Sunday, April 25, 2010

Opera Canada Magazine Goes Digital


Everyone's (second?) favourite source for Canadian opera news has gone digital. Through a deal with Zinio Digital Magazines you can now get digital copies of Opera Canada for your computer or iPad. On it's face I think that it's a great idea. I've subscribed to Opera Canada in print format for years and I'm glad to see that they're catching up to the way that people want to consume their media.

The catch? Well, to start with, there's no discount for subscribers of the paper version. At $29.50 for four issues on paper, I'll be hard pressed to put out another $29.95 for the digital copies. (Confusingly, single issues are $5.95 in either format, making, um, $24/4 issues, but that's another post.) For most people I would imagine that this makes it an "either-or" proposition and with this type of periodical I just don't see the economics allowing the digital version to win. Opera Canada is an industry magazine. It's articles are being saved for posterity and reference by subscribers as opposed to, say, getting an iTunes subscription to the NY Times where you read today's news once and, should you need to check an article for something next year, you can go to their web site to read it for free. Opera Canada doesn't have a web site, (a topic I've opined on before,) so my only hope to reference something is to dig through my old copies. The solution seems simple: if you want people to read your digital version, offer it at a discount to subscribers. Opera Canada has already paid for the digitization of the issue so any subscriptions that they sell are gravy. If it were me, I'd much rather have 10% of my customers (who are already paper subscribers) subscribing to the digital version too at $2.99/year as opposed to 1% at $29.95/year, but that's just me. Other periodicals have figured it out: Rolling Stone is offered at 85% off the cover price, Hockey News is 67% off. Is there something that I'm missing here?

The other issue that I have with it is it's format. The digital version is published in a proprietary "Zinio" format locked down with DRM. While there are some major magazines signed on to Zinio, any closed system makes me uncomfortable subscribing, particularly when (as detailed above,) I'm effectively being forced to chose between it and and the paper version. Heck, even iTunes has dropped it's DRM. Combine that with a requirement to use Zinio software to read the digital version and it's still a pass for me, I'm afraid. What happens when Zinio closes up shop, or gets bought out? Do I still get to access my content? What happens when they change formats and my old copies don't work anymore? When they're locked down with DRM, I'm out of luck. No thanks, Zinio.

I love digital formats. Heck, I love technologoy more than the next guy. But I can't abide poorly implemented technology. I'll revisit the issue in a year but without any changes on the horizon, I'll stick with my dead tree version for now.

1 comment:

Elizabeth McDonald said...

I too am glad that OC has gone digital but you are right, why would I subscribe digitally AND in paper? I have always been frustrated by their lack of website...as far as I'm concerned, a strong web presence is just the cost of doing business!

Thanks for the post!