Daryl Rayner, founder and Managing Director of Exact Editions is convinced that network subscriptions are the real deal for magazine publishers. She has a vision in which major airlines, train companies, hotel chains, and global events (think Cannes Film Festival, Glastonbury and the Frankfurt motor show) all offer their customers collections of beautiful digital magazines, each collection being appropriate and pitched at their audience. At the moment the clearest example of institutions that manage to show collections or magazines/periodicals are universities, and some in-house corporate networks.

The Exact Editions platform is now positioned to open up a new vista for digital magazines with network based subscriptions so  that customers or clients can obtain full but temporary access to a digital magazine app whilst they are in the wifi zone of the institution concerned. The Exactly app which now allows users to enjoy digital magazines on iPad/iPhone via a network subscription opens up this potential. The business model for network subscriptions can adapt to the requirements of the commercial sponsor. Lets take a look at how it might work in three hypothetical cases: Lufthansa, Starbucks and Glastonbury.

Lufthansa is one of the first major airlines to deliver a big push into internet access on board the plane. The FlyNet® Service is a paid extra €19.95 and works over 90% of the Lufthansa routemap

You can enjoy the full communications freedom of the Internet on almost the entire Lufthansa global long-haul network. The sole exceptions are flights over China — the system automatically switches off on entering Chinese airspace and switches on again when leaving it….  Lufthansa web site

Its a pity about the China blip, but Lufthansa is already allowing customers to use their own iPads in flight with broadband connectivity over most of the globe. Other airlines are following. As it happens Lufthansa still buys a lot of print magazines (one of our publishers sells 3000 copies a month to the airline). Most of these printed copies are going into the 300 wide-body jets with a business class. The fuel costs of onboard magazines are not negligible, and if airlines are considering hiring female crew because they are lighter than men, we can be sure that digital magazines start with a big advantage.. A library of digital magazines offers much more choice, with minimal maintenance and no contention between passengers. Ryanair or Easyjet will want to sell these digital magazines and newspapers to their passengers, but Lufthansa and Emirates will give free access to their passengers and they will offer a premium selection in the premium class (perhaps a dozen titles to economy passengers, a choice of 60 for business passengers on a long haul route). The magazine publishers will also like this business, because the best and most exclusive magazines will be paid in good money for their presence, and the promotional opportunity is also good. A digital magazine which can be read for free on board the plane, becomes a potential subscription once the customer has left the airline’s wifi zone. Why will Lufthansa and Emirates wish to give customers access to a limited range of magazines (say 20 or 100), rather than provide unrestricted access to the largest possible library? The simple answer to this question is that a collection of magazines that provides access to ‘everything’ is an illusion. It would also be a customer confusion as there would be far too much dross in a heap of everything. But it is above all an illusion, since the best magazines (Vogue, The Economist, The New York Review of Books) will not join in a collection of everything. So the slightly more complex answer is that for airlines (Lufthansa, Emirates, Air France) brand matters, and each airline will wish to cater to its own audience, by making the appropriate brand selection.

If we think of digital  magazines as providing entertainment spaces for a transient audience its clear that the customer ‘journey’ has a lot to do with the optimal reading matter. Its not just that the brand of the digital magazine needs to gel with the brand of the host provider, we should recognise that the reading style of the magazine may work better in one network niche than in another. The Harvard Business Review and Foreign Policy will work better in Lufthansa business class (deep reading for long haul flights) than in Starbucks or McDonalds, Starbucks may prefer short and crisp reading through The Onion, Private Eye and The Week which will provide prompt entertainment without blocking bar stools for hours  as customers read 15,000 word essays. The promotional potential of magazine distribution via coffee houses may be very high. Starbucks should be able to tell how many customers come into their shops because they have a Country Life subscription on the premises, and they have already discovered the advantages of requiring the customer to get their music or app in-store.

The world event gig? Here, Daryl’s idea is that a set of digital magazines could offer an audience an opportunity to sample and enjoy a set of titles that would be particularly appropriate to the specific event where a large crowd is gathered together with wifi access: Glastonbury, SXSW, the Brazil World Cup, the Cannes Film Festival or the Frankfurt Motor Show. A large and valuable audience spending several days (but not too long) in one spot with a wifi network, needs a selection of elite and appropriate magazines. Obviously auto magazines would feature strongly at Frankfurt, and music titles at Glastonbury, however there is scope for fashion and travel titles with the right resonance, as well, at both events. Being in the showcase of a global event will be a great exposure for the magazines and providing those titles gives the event’s organisers valuable consumer data and promotional leverage. The publishers also get the opportunity to upsell a direct subscription to anyone who has seen the digital edition on a temporary basis.

Exact Editions is hot on the trail of institutions that want to provide syndicated access to quality magazines. We welcome inquiries from organisers of grand events and from transport companies that want to provide travellers with great wifi content. We also want to talk to publishers about the ways in which they can sell digital subscriptions direct and support network access to their magazine apps. Any big brand magazine with a burning conviction that their magazine should be syndicated, not just article by article, but entirely as one super delightful fully illustrated, rich subscription, should email support@exacteditions.com or direct to daryl.rayner@exacteditions.com