Personal Subscriber Magazine (rerun)

(An unexpectedly late flight delays my return from vacation another day, thus I rerun one more posting from March 2005.)

I recently came across the fascinating notion of a “personal daily magazine.” Let me explain what is meant by the term and then stand it on its head, aiming it toward external audiences — to give small Web publishers an advertising vehicle to supplement the cash they earn from clicks.

First, credit where it is due. The idea for the personal daily magazine emanates from the Weblog bearing the name of Robin Good and edited by Luigi Canali de Rossi. I am not sure whether Robin Rood is a person, a pseudonym for Luigi, or a being from another planet sent to Earth to nudge humankind down a better path. In any event this site publishes notions that give me hope, such as the vision of the newsmaster, a professional of the future who filters and directs information toward the appropriate audience and is handsomely rewarded for this skill.

But I digress. This is about the personal daily magazine, which Robin Good explained thus: “What if I could have a nicely printed and bound daily personal magazine of everything critical that went though my computer each day?”

The posting went on to explain that this would be “a software/appliance that allowed me to check mark (or uncheck) any items that I did want to have in my daily magazine, and at the end of the day, printed out a nice, properly bound edition of my own interests, maybe with a good table of contents, and category dividers thrown in as a plus.”

I grasped the obvious benefit of such a bound volume last night as organized the scattered papers I’d brought home from work while trying to play a board game with my family ( Settlers of Catan for those of you who’ve already been hooked).

But let me return to the point. Though it would be helpful to have a utility such as Robin Good describes, it seems like a great deal of technology aimed at saving a few moments for a relatively few busy folks. What if instead we turned this personal magazine tool into a publishing engine, that allowed a small producer to create a low-cost, high-quality print vehicle for the convenience of the site’s viewers — dare I call them subscribers?

Here’s what I mean. The Web publisher could offer a utility that let viewers check articles or submissions that they would want to have sent to them, in print form, on say a monthly basis. It would come printed and bound as envisioned by Robin Good. (There are even hard-cover binding options that look like a million bucks but can be done in small runs and on the cheap.)

What would be the point? For the Web publisher to make money by selling print advertising that would be interspersed with the material selected by the user. In this way the publisher would offer advertising clients a coordinated campaign — inexpensive page-view advertising on the website, coordinated with more costly, but more information-laden print displays that would go into a printed volume which the customer has specifically requested. I am not a great salesman, but I think I could sell that combo.

Another point. I have moaned and groaned — and repeatedly I might add — about the erosion of paid subscriptions as a source of revenues and an affirmation of the value of content, so I will spare you a repetition of that lament.

Nevertheless, I believe Web publishers must create and enforce subscription mechanisms, so as to demonstrate that their work has value. And since I agree that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to make people pay for electronic information that they become conditioned to receive for free, why not offer them the convenience of storing and accessing their chosen content in printed form — while taking advantage of the fact that they are conditioned to pay for, rather than appropriate, printed materials.

Just a thought.

Tom Abate,
The MiniMediaGuy
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media

P.S. I was originally exposed to the idea of the personal daily magazine via Paid Content’s meme watch.