The Magazine Encounters Classic Paywall Problem – Responds With New Subscription Options & New Paywall
The Magazine, the hot new digital magazine that pioneered the concept of subcompact publishing, has just updated its website with new subscription and sharing options. Marco Arment, founder of The Magazine and creator of Instapaper, announced the news on his blog earlier today.
Mr. Arment had always been planning to expand beyond The Magazine’s apps for iPad and iPhone, but after a recent story sparked a huge debate (and The Magazine was not integral to the discussion) he accelerated the time frame from "soon" to "now".
In early January The Magazine published a story titled, a hard-hitting look at why so many tech publications are so white bread (my words, not the author’s). If you follow tech journalism then you probably noticed the debate that article sparked in February, after the author posted it on his blog (something authors are allowed to do 30 days after publication in The Magazine).
I, for one, remember the swell of debate but hadn’t known that the story had originally been published in The Magazine.Needless to say, that is not a good thing for The Magazine.
One problem with paywalls is that locking content behind one makes a story harder to find and read. That makes it less likely to be shared, discussed, and debated. In the case of The Magazine, that article could only be read in the iOS app and if someone shared the article on a social network all that the recipient would be able to read would be an excerpt – a blurb, basically.
This particular problem has been evident since at least 2010, when Rupert Murdoch’s The Times broke a news story that no one read (Techdirt). Thanks to The Times' paywall the story wasn’t picked up elsewhere until another newspaper reported on it 9 days later, garnering all the credit and page views in the process.
That sound a lot like what happened to The Magazine, doesn’t it? I think so.
Mr. Arment has already changed The Magazine's website so visitors can now subscribe and read the articles. The app subscribers and web subscribers can also now share a link to a complete article. What’s more, visitors to the website won’t encounter the paywall until the they to read more than one new article for free in a given month. Considering that The Magazine only publishes a double handful of articles each month, that’s not unreasonable.
For more detail, check out the FAQ.
image by avinashkunnath