Stranded magazine is so good I changed my tagline
You won’t have noticed, I know you won’t, but since I started writing this blog back at the end of last year, the little black balloon in the top right hand corner has said “Looking for the future of digital magazines.” Today it says, “Looking for the future of magazines”. All because Andrew Losowsky got stuck in Dublin airport.
“What are you smoking over there?” you ask. Nothing, honestly. Maybe I’m just high on possibility.
To cut a long story short I got my copy of Stranded today: A bonafide print magazine, 88-pages perfect bound, polybagged and pushed through my letter box to land with a thud on the carpet. I even paid for it – $22.47 including shipping. And it’s worth every penny (you should buy it too even if it’s only because all proceeds go to the International Rescue Committee).
I won’t try to give you the full backstory on Stranded. Basically it’s the project of a clever man who got stranded by the Icelandic ash cloud, got bored enough to imagine a magazine about the experience, drew in contributors who were similarly stuck far from home, and delivered a wonderful publication. If you want the full story take a look at Wired | Ash cloud magazine ‘Stranded’ now available.
What I have only just realised is that Stranded is a digital magazine project in all but outcome. Andrew Lowosky and Stranded designer Matt McArthur have never met. The entire publishing process was managed digitally, from assignment to printing on order. And its the print on demand aspect that Stranded really helped me get my head around.
I have known about HP’s MagCloud print on demand service for a while, but to be honest I never paid it much attention. MagCloud seemed a bit like a vanity publishing service and then, here’s this amazing magazine that I have to have. For the first time I saw directly the power of the model.
I ordered online, my copy was printed and shipped; but equally, if I didn’t order - no printing, no cost, no risk for the Stranded team.The economics of print on demand made publishing a quirky one-off, half way between travel magazine and art project, a risk worth taking.
I wasn’t looking for a new business model when I ordered Stranded, but given that one of the big crosses crucifying magazine publishers today is print and distribution costs, print on demand has to be worth looking at. At 20 cents a page plus shipping, it’s not commercially viable for most publishers at the moment, but if volumes grow and unit costs come down, who knows.
It could be a way for cash strapped publishers to service international readers who want print copies of your magazines bad enough to pay. The problem here is MagCloud doesn’t offer a comprehensive international service yet, but surely it will come.
More interesting is the opportunity to monetise premium content. Maybe readers won’t pay for standard issues, but they might pay for article compilations, special reports or yearbooks. This is closer to Stranded’s “Artefact” publishing model where readers are willing to pay premium prices for a real live object that they can keep on their shelf for reference, inspiration or just to have something other than pixels to read every now and then.
The nice part is, with print on demand, you have nothing to lose.
Anyway, to return to the changing of the tag line, Stranded introduced me to an alternative model for print. The Flipping Pages Blog is now looking for the future of magazines in digital and print and any other format that works.