Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Staff-written magazine archives can be repackaged and re-sold as "collections"

A new revenue opportunity may be open to magazines which can repackage their archival material into iPad-only collections, according to a story about The New Yorker, published by Reuters. At the Ballpark, a collection of staff-written baseball writing from 1929 to 2011, features John Updike, David Grann and the inimitable Roger Angell. The revenue came from sponsorship by United Airlines. There was also sponsored golf and "sustainability" collections.
"Nearly all of these pieces are timeless, just waiting to be rediscovered," writes Felix Salmon. "And the New Yorker’s archives are so deep, and are of such high quality, that there’s really no limit to how many of these things it can produce. Each one is very cheap to put out — just cobble together a bunch of articles under a theme, and get a TNY writer to pen a short introduction. Meanwhile, the advertisers get to align themselves with popular or trendy subjects (golf, “sustainability”), and reach an audience which is affluent even by New Yorker standards."
One of the things that Salmon doesn't address is non-staff written content. Today, magazine publishers strong-arm freelance writers to obtain "all rights" (usually for the same price as one-time rights); but previous to that, most archives of most magazines consist of material that was bought on a first rights basis and reverted to the writers afterwards. For magazines in that position, there is a lot of paperwork (and expense) getting the rights to package such archival material.

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