A conversation with Zinio’s Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, Rich Maggiotto

Last week, just one day before the latest Audited Media results let us know that digital editions have grown 146% over last year, I had the opportunity to talk with Rich Maggiotto, co-founder and CIO of Zinio, one of the leaders in digital magazine publishing and distribution. Rich and I have known each other for over a decade, he always at Zinio, me bopping from Imagine Media to Red Herring, finally starting my own company 12 years ago. Zinio has had a long relationship with Apple, and enjoys a burgeoning one with Android-based tablet manufacturers like Acer, Lenovo, Sony and Samsung, among others.

My reason for seeing him was to try and catch up on what was going on, and what would be going on, with digital publishing. Here, from my notes, is our conversation.

Thea: How can we get the tablet-makers more interested in selling digital magazines?

Rich: Tablet-makers and players ranging from Google to Amazon to Microsoft are interested in magazines. First came music, then books, and now in 2013, TV, movies, magazines and newspapers are joining growth apps. The difference with magazines is that the content creators are very aware of their own value. They watched the canaries in the coalmine. The music industry gave away too much in the early days. Most smart publishers are rightfully committed to not replicate the errors of other industries in the digital space. At Zinio, we’ve committed to making digital magazines more interesting to publishers by lowering distribution costs, and more interesting to advertisers by suggesting more engaging advertisements, and more interesting to both by providing a treasure trove of previously untouched consumer data and insights.

T: Why, then, does it seem so chaotic in the world of digital magazines compared, say to music sales?

R: Magazines have no standard, there’s no MP3 (music) or ePub (books) with magazines. It’s at best the “wild west” with many formats and publishers going off in as many different directions. Unfortunately, this make the variety of branded magazine apps akin to games. You have to learn how to “play” each one. Reading needs to be simpler, consistent and more convenient. Say what you will about print magazines – but they’re pretty damn intuitive to read.

T: How do we do that?

R: Digital magazines need to enhance the reader’s experience by making a magazine more intuitive and more useful. Utility will win as we make magazines more share-able, more search-able, more clip-able, more shop-able – in essence, more connected and more intelligent. When you use Zinio, there’s always something to read. Modern consumers don’t want an app for every magazine they read any more than they want an app for every album or every book, and an app that you engage once a month for 30 days is an app you’ll never care about. We are obsessed with creating experiences guided by urgency, discovery, connectivity and forum.

T: Is digital going to take over print?

R: Digital will ultimately take over print. For some it’s already happening. The Financial Times just announced its digital circulation now outnumbers print. It’s not a sell anymore, not to the publishers.

T: Apple stock went down after the Q1 2013 earnings came out. Is Apple in trouble as far as selling digital magazines?

R: No, not at all. The majority of all sales of content apps still happen on Apple’s iOS.

T: Where is the digital magazine world going? Give us some things to ponder here.

R: Digital magazines will be much more tailored to the device and its screen size to make for a comfortable and useful reading experience. Cross-device cloud content consumption will accelerate. Article-ization will become more prevalent and we’ll begin selling more based on curation of articles. Pricing models will evolve introducing new ways to buy and consumer magazine content beyond single copy and subscription a la carte. Utility will rule the day as content-creators move beyond bloated issues filled largely with unimaginative video. People will discover and engage with magazines differently in the digital age.

Thank you, Rich, for your insight. Anyone care to comment?

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  • Phil Hood

    Great comments. So here’s the followup. If readers don’t want separate magazine apps, and we live in a platform-centric world, how is that going to work out? Who will Zinio be competing with? Will it be Google + some other software provider like Bluetoad, Flipboard, or Zite versus Apple/Zinio? Will Amazon, Adobe, Samsung, and Google come up with their own universal magazine apps? Is there any open alternative? Or is that HTML5?

  • Eugene Hwang

    Thanks for the insight sharing. Enjoy reading the article too.

  • MarkWWhite

    Quote of the week: "Modern consumers don’t want an app for every magazine they read any more than they want an app for every album or every book, and an app that you engage once a month for 30 days is an app you’ll never care about." E-books have a huge advantage over digital magazines in this area.

  • ChuckB

    Phil, I think it means you have a Zinio app, and either a Google Play or Apple bookshelf app, and a subscription service like Next Issue, to handle all of your digital edition needs. Platform is irrelevant unless you buy directly from Google or Apple.

  • Muhammad Abd al-Hameed

    I prefer to read a digital magazine on my laptop because the large screen size makes it easier to read and also see pictures in a large format. A tablet will be convenient but not much fun–unless the size increases to 25 cm (10 inches) and price comes close to that of a smartphone. Ainol Nova, which is available in Pakistan for about $160 will be my choice — if I can overcome my inhibitions about a Chinese product!