News from Marketing magazine today that UK retail giant ASDA has opened a digital download magazine store, powered by John Menzies Digital.
Sounds interesting, so what’s going on in the digital magazine distribution space?
A bit of a dig around yields some slightly surprising (to me) observations…
- Digital versions of magazines are sold for the same price as they are off the news-stand. You would have thought this would severely limit the market potential for the digital distribution channel. Clearly some people will enjoy the freedom of being able to access their favourite mag’s content from the comfort of their laptop, but most consumers will surely expect publishers to pass on savings in print and distribution costs.
- The Asda site is as basic a re-skin of the John Menzies site as you could possibly get. In what way does this add value to Asda’s proposition? Why bother?
There’s a press release dated June ‘08 from John Menzies and WHSmith on the e-consultancy site, which says a similar partnership is in place betweeen JM and WHS as the Asda deal, but the WHS emagazines site referred to in the press release doesn’t seem to be live…
All in all, I’d say that while it’s great to see traditional businesses trying to get to grips with the digital re-engineering of their markets, they should be a bit braver in their attempts to grasp the future. Protecting the cover price of the print magazine is understandable, but is not the way to create new revenue streams or markets; or (in all probability) to protect existing ones.
There are plenty of examples of how to transition magazine publishing business models more or less successfully (from the likes of NME / Smash Hits etc.), but while publishers have been forced to get to grips with shifting revenue models, it seems that retail/distribution businesses have not yet felt the full force of digital pain.