Paper not going away any time soon despite Zinio

When user comments range from ‘I’m embarrassed the future of magazines on my $499 ipad is shoddy enhanced PDFs’ and ‘Zinio is only a fair solution to reading on the go’ and hundreds of complaints about software functionality with one complaint reading ‘inability to access my already subscribed to library of magazines is a deal breaker’, it shows that Zinio is not all it’s cracked up to be.

My argument is that I don’t think Zinio is the future it is merely a convenient sometimes technologically faltering (based on user comments on the web)  alternative to a magazine experience that may work for the consumer under certain circumstances provided of course Zinio gets its act together.

But neither do I think the model will fail, it would continue to make profit based on its three revenue sources of subscription, distribution and production but it will be just another app.

In my view there was an element of hubris in the digital mavens’ voices of doom that abounded in the mid 1990s and beyond when they predicted the printed word would not survive.

Trends usually ebb and flow and fashion themselves on a pendulum action but throughout the digital era paper has continued to prevail and has done so for the past 2000 years.

This is based on the following data in the article

(1)Despite a 8% drop in advertising for both US and European magazine advertising between 2000-2003 revenues rebounded and in the US ad revenues even exceeded pre 2000 levels and posted a growth in 2005.  Even in Europe the ad revenues were beginning to see a slower (2%) yet definite upward trend.

(2)Magazine advertising is effective (see exhibit 3). Data suggests that it engages, it is considered valuable content, it moves readers to action, improves advertising ROI, is relevant and targeted, reaches the most desirable consumers, has a lasting impact, influences the influentials and is considered trustworthy and credible.


(a)Magazine advertising engages the reader as no digital advertising could. With samples of scents incorporated into the folds of its pages, with samples of hand creams stuck to pages the virtual experience will never substitute the physical experience. Perhaps the only exception was the old spice ad that was so innovative in its content and interesting and funny featuring Isaiah Mustafa that did so well on the net.

(b) According to data in Exhibit 3 across almost every demographic the top 25 magazines out deliver the top 25 TV shows.

(c ) A magazine in the home is one magazine to be looked at by all in the home, read many times over, mulled over lending itself to dedicated reading.  If you’ve forgotten something you can go back to it to find a time or place to acquire an advertised product.

On the internet there is information overload, hundreds of possibilities lie before you with a click of a button, why should you go to that particular magazine when you can be easily distracted by a thousand other similar products. Though the flipside to that is it is also easy to access information on a product and instantly c;lisk to follow up articles.

(d)But I do agree that the digital version of a magazine may work well with Music magazines where listening is a great part of the experience.

(3) Despite slight drops in circulation between 2000 – 2005, magazine titles increased from 17,815 titles in 2000 to 18,267 in 2005.

Note: From this group digital magazines had 1700 magazine titles and 3 million users in the US. That is 9.3% of all magazines in the US had digital versions while 90.7% of magazines were still being distributed on paper to 363.1 million (based on Exhibit 2) readers. Not only that trends were showing that Magazines were not experiencing the hit predicted but rather were seeing a gradual if slow upward trend in sales.

(4) Magazine Publishers of America (assuming that the data is based on empirical research and not biased)  claimed the popularity of reading was at an all time high compared to TV/computing and listening to music. MPA said 84% of those over 18 read magazines and spent an average of 44 minutes doing it.

NOTE: The counter to my argument of course would be Exhibit 11 that details consumer opinion about digital vs print.

Here it seems to run contrary to my argument and indeed the MPA’s that the advertising is more engaged with in magazines. For instance for advertising recalled after viewed digital scored 73% whereas print scored 68%. The association of advertising brands  also had a five percent difference in favour of digital.

But here’s the question. What were the methods of accumulating this data and who was interviewed. This data is taken from company documents and are based on feedback from consumers. Consumers of Zinio one presumes. Thus it is safe to say that they are already comfortable with the digital reading experience.

NOTE: There are millions out there who access the internet and still download and paperise digital content as they are more comfortable reading paper than screen.

For Zinio Spain I have two brief observations

(1) Only 34% have access to internet while 81.9% have access to mobile phones how many of this number are smart phones or compatible with digital magazine formats

(2) The Latin American market is indeed potentially lucrative. But how would you get around the payment and credit card issue which is a infrastructure and internal regulatory problem  that cannot be solved by Zinio.

Another  caveat to this exhibit is that there were only 5 million subscribers to digital magazines in 2006. It would be interesting to know how that figure has progressed into 2011.

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