna Wintour. Now, if you are a fashion publisher today, you have access to a set of digital tools to put together a world class digital publication.”
For example, one breakout Issuu publication is Sweet Paul, a Brooklyn-based food and crafting magazine that was born out of a blog founded in 2007 by Paul Lowe, a traditional publishing veteran, and his partner Paul Vitale.
Started as a side project, it evolved into a full time job for both Pauls , and eventually led to a deal to print and distribute copies of the digital magazine with the retailer Anthropologie.
“We’ve been building an audience that is young and tech savvy,” said Vitale. And the Issuu platform provides “the ability to have so much control.”
“We’ve lost a lot of big magazines over the past couple of years,” he added. “I think there’s a lot of room for magazines like ours. You can have a really small team. And you don’t have to lay people off because we lost an ad.”