Why All-You-Can-Read Subscriptions Need Curation
The initial promise is compelling, especially for voracious readers. For $10-$15/month consumers get access to more content than they could possibly read in a month. That ultimately creates a bigger problem than the subscription platforms probably realize.
For more than a year now I've been a subscriber to both Oyster, for books, and Next Issue, for magazines. Both have slightly altered my reading habits but neither are serving their content in an optimal manner.
For Next Issue, it's as though the U.S. Post Office backs up a truck and dumps 100+ magazines every month. Sure, there are many I enjoy and a few that I used to value enough to buy individually in the print days. Compare that large, unreadable stack to one thin magazine, The Week. If I had to choose between the 100+ Next Issue magazines and The Week, the latter wins every time.
What makes The Week so unique? Their editors are curating and quoting content from many other magazines, covering both sides of all the major issues. In other words, when I read The Week I feel as if I just read the Cliff's Notes of all the top newspapers and magazines...and I can accomplish this in less than an hour.
The Week is efficient and Next Issue is bloated. When I finish reading an issue of The Week I feel like I got a thorough global debriefing in record time. When I close the Next Issue app I feel like I wasted much of the abundant content in magazines I never opened let alone read.
The Week has obviously invested in an editorial team to create this unique and valuable experience. The all-you-can-read services like Next Issue are simply throwing more content at you in its original container, hoping you'll see the value. It's like comparing a fine restaurant to The Golden Corral. I'll overindulge on junk food from time to time but I certainly don't want to do it every day at every meal.
I should point out that I still like my Next Issue subscription and find it valuable. But it could be so much better. Next Issue could offer a curated option like The Week and charge a premium for that model. In fact, I could see cheaper and pricier subscription models built off the Next Issue foundation. You like sports? Pay $5/month and get access to the curated, The Week-like version, of all the top sports stories every month. You want a curated version of everything? You'll need to pay more than the $15/month Next Issue charges for their current premium option.
There will always be room for simple, all-you-can-read models like Oyster and Next Issue. But these platforms can attract even more subscribers and offer a variety of models by also embracing a curation model like The Week.
Joe Wikert is Publishing President at Our Sunday Visitor (www.osv.com). Before joining OSV Joe was Director of Strategy and Business Development at Olive Software. Prior to Olive Software he was General Manager, Publisher, & Chair of the Tools of Change (TOC) conference at O’Reilly Media, Inc., where he managed each of the editorial groups at O’Reilly as well as the Microsoft Press team and the retail sales organization. Before joining O’Reilly Joe was Vice President and Executive Publisher at John Wiley & Sons, Inc., in their P/T division.