The Reading World

Businessweek’s More-for-your-money strategy

Businessweek is experimenting, trying  to make itself of more use to readers. Businessweek is trying a variation on something new, the idea of giving subscribers more for their money while continuing to provide content for free online. It’s a variation on an idea that Josh Young and I have been talking about for a while.

You have to feel for magazine publishers these days. With few exceptions, like The Economist and specialty interest publications, they are seeing declining subscriber numbers along with the decrease in ad revenue due to the recession.

Businessweek made a good start, offering subscribers earlier access to print articles online and some “user-generated” news and social features. This will tax the staff very little, unless they choose to dive into the Businessweek community site and really talk to readers about the news. The degree of investment in relationships with readers remains to be seen. But there are a couple simple things they could do right now that would be relatively easy and cheap, involving e-book technology:

  • Provide print subscribers a free PDF, Kindle or ePub version of the magazine when it goes to the printer, typically two days before the issue is released.
  • Build tracking into its site and collect readers’ discussions, bundling them up into quarterly e-books (in the reader’s preferred format) delivered by email to subscribers, so they get a memorialized record of their participation in the community. The really active users will love this—generate a fake Businessweek cover with their avatar’s picture to make a personal package of the e-book.
  • Finally, take at least one full page, if not more, and turn it over to the community. Make them the authors of opinions and articles that reach print—then there is a reason to pick up the print copy.