The Magazine, a high quality digital magazine by Marco Arment, is shutting down. I’m also sad to see it go, although I reckoned it from day 1.
I’m a software developer and I’m also in digital media. I share the same vision with Marco Arment that digital magazines and content providers suck at the experience, and they need a makeover. That was one of the reasons we started line.do.
But the truth is, we live in a dream. We love software so much, and we take pride in our engineering and problem solving skills so much, that we think we can tackle any problem thrown at us. Our endless search for the best, along with our increasingly harder to satisfy taste, make us think we can change everything.
But there are experiences we’re yet to face and learn, and experiences in the publishing industry is not exempt.
The bottom line is, there’s a reason beside earning more money to why the current magazines have broader monetization strategies (read: ads) than just subscribers. Subscribers are what you rely on for motivation and inspiration, but are not enough to fuel the engine.
Any content publishing revenue model solely based on subscriptions is doomed to fail. You have to find other ways and make compromises or simply you’ll go out of business. Unfortunately, the internet is so huge and we’re constantly prodded with a stream of content that we don’t have the time to go through. The age of static magazines is over. But more importantly, the age of paying for content is over. People don’t want to pay, at scale, for what they read. That’s as simple as that. We think that ads are bad, tracking users are evil, etc. but the bottom line is people just don’t care. There are newspapers who shut their printed operations and go online, all for the same reasons I’ve cited.
But this is a romantic point of view that we, software developers, have. We think we can fix the world, change the unchallengable. But we have to keep in mind that there are a lot of smart people who tried the same before us. However high our goals and dreams are, the reality is simple and awful; the society functions less than ideally and our genius solutions are often way ahead of (or behind) their time. We have to adapt or, well… go out of business.
But most importantly, we have to learn that the current situation is not always out of folly; people tried the same before and failed and sometimes this is as good as it gets, for now. We should follow in their steps and learn from those mistakes. Or else, we will keep doing the same mistakes other industries did, as we learn that industry from ground zero.
This is like the “not invented here” syndrome that we, software developers, often exhibit. We thrash the current solutions that are the results of experiences gained at hard-fought battles and start from scratch on our own solutions. It seldomly pays off, reinventing the wheel. On the other hand, one of the most effective software development strategies is modular architecture. And in this case, it translates into building on the experiences of others. We have to consider that significant amount of effort went into problems we want to challenge. That is the only way we can build more influential and useful experiences for the people.