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2 Jun

Monocle Magazine

I just got home with my weekend’s media consumption. Saturday’s Guardian (easily better than any of the ‘Sundays’) and the latest issue of Monocle magazine.

Monocle is excellent, but at £5 for just a mag, it’s on the pricey side. Always looking for ways to cut costs I just checked the subs online.

Ten issues? £75.

A bit of quick math… 10 x £5 = £50

Ok. So that’s £25 more to be a subscriber. No wait, they offer “exclusive access to information on monocle.com Written and reported by our international team of correspondents, it will offer mini-documentaries, bulletins and our 25/25 guide series detailing the best places to eat, shop and sleep in the world’s leading business cities and resorts.”

Right, so there is no saving for subscribing, in fact there is a £25 premium for which you get some exclusive web-content. Looking at the admittedly stylish website, I can see nothing I would be prepared to pay for. I know they have great writers and a global network of offices, but subscription content online is a very difficult model to make succeed.

Many of The New York Times’ columnists have bitched about their dwindling audiences since the paper set up Select, its premium access service. The two outlets that have mastered premium content are The Financial Times and The Economist, both of which target an affluent business readership who can’t afford to out of the loop. Maybe this is the target readership of Monocle, but I feel they should still offer a discount subscription (after all, The Economist is cheaper to subscribers) to those who just want the print issue and aren’t interested in premium online content.

Last year I wrote about this very subject: –

This is the problem with ‘old media’ organizations getting involved in an entirely new medium. The Times is obviously, like all US newspapers, losing circulation to the net, and is looking to maintain revenue levels and protect the integrity of the print version, by charging readers. But the reality is: if newspapers wish to evolve and survive online, they must raise revenue indirectly (i.e. through ads) without charging for content. Of course the drop in revenue will piss off shareholders, but I wonder how the shareholders of Kodak felt when the digital camera came along. Pretty pissed off? You bet. But Kodak re-geared its business and is now a digital media company, having dropped its traditional film developing business. Kodak should be an example for ailing newspapers looking to evolve.

I genuinely love Monocle. It’s easly my favourite magazine. But they have chosen a very risky business model, and I’d hate for the venture to fold simply because it can’t get the numbers it needs. If you’re going to charge for online content then you have to do it from day-one, no one is going to pay for something that was free yesterday, but why should you pay at all? Don’t get me wrong, I doth my cap to Tyler Brûlé’s proven ability, but very few people are going to subscribe to more than a handful of sites, so advertising alone has to be the best way of increasing circulation and revenues. Doesn’t it?

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