Ok, Now I Get JPG Magazine

JPG Magazine relaunched last month with a new business model: Get users to upload photos to their website, and then have the community vote on and rank photos. The winners are published in a bi-monthly print magazine and get $100 plus a free one-year subscription.

It took me a couple of weeks to get over the fact that they are actually printing a magazine, on paper, just like people used to do in the last century. But after a visit to their offices at Minor Ventures earlier this week and a discussion of how they are embracing their online community to create content, I’ve come around to their way of thinking. And I think it is a model that other tree-killers should embrace, too.

They are doing so many things right. The fact that the community decides what photos end up in each issue has resulted in a ton of activity on the website. Photographers are uploading their best work to showcase their stuff – if a photo gets picked for the magazine it’s just icing on the cake for them. Finally, every issue of the magazine is available, free, as a PDF download. Get the most recent issue here, for example.

The economics work well, too. They have good print advertisers already, including Flickr. Another sponsor, Lensbaby, is giving away a free camera lens to every winner in a category for an upcoming issue. The magazine isn’t cheap at $5.99 (a year subscription of six issues costs $25, five bucks off the cover price), but the high price and advertising success means the run of 30,000 or so print magazines is profitable for them.

And it feeds the website. The online community is the real value here, and the ability to get a photo into print is a big enough incentive to entice photographers to set up shop at the JPG Magazines website.

More print magazines should be doing similar things to embrace an online community instead of just copying their print content to their website. Periodic news magazines have no chance over the long run against their own online competitors. But magazines like JPG Mag, which people want to keep and display over the long run, can be successful. If they come up with the right way to bridge the online and offline worlds.

JPG Magazine shares office space in San Francisco with other Minor Ventures companies, including OpenDNS and a new service launching next week called Swivel.