Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Barnes & Noble Sells Magazine Subscriptions

Didn't Prodigy do this once? No matter, B&N announced yesterday that they are offering magazine subscriptions and will offer a digital service that enables users to buy old single copy editions. B&N is partnering with Zinio to offer the service which is the same service B&N has used to offer digital book content for preview on the B&N website. From their press release: will sell subscriptions to over 1,000 magazine titles, available in both digital and print formats, at prices up to ninety percent off newsstand cover
prices. Digital subscriptions will be available within minutes of purchase for viewing on desktops and laptops. In addition, more than 12,000 back issues of hundreds of magazine titles will be available digitally for purchase as single copies.

A digital Cosmo (first one I saw, not one of my usual reading sources) is on sale on Zinio's site for $12.00 and on the B& site for $12.00 or $10.80 with a membership card. So, some advantage at B&N. Selling magazines is a natural combination made especially clear given the amount of store space given to magazines in a typical B&N superstore. One wonders why this has taken so long. B&N is betting on the electronic delivery as the future play here rather than the print subscriptions. Print is a logistics nightmare where margins are razor thin which is why none of the big book web retailers have pushed print magazine subscriptions in the past. (Admittedly, fulfillment could have been done by third parties but it is still the B&N brand that goes on the package).

B&N will allow users to use the same Zinio "see inside" feature with the magazine content (probably not Playboy since they say only 'certain' magazines). Marie Toulantis, CEO of B&N noted the following:

Our magazine offering gives our customers the ultimate flexibility to consume their favorite magazines both digitally and/or in the more traditional print form via a subscription. By growing our relationship with Zinio, and introducing a partnership with M2 Media Group, we will be the only retailer to offer both options in an integrated shopping experience.
The Zinio relationship may be symptomatic of a larger strategic play that B&N may be engaged in that is, the evolution to the digital superstore. They will have watched the morphing of with some concern. Under the LibreDigital brand, this company is in the process of expanding their digital delivery and content management tools to publishers and have notable deals with Harpercollins and Harlequin. B&N may be slightly aggrieved that this seller of newspapers and magazines has now inserted themselves into the publishing supply chain where B&N believes they should have reign. Adopting digital magazine distribution is only a skirmish in what may be a protracted battle for supremacy in the digital content supply chain.

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