Micro magazines and a future of media
Does anyone read Time or Newsweek (being sold to anyone who will take them) any more? And when they disappear, who will really miss them?
The problem is that they are both slow and general. The world, on the other hand, is fast and specific.
Is there a business here?
While there are still people hoping to make a living writing a blog (not as a tool for something else, but as an end into itself), that's awfully difficult to do. Micro-magazines, on the other hand, feel very different to me. They have elements that make them very attractive to advertisers and readers.
I'll define one as:
- Being digital (probably a PDF), that's free to 'print', fast to make and easy to share. (Newsweek spends seventeen million dollars a year on paper.)
- Having subscribers, either by email or RSS
- Focused on issues that appeal to some, but not all
- Having a very specific audience (call it a tribe)
- Enabling that tribe to connect by sharing the ideas in the magazine among them, as well as supporting it with a forum or blog
- Containing ads that are relevant to that audience
- Being longer than 140 characters or even a blog post, so significant ideas can be exposed in detail
There's room in the market for 100,000 profitable micro-magazines. Why not have one about Aruba, for example? If all the people who vacation in Aruba could read about the island in detail every month, read about restaurants, resorts and politics, for free, in an easy to share format... Multiply this by every destination, every interest group, every type of profession (how about a micro-magazine for ethnobiologists?)
Surely you can think of a group of people that share a demo- or psychographic, that are appealing to an advertiser base and want to learn and share what they learn... for free.
Take a look at Clay and Ishita's new magazine, Fearless. It's jammed with good stuff, it's engaging and it begs to be shared. While the audience for Fearless isn't as vertical as some, it clearly should resonate with some advertisers, the sort that might pay for an ad in the soon to be irrelevant newsweeklies. And the big difference is that instead of paying for an office building and paper and overhead, the money for an ad in a micro-magazine can go directly to the people who write and promote it and the ad itself will be seen by exactly the right audience... (Aside: Newsweek has 427 employees and a guaranteed circulation of 1.5 million. Fearless will probably end up reaching 100,000 people with 2 employees.)
Don't expect overnight successes in this form of media, but certainly expect that once someone figures out how to be the voice of a tribe, the revenue will take care of itself.