Does anybody really care?

Does anybody really care? Yesterday, according to mediapost’s
Ross Fadner
, “Newsstand Inc. and Zinio Systems Wednesday
unveiled new digital publishing initiatives that are likely to
accelerate the migration of printed media to digital

According to the article, “Newsstand, which produces exact online
replicas of print versions of magazines, newspapers and newsletters,
announced plans to launch its first consumer subscription acquisition
campaign, aimed mainly at the so-called Millenials set, young adults
(18-24) who are known to be heavy downloaders of digital

I’ve blogged
about my doubts
regarding this technology (and here) in the past
and continue to be skeptical about its longterm viability. As I’ve said
to some high-ranking executives who’ve called me about my blog
comments, “As a publisher, I love the idea that people can download a
magazine and that advertising impressions can be counted as if the
reader was a print consumer. It is great in theory as an archival
service and a potential revenue source for back issues. Also, yes, I
can really understand why a person in another country would really like
to have access immediately to the issue online. Yes, as a publisher I
can understand it completely.”

However, as I’ve pointed out, as a consumer and Internet user, I don’t
get it at all. Downloading a souped-up PDF-like document and trying to
replicate a print experience online is clearly the idea and invention
of someone wanting to retrofit an old medium onto a new one: a
phenomenon sometimes called “paving the cow paths.” To further prove
how incongruent the product is with an appropriate internet user
experience (of, frankly, with plain common sense) the service allows a
publisher to set a time limit on how long a consumer can view the issue
purchased. The NY Times electronic edition (more on this below), for
example, becomes unviewable by the downloader (who has
paid for the download) after a month. I wonder how
this feature will be marketed to “the Millenials”? Do they think
Millenials crave a downloading experience where they
pay for the download and then can’t view it? Again,
this is a great idead if you’re a publisher, but does this
really make you confidant that this company knows
how to market to Millenials?

Here’s another question. If this technology and approach are so
compelling to consumers, why can I no longer find on the NY Times
website (a major publication owned by one of the company’s early
investors), the Newsstand version? It’s
still available on the
, but I remember
when it used to be marketed on the front page of the paper’s website
regularly. Now, I can find no mention of the product other than a dead
link under “electronic edition” on the NYT’s home page.