Overlooked Revenue

Cheryl Cain
They're not your father's old girly magazines? Wait, maybe they are, sort of.

We have all heard of the slow demise of hardcopy magazines, once the powerhouse of pornography, huge empires of ink and paper that slowly and begrudgingly gave way to this massive mix of digital flesh we call the Internet. The story of the old giving way to the new is a natural process in any industry.

Even as the old giants of the industry work to reinvent themselves to compete in a digital world, an electronic version of the magazine has emerged.

The offline monthly, as it is known, is a publication that mimics the design and structure of print magazines. Generally utilized in niche-specific categories that cater to specialized tastes, these renewable subscriptions come to life only after they have been downloaded from their source server. Often supplied as a self-extracting zip file that expands on a consumer's hard drive, the download itself can be delivered via scheduled event or via email notice. Once expanded in its own folder on a customer's computer, the publication runs much like a website, but in a distinctive magazine-like structure.

These periodicals contain many of the familiar aspects of their print counterparts: articles and reviews, editorials, gallery features, classified, and even more modern materials not possible in print such as video clips and even recorded "on the spot" reporting clips. The size varies with content and of course breadth of topic. The appeal to their customer base is low cost, speed of use to the benefit of dial up users, and web site like functionality that can be burned to a CD for portability.

The marketing of these publications target dial-up users, cost-conscious buyers, and limited-access customers in many third-world developing nations -– even travelers that do not want to fiddle with mobile Internet connections on the road. In more advanced implementations, they can be geo-targeted for advertising sponsorships as well as and translations to native languages.

Before you go laughing about catering to the dial-up world, bear in mind that limited speed access commands a whooping 61 percent of all Internet connectivity in the United States, according to a 2004 JD Powers and associates study. When we broaden that to include the world market that number grows to 73 percent of all access. That's a huge slice of the consumer pie unable to achieve blazing download speeds like their broadband counterparts. Therefore is comes as no surprise that initial explorations into this format of adult entertainment has seem some early promising results.

The cost of these periodicals is, for the most part, extremely inexpensive to the consumers. Generally below the price range of hard copy magazines, which adds to the their appeal and attracts bulk sales. In the dozen or so implementations we looked at, the cost for eight of them was below $5 a month, easily in the range of PPV-style processors such as Marketing buzzwords utilized phrases like collector's editions and special releases. In all cases that we found, these periodicals were offered as a condensed version of an existing web site, thereby generating a new avenue of income.

Like anything else, this format is not without it's advantages and disadvantages.

For the vendor's, ease of theft was the biggest concern, however in my opinion, one we risk anyway in this business. The advantages were low investment, since the materials were already being produced for web use, and an additional source of income.

On the consumer's part, the biggest concern was allowing a product to be installed onto their computer; obviously an opportunity for the not so honest to exploit. But in the advantages column was low cost, faster viewing for the bandwidth-impaired, portability for the traveler, and ease of downloading.

In a nutshell, this is just another manner that webmasters can use to generate income to support their bottom line. Where this format goes has an awful lot to do with how well it catches on, as well as trends in the availability and affordability of broadband. While broadband use in all markets continues to be on the rise, expansion of the popularity of broadband is not even close to the predicted trends. With that many consumers still listening to the hiss of the dial up handshake, this is definitely a market that warrants consideration.