How to make money by acknowledging the difference between analogue and digital

One of the central ideas of Walled Culture the book (free digital versions available) is that there is a fundamental difference between analogue and digital, and that copyright fails to recognise that. Instead, it seeks to impose what is an inherently analogue approach based on scarcity to the online world where abundance is the norm. The very different dynamics in the two realms are neatly illustrated in an article in the New York Times. Its title “In a Digital Age, High-End Outdoors Magazines Are Thriving in Print” underlines why it pays off to recognise that digital and analogue are different, and how online publishing may be in the doldrums, but there still money to be made by taking a different approach:

There are sprouts of life, even profitability, on the landscape of print media and magazines, cratered by the pixilated bombardment of the digital age. High-end niche periodicals are popping up, but the trend might be most evident in a burst of small-batch, independent outdoors magazines like Adventure Journal, Mountain Gazette, Summit Journal and Ori. They are crowding into quiet spaces of narrow lanes — climbing, surfing, skiing, running and the like — where quality is key, advertising is minimal and subscribers are faithful. Most do not put their content online; this is journalism meant to be thumbed through, not swiped past.

As the article explains, the new wave of small-scale, luxury magazines are the antithesis of throwaway digital material with clickbait titles designed to trick people to view briefly and then move on:

The magazines are sometimes oversized and increasingly matte finished, filled with edge-to-edge photographs and literary heaves. They can cost $25 or more per issue. They are meant as much for the coffee table as the shoulder bag — designed to be collectible, not disposable.

What is particularly interesting about this evolution of analogue magazines is that it fits perfectly with the idea of the “true fan”, which Walled Culture the blog and the book have explored at some length. Indeed, the true fan approach means that these high-quality and highly-valued publications can be offered alongside free material placed online. Significantly, the New York Times articles notes that “These new magazine owners aren’t Luddites; they use digital savvy to sell paper and ink.” In other words, digital is a way to generate revenue from analogue. Moreover, the analogue journals use the same ideas typically employed by those seeking to maximise engagement and revenue from their true fans and patrons:

The Surfer’s Journal persists as envisioned, now with about 28,000 subscribers (six issues a year for $84, or $25 for one) and eight “sponsors” (each paying $70,000 per year). Thousands of other copies are sold in surf shops and bookstores. The company has expanded into books, a popular podcast and The Golfer’s Journal, with manicured green grass taking the place of swelling blue oceans.

This approach won’t work for all creators, but its a timely reminder that the analogue and digital are different. Acknowledging that difference, rather than simply trying to impose the outdated rules of one world on the other, allows them to play complementary roles in supporting creators and generating revenues by building strong relationships with true fans.

Featured image by Stable Diffusion.

Follow me @glynmoody on Mastodon and on Bluesky.

Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner