Deluded Asda Plotting a Digital Non-Future for Magazines
Asda, the supermarket that is “Part of the Wal-Mart Family” – and profiting rather nicely from the value-obsessed victims of the credit crunch, thank you very much – is once again sidling up to its clients in the magazine publishing industry, and whispering in their collective ear that they are going to eat them alive and wash the remnants down with a warm glass of Blue Nun.
A few months back, we covered their attempts to force the publishers of every magazine they stock to feature free Asda “editorials” amongst other ridiculous cash in a brown paper bag-style proposals. They were subsequently laughed out of town by more or less every serious commercial magazine publisher and distributor in the country, and quietly dropped (or “fragmented” as they put it at the time) their list of demands.
Now they’re back, as Amol Rajan reports in today’s Independent, with nothing less than a Plan That Will Revolutionise the Future of the Magazine Industry, Possibly, and Make Walmart It’s Master.
So what is this fearsome blueprint for the future?
Er… they’re teaming up with John Menzies to set up a “Digital Newsagent” with a wazzo “click and flick interface” that simulates a real magazine and is “is already used on the website of Metro, the London freesheet owned by Associated Newspapers.” The service is apparently modeled on a website called Digitalnewsagent.com that they claim has been “highly successful,” and will offer customers the chance to flit between four titles “for, say, £8.99 a month.”
It’s difficult to express in words quite how bird-brained this initiative is, but if we told you that it was being commandeered by a man called Tony Prescott, who was formerly the head of “multi-channel retail” at a little company called Woolworths, would it surprise you? (A quick recap – Woolworths: former high street giant turned developing world clear-out store, that’s just gone into administration with debts of approximately £400 million.)
If you’re in any doubt about how popular Metro’s revolutionary “click and flick” interface has been, you might want to cast your eyes at the graph below from Alexa, which is a fairly straightforward illustration of the fact that the London freesheet (circulation approx. 1.1 million) is being absolutely pasted for web hits by the Guardian (circulation approx. 360,00), a newspaper who have actually bothered to set up a proper website. You may also notice a third competitor flatlining at the bottom there – that’s digitalnewsagent.com…
Asda’s complete miscomprehension that magazines are personal luxury products – i.e. you don’t buy them for hard news or information as you would a newspaper – and of how people like to navigate to content online (look at any leading blog or newspaper or magazine website – they’re not mimicking the layout of a print publication) suggests to us that this new business initiative will shortly be going the way of the Hindenburg.