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April 27, 2008


Chris Anderson

And presto, I appear!

Needless to say, I agree with much of this. My antipathy to blow-in cards is well-known:

And as a guy writing a book about FREE, the idea of a "freemium" version of the mag, at higher price but without ads, makes a lot of sense.

But there are a few problems. First, it would have to be quite a bit more expensive. SEED, for instance, is $20 for six issues a year, so for us to have a similarly circulation-driven economic model, it would be $40 for 12 issues/year. That's 4x our current price.

Second, it's a mixed message to send to advertisers--do readers engage with the ads or not? It's hard to simultaneously sell advertisers on the first proposition, but readers on the second. (This is a problem that the Yahoos of the world have also had to deal with when they offer freemium services in which you can pay to have the ads removed).

Third, we love SEED, but we operate at a whole different scale. Their circ is 150,000. Ours is 700,000. Our parent company, Conde Nast, is optimized for magazines with circ around 1 million. There are loads of customization and short-run experiments that you can do with a few tens of thousands of issues that are impossible at our volumes.

Still, these are all excuses, and I don't disagree that there would be appeal to some readers for what you suggest. (That's not true for all of our titles--many of our mags [Vogue, Glamour, etc) are bought as much for their lavish ads are they are their editorial)

So I do share your instinct that these are experiments that someone (maybe even us!) should run. I just wanted to inject some reality into the discussion--it's more complicated than it looks, especially for companies on the mass side of the market.

That said, I do think that many of these options will become available over the next few years. Indeed, it's something we're hoping to do with my book, FREE: one print version with ads distributed at conferences and the like, another, without ads, at $29.95 in traditional book stores.

Chris Brogan...

First, decent of Chris to show up and engage in the conversation.

Second, I'm a big fan of Wired, but I recently bought that very issue of Seed pictured in the above at an airport and I liked it.

Third, it was neat hearing a bit of the peel-back on Wired. Ads aren't evil, but are there new/different/interesting ways to work with how they are displayed in magazines? I guess people are trying new things. And interestingly, I think Wired has given those some effort (the different approaches), but Chris is right that Wired/Conde has to show their sponsors that they're delivering them some kind of eyeball value on the mags.

I used to be a bit more twitchy about it until I heard a recent teleseminar or something (where the heck was that) where Chris said that Wired was like receiving part of a book monthly, only with ads. Sounded like a warmup for Free. Would I publish a book that you could pick up for free, paid for buy advertisers? Heck yeah. Maybe not free, but super discounted? Yeah.

Interesting how this conversation is threading. Thanks for starting it. : )

Matthew Hurst

Chris and Chris - thanks for the comments. Re-reading the post I think I came off a little too harshly. I'm enough of a Wired reader to consider buying the newest copy at the stand at the beginning of a two week trip knowing that my subscription copy will be waiting for me at home - this was the point at which I ended up buying Seed as well.

I think my frustration with adverts reflects something more fundamental than my discomfort with adverts in general. I suspect it indicates that I'm the wrong segment for the ads featured in Wired. Thus, perhaps the experiment that ChrisA should consider is something that still supports the advertising model, but which gives more appropriate adverts for a specific reader.

David Berkowitz

I actually like most of the ads in Wired. Many are more engaging than other magazine ads, and I think they provide value to the magazine and its readership. I'd actually pay less for Wired if it were ad-free.

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