Startup Magzter is already selling many magazines on the web and mobile devices, but it’s been focused on traditional purchase models — buying single issues, or annual subscriptions to individual titles. Now, with the launch of a new service called Magzter Gold, the company is embracing the all-you-can-read (or watch, or listen to) subscription model popularized by Netflix and Spotify.
Magzter Gold, which will be available in the new version of the Magzter app, will cost $9.99 per month. It will provide unlimited access to more than 2,000 magazines, including Maxim, ESPN, and Fast Company. There will also be an option called Magzter Gold Lite, where you choose only five titles — but you’ll have access to the full archive of each one, and it only costs $4.99 per month.
Co-founder and CEO Girish Ramdas said the company has “always been toying with the idea” of a Netflix-style subscription, but it was “not the right time” until recently, when Magzter convinced a number of its publishers to try the model out.
This comes more than two years after the launch another Netflix-for-magazines service, Next Issue Media. (Next Issue recently raised a $50 million round from KKR.)
Asked about the competition, Ramdas suggested that Next Issue might have been “a little early” to the market, and he also argued that since it’s a joint venture of five big magazine publishers (Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., and Time Inc.), it will have trouble attracting titles from other companies.
Whether or not you believe that, the services do seem to have distinct approaches. As I mentioned above, Magzter says there are more than 2,000 magazines available in the Magzter Gold library, while Next Issue says it has “over 140 of the best magazines in the world” — Next Issue CEO Morgan Guenther has told me he’s focused on “premium, high-readership titles.” (If you want to compare pricing, a basic Next Issue subscription is $9.99 per month, but you need to pay $14.99 if you want to read weekly titles like Time and The New Yorker.)
Does 140 versus 2,000 really make a huge difference? How many magazines can one person read, anyway? Well, Ramdas said that offering a variety of titles makes Magzter relevant to readers with a wide range of interests and backgrounds — for example, with magazines from the United Kingdom, Singapore, India, and elsewhere, Ramdas said it can help the “diaspora” in the United States keep up with news from home.
To be clear, though, Magzter is interested in big titles too, including those from the publishers backing Next Issue.
“Nobody has told us no — we’re in different stages of getting them on board,” Ramdas said. Co-founder and President Vijay Radhakrishnan added that even if a publisher is working with Next Issue (which is only available in the US and Canada), partnering with Magzter can help them reach a global audience, too.
Of course, searching through thousands of titles might be a little overwhelming, so Radhakrishnan noted that Magzter has also tried to improve discoverability — when you first open the app, it will ask you to identify you interests, and then provides personalized recommendations for magazines that you might want to check out.
Oh, and since Magzter has also started to support book publishers as well, Ramdan said a combined book-magazine subscription is a possibility in the future.
You can find links to the (numerous) Magzter apps on the company’s website.