Time Inc. Friday morning made its iPad version of People free to print subscribers. Previously, each iPad issue cost $3.99 a pop even to those who paid for the print edition.
I know. You don’t read People either. So who cares, right?
Well, if you’re immersed enough in Western culture to read this blog, you should care.
This is the first domino in a long row, and it has big implications for whether and how our cultural gatekeepers (Time, Inc, Viacom, Disney, News Corp, and all the rest) will escape extinction and continue to mold our minds.
Rewind for a second. The media industry, for the past five years has been in its death rows. In January, Steve Jobs introduced a potentially life-saving drug called the iPad. Publishers gobbled the pill voraciously. Every major publisher built an app.
But the pill was not the entirety of Job’s prescription. Publishers also had to enter his famous reality distortion field to undergo therapy.
For the last four months, that therapy required effectively surrendering to Dr. Steve authority over pricing schemes. Magazines could not and still cannot sell subscriptions through the App Store. Big Publishers were all but forced to charge the most that the market could possibly bear: the max newsstand price with no “deals” whatsoever for existing subscribers or single-edition buyers.
That’s somewhat counterintuitive. It would have been easy and cheap, and probably better for business in the shortterm, for these magazines to quickly throw the online versions of their publications into iPad format, and offer the app as part of the general online subscription price. But Dr. Steve wouldn’t have that.
To save his patients, he needed to convince consumers that reading on the iPad would be a magical experience worth paying for. He needed to draw not just publishers, but consumers—the whole world—into his reality distortion field, and to do that he needed ALL the major publishers to charge an early-adopter premium for Big Media apps. He needed a few months of overpriced content, so that today’s news would have the right impact.
This morning, People subscribers are rejoicing. “Whoohoo! I now get—wait: $3.99 times 52 weeks equals $207.48—worth of value for free!!” They’ve been sucked into the field.
Fortune, lest it be discovered as a conspirator in the mass hypnosis, feigns confusion and blames Apple for mysterious delays:
It's not clear what took so long. Publishers who were encouraged to build iPad apps by Steve Jobs himself say [they] were ready from the start to make them free to subscribers. Until now, however, Apple would neither give them the tools they needed, nor explain what was holding them up.”
What was holding them? Hypnosis takes time. Especially when your subject is society.
post image: Time Inc.