How to build an audience quickly…..

What is Mygazines? ….. (answer from their web site)…”Mygazines is your free place to browse, share, archive and customize unlimited magazine articles uploaded by you, the Mygazines community.”

The service appears to be in part a YouTube for magazines, and an aspirant social network. The technology is adequate to impressive: the magazines are rendered in Flash, and the user is able to mark. ‘share’, comment upon, pages and magazine articles. The system is largely automated, except that some of the ‘cleverer’ bits are ‘user generated’. So in uploading a magazine as a scanned PDF (I havent done this) the user is expected to tell the system which pages are front, covers, contents pages, and where articles begin. I am distinctly impressed that users will in fact do this (we have always assumed that publishers would not be reliable about marking this information on PDF files). Also, while the site is very new, maybe only a week old, and likely to disappear very soon (for reasons we will come to), they already have 800 titles including many of the mainstream US and Canadian titles (think Time, MacWorld, Wired, Business Week, Maclean’s.

The system also does the trick of intelligently OCRing the scanned uploads (we were blogging about this last week), searching across issues works pretty well, so all in all I can see this getting a lot of usage. Except that it appears to have been done without the permission of the publishers and in apparent disregard of the laws of copyright. Mashable, Joho and gHacks comment favourably on the experiment. But we are all rather surprised at the legal presumption; in Dave Weinberger’s words: “I don’t know what they think they’re going to do about the obvious copyright issues.”

So I fear that the founders of mygazines are very quickly building an audience of …… lawyers. Scores of lawyers from all the big magazine publishers. Is there some killer twist that we havent thought about? Some unrevealed aspect of the business model which will make the publishers look favourably on the development. I have my doubts….

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