Chris Anderson, who wrote the book The Long Tail and is Editor of Wired magazine, has written a stimulating piece on ‘What Radical Transparency would mean for Wired‘.

There is a lot to consider in the two-part posting. It got me to thinking about the way the web enables any media business to establish a surprisingly close, immediate and in a sense intimate relationship with the audience (the market, the readership), while at the same time there is still a big distance between those who serve stuff and those who search and surf stuff. It is an inherent advantage of the web that the users can exercise a degree of control any service and to some degree leadership which shapes the offering.

Here is a fairly trivial example: about 6 weeks ago we realised that it would be a good idea to make it easy for our customers to buy subscriptions to magazines as gifts. We were going to make the necessary changes to our ‘shopping environment’ and at the same time make some other useful enhancements.

In fact, we ended up being so busy with other activities (plenty more magazines coming in 2007, some with big runs of back issues) that we did not get round to it in time for this year’s seasonal giving. But the really interesting thing is that plenty of our users have reached exactly the same conclusion as us: buying digital subscriptions through Exact Editions for friends, partners and relations is a GOOD IDEA. So we have had dozens of purchasers take the matter into their own hands. The audience has led the change for us: in the last two weeks we have had a flood of requests to reassign a subscription which the individual has already purchased and these thoughtful customers have been emailing us with the email address of the intended recipient. They have been asking us to notify the recipients, to send our email on 24th December, to mention the name of the giver in the email, they have been asking to include a special message in the email etc….They have actually been designing our improved shopping experience for us. The intimacy and the immediacy, the “shared-ownership” of a web service, the intellignece of the market, all these are huge advantages.

We look forward to bringing you many more Radically Transparent magazines in 2007 (they will be Exact Editions as well as being radically transparent) and to more web intimacy — in fact to a better shopping experience as we all buy digital subscriptions for our friends in the New Year!