Eric Beecher and Di Gribble together are a blast of fresh air on the Australian media scene. Their success has empowered them to take risks others might only wish they could take. More power to them, I say.
And wouldn't I love to help them set their strategy. A small, smart, cashed up media company with high ideals, and experienced, realistic owners with a willingness to take risks presents an attractive opportunity to work through ideas.
So having admitted that, it's hard to watch as a good idea gets mangled. And that's what is happening with The Reader.
Crikey has dug up an interview with Eric Beecher and Di Gribble from an October 2003 issue of The Australian Financial Review's Boss magazine where the two discuss their working partnership. It's particularly interesting on The Reader.
Says Beecher: "You know when you launch it's going to take a year, maybe two, before you're anywhere near pleased with it. We've been doing The Reader for a little over a year, and we think it's ready now."
Ready for what? Sure it looks nice. It's well designed, though understandably text heavy. The re-writing and summarising is competent, and the coverage reasonably thorough.
This is not the problem. Neither is the aim of targetting time poor professionals with a digest of the week's issues.
No, the problem, imo, is with the format, the price, and the distribution.
Why is it available in print only? Why wouldn't you use email and a web site, as well as the nicely laid out magazine pages distributed in PDF format?
A product like The Reader could get to a much larger audience if it targetted professionals at work. Deliver them a manageable PDF file twice a week via email (instead of once a week to newsagents), for printing at their workplace and reading on the commute home or at the weekend. Do this and you'll stand out from the crowd.
In fact, I can't see why this isn't done more. Shares magazine used to do it with a separate weekly online subscription magazine. It eventually became a victim of its own success with page numbers and acompanying file sizes too large for most subscribers who were still on dial-up accounts (this was in about 2000-01). But the idea was a good one.
This method would avoid the costly overheads of printing and distributing the magazine, but it would allow the publisher to maintain the display ad ratios and yields whilst getting to a larger readership.
The price structure would have to be revised of course, but any drop in subscription rates or cover price would be well and truly offset by increased numbers.
If The Reader decided to employ this sort of strategy, then it would indeed be ready.