The latest issue of Catch Magazine is out, and tucked away inside is news they’re trotting out a subscription format; sometime in 2012, the formerly free online photography and video magazine is putting a $12 annual subscription rate in place (six issues a year).
In my recent California Fly Fisher interview I touched on the idea that print magazines will likely (perhaps inevitably) go digital, and while they still enjoy a chunk of competitive advantages, they’d better be prepared for the pro-quality ezines and blogs waiting for them.
For the moment, the paper vs digital divide renders comparisons irrelevant; the delivery channels are so different that we’re not talking apples and oranges, we’re talking apples and iPhones.
At some point, the (formerly) print and online publishers will find themselves playing in the same sandbox.
Which is why Catch’s move to a pay-to-play model is so interesting.
Let’s face it; the first wave of digital publishing is settling in.
Websites, blogs, message boards and (mostly) flip-book style ezines are fixtures in fly fishing’s online landscape, and while it’s astonishing how quickly some forms have taken shape, it’s also clear a certain stasis is settling in.
Absent the “Information wants to be free” fools who think all this should be freely presented (and created) forever, the formats that will ultimately thrive on a lasting (ahem, commercial) basis are those that can be monetized.
Simply put, there’s no commercial future in something you can’t make pay.
Now Catch — the six-times-a-year photo and video (no essays, few words) — wants to make money.
Which raises a couple of interesting questions.
Is Catch — which is gorgeous but lacks written narratives and can’t find a place on your coffee table — going to succeed in their move to a subscription format?
Or will Catch’s subscription plan hammer readership numbers to the point their advertising rates will suffer (fewer readers = lower ad rates)?
Twelve dollars isn’t a lot, but it’s not much less than the Big Three print magazines, which print and deliver a physical product.
I’m sure the print magazines are watching with interest.
Should Catch’s subscription plan fail, they’ll feel little urgency to move to digital distribution.
Should Catch succeed, something larger looms on the horizon; print magazines will find themselves in direct competition with an online publication for subscriber dollars. (They’ve been competing for ad dollars for some time.)
And will Catch’s move to a subscription format alter the support it receives form other sites, who might look differently at promoting a paid product versus a free one?
I could analyze this from a lot of angles, but it’s late and there’s plenty of time for this to play out, and besides, I’ve got a lot of work to finish tomorrow, because Wednesday is looking like — for the first time this winter — a real BWO day.
So what do the Undergrounders think? Will Catch earn your $12? Is that price too high given the lack of articles/permanence? Would you pay for any online magazine or blog?
And is the explosion in tablet-style computer sales going to make online magazines more tenable, or will it drive digital content distribution through apps instead of web browsers?
Plenty of questions. And not much data.
See you online, Tom Chandler.