As is typical these days, I heard about the Bauer magazine closures by reading about them on social media. In this case from a post in SciBlogs by Sarah-Jane O’Connor. My initial reaction was shock because of the names of the publications – I have read most of those. But then I considered when the last time that I read them and the times before.
Consider that these magazines were, in my opinion, resolutely in the print space and I’ve been almost entirely in the digital space for most of the last two decades. And I’m a pretty conservative 60 year old. The way that Bauer approached its market would probably have probably appealed to my 80 year old father – who still watches the news on broadcast TV – something I gave up nearly a decade ago along with the aerial. But it is just another broadcast strategy and digital networking is all about discussion between people.
This isn’t because I don’t look at news and columns. I do that every day. It is usually before 7am, mostly in the dark with my partner breathing next to me and her face turned away from the pale light of my cellphone or tablet. Or I’ll read something while I’m waiting for a compile. Or collapsed on the bed after the ride back from work.
On my phone, I have a quick scan folder of 12 general publications that I read every day. They must be up front and online, have a high density of information that I want to know about, not too much advertising getting in the way of my reading and they must link to their source materials or explain where they get it from. They are either free to read, or I have a subscription (NYTimes, Economist, Medium, Guardian), or I’m mostly scanning headlines (NZH, SMH) to see if there is something I need to look at.
There are a lot of other things that I read as well more related to work or science. They mostly come through in emails like those from Quora or Feedspot. Or they’re things that I use everyday in the eternal search for ‘how do it..?’ and reach for Stack Overflow or Linux Questions. Then I have the links on the right of this blog with RSS feeds from a large range of sources, links in comments here, and the eternal garbage heap that is Facebook.
I’m awash with information. But I’m incredibly picky about clicks because my read time is limited and precious.
Now consider the marketing of the Bauer publications that have folded. I never see them because I don’t get links to their articles.
Mostly I jump into a publication when someone who a vaguely trust not to be an idiot leaves a link in something that I read. That personal recommendation in facebook, reddit, on this site, or from whatever you’re already reading is the only media marketing that accesses most people in this digital age. To get that link from someone, you need to have an accessible read and things worth linking to.
I read part of a North and South while I was doing jury service in November. I’d forgotten to bring a battery or charger and my phone was running out of power. It was a 3 year old copy. Metro? Ummm – doctors waiting room – sometime last year. Last time I glanced at a Listener must be over 5 years ago. I simply can’t remember reading a Women’s Weekly or its cousins in the last decade. it has always been like reading those ‘Paid Promotional Content’ at the bottom of the Herald’s articles. The titles titillate that there is information. But you know that if you click into them it is just going to be endless bullshit and clickbait. No different to Whaleoil before it sunk into unpaid court costs and awards against it plus liquidations and bankruptcy.
As far as I am aware few had a permanent online presences – tenuous links like North & South on Noted were just odd. Or they were incredibly hard to decide if you wanted to spend money on them like Metro and its NZ Herald style paywall.
It can still be behind a paywall. But repeated good reads will get people to pay the sub for access. That was how OneZero on Medium eventually got me to pay a annual $US 50 sub to Medium. People linked to it and Medium allow something like 5 reads per month. I happily scatter links to Medium when I write here or on facebook or where ever. I know that most readers will not hit the paywall. Conversely the Sydney Morning Herald has exactly the same system but less of interest for me to read.
Which is why, in posts and comments, the links to NZ Herald on this site or the NBR have dropped like a stone since their paywalls went in. With the Herald, all of the interesting news or commentary like their editorial on Bauer closure is behind a hard paywall. But you can read the deluded ditherings of Mike (the Moron) Hosking for free. One I’d link to, the other is pure trash that Mediawatch just described as
It’s possible he exists in an eternal present where the past is eradicated every morning, just in time for Mike’s Minute to begin.
Another possibility is that Hosking is more concerned with criticising the government than being consistent.
The NZ Herald and NBR seems to regard free links as equivalent trash rather than the only marketing technique that really works in a digital age. But it has to be try without obligation or work before you buy.
I have no particular problems paying subscriptions. I personally budget for my household subscriptions to be about $2000 per year across media including TV streaming subscriptions. That is to say, it is bit more than the total budget for this site’s operation which is about $1500 per year (excluding the posturing of legal idiots like Dermot Nottingham).
But for the digital generations, including me, if we can’t link to something readable when discussing the news or ideas with our friends and readers – then why would we bother subscribing to it?
In the wake of the Bauer closures, really the only question is going to be how long before other media companies with archaic pre-digital networking marketing strategies will follow?