Read Green Initiative Offers Free Magazine Subscriptions

Sep 30, 2008

While magazines remain portable, not every magazine is available when needed, such as on a long flight. On September 22, 2008, the Read Green Initiative from Zinio launched to the public, and may give readers more options.
Through their Read Green Initiative, 8-year-old Zinio arranged for over 200 publications to provide a one-year free subscriptions to readers of digital versions of their magazines to demonstrate to consumers how convenient reading digital content can be.  Users can now have these magazines with them wherever and whenever they want it, online or offline, or on computers or iPhones.  Zinio works with 350 publishers worldwide, involving over 1,000 different titles.
"The publishers are excited about this because digital magazines will play an important role in their circulation mix," says Jeanniey Mullen, executive vice president, CMO for Zinio. "This leads to tremendous cost savings; they no longer need to worry about paper, printing, or distribution costs which can run from 30-60% of a print publication's costs. This is not taking into consideration costs of transporting these magazines to stores or newsstands."
Those costs, combined with declines in newsstand magazines and subscriptions in circulation was a call for the industry to take a leadership role and create a way for consumers to explore reading the magazines they love in a different way. With the significant savings, publications can reinvest into circulation growth or technology innovation.
"This is the first time we're aware of…that so many publishers have come together collectively and taken a united front on the benefits of digital publishing," says Mullen. Consumers will be limited to one free subscription per year, but there will also be a page for consumers to buy additional subscriptions. A portion of the proceeds from subscription sales will be invested in eco-units used to buy additional trees in a planting initiative on Earth Day, 2009.
"Based on research conducted by Harrison Group in September 2007, we found a substantial increase in people who read digitally already to help the environment," adds Mullen. "We also noticed these same people felt they benefited more from the ads. Eighty-seven percent of the people in the survey we did last year paid more attention to these ads because they were more interactive; you could click a link, go to a website, see a movie or video - in general have more fun than looking at a paper ad."
Mullen's group emphasizes the technology’s capability, such as immediate availability and access, interactivity, the ability to archive and place notes, and finally the ability to search. "You still feel as if you're turning the pages," says Mullen. "These virtual magazines have the look and feel of printed content, though allow for a more creative, dynamic, and innovative presentation than magazines have had before."

E-editions of traditional print products (magazines and newspapers) have had a wobbly start, according to Ken Doctor, affiliate analyst for Outsell, a research and advisory firm for publishers and information providers. "Zinio has been a leader in magazines, while Newsstand, Newspapers Direct and Olive have all pushed on the newspaper end of things. The results so far: there's not a lot of green, as in money, in it. Now the Kindle, with heavy Amazon promotion, may begin to change the market, but it hasn't yet."

As Doctor points out: Those who love and are habituated to print tend to be older. "But if you are comfortable with print, its design and format, you don't actually want to read online. Creating an e-edition for those who like print format is counterintuitive.

"Younger people, as seen in my studies with Outsell and others, prefer online reading," says Doctor.  "They'll go to the web, not to a separate, snapshot of a publication, preferring the fluidity of the web, and of course the constant updating. Now for time- and place-shifting, e-editions are cool. You can take books, magazines and newspapers with you on a single, updatable device. But it’s still very niche at this point."

E-editions move forward in small ways. For instance, Northern newspapers find snowbirds like e-editions, according to Doctor. Out-of-state circulation (more costly because of transportation) can be cut back. Now, newspapers are replacing in-school editions with e-editions as well, another cost-savings.

"Green's a convenient marketing pitch," adds Doctor. But Mullen is quick to point out: "The reality is, printing words on paper does impact our environment. "While reading digitally has an impact, there’s a substantial environmental incentive involved when you read digitally."