Interesting initiative profiled by Jeff Bercovici at Portfolio, apparently Time Inc is pushing out a membership service that will allow you to pay a monthly rate for a commutable array of magazines to receive. The service is called Maghound:
"Look at TiVo, iTunes, Netflix," Dave Ventresca, president of Maghound Enterprises, says. "They have raised consumer expectations of how much control they should have over their media choices. We haven't seen that kind of innovation in the magazine space. Sending seven or eight renewal notices in the mail and saying 'Time to write a check'—that seems like an antiquated way to do things."
From the consumer's perspective, Maghound will work like this: You choose how many magazines you want to receive each month—three for $4.95, five for $7.95, seven for $9.95, and a dollar each above that. All issues published by those magazines will be sent to you that month.
It's the sort of idea that makes you light up when you hear it -- I can read any magazine I want! -- but upon marination you wonder if mags translate the same way as movies, television or music on demand. On Jeff's related Mixed Media blog post, a commenter makes the good point that there's an inherent desire for variation in movies, tv etc, but the subscription model has lasted this long because people choose a magazine based on a common topic, sensibility, style etc.
That said, plenty of people would subscribe to Judd Apatow movies, or Spike Lee films, or anything with Angelina Jolie in it.
But there are other issues: Jeff raises the wrinkle of content previews. And of course there's this whole internet thingamajiggy, i.e. more and more magazine content can be found online.
It's a good idea (apparently in the works for years), but I wonder if it has enough upside for a company like Time Inc. I don't think mags on-demand get to the heart of what's going on with the shrinking margins and circulation numbers.
I'll be interested to see what happens though, because if it works then mags may have saved themselves, and if not then it might be the official notarized certification that the old model is dead and it's time to move on.
Will This Hound Hunt? [Portfolio]