Breaking: Upcoming Launch Viv Magazine Actually Tries Something New

Posted by: Jon Fine on November 1, 2006

The latest take on the digital magazine is here—and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is coming from outside the extant magazine-industrial complex.

Viv is an independently published health-and-wellness play with certain New Age overtones aimed at women 35-plus. It’s set to launch Dec. 1 with a Jan-Feb ’07 issue. You will never see it on a newsstand. Rather it’s solely downloadable from the Web, and viewable through Zinio Systems’ online reader. Zinio has become something of an industry standard for American magazines seeking to translate the magazine experience into something Web-i-fied—it allows editors page layouts like magazines and lets readers flip through pages, but it also allows advertisers more interactive ads. One potential drawback: You need to download Zinio’s reader onto your computer to make the entire endeavor work.

(I should probably disclose two things here: One, I am not the biggest fan of Zinio, and two, BusinessWeek publishes a digital version through Zinio.)

A Cliff’s-notes version of Viv that showcases some of its interactive chops—one can change the model’s yoga pose, or toggle between different makeup combinations—for those who have not yet downloaded the Zinio’s reader can be found at its Web site, vivmag.com.

Viv is backed by David Gilmour (the founder of the company behind Fiji Water, not the guitarist for Pink Floyd). It’s based primarily on the West Coast. Its Editor-in-chief is Anne Russell, who formerly edited American Media’s Shape; its publisher, Barbara Moses, was a former sales-side executive there.

Despite its online-only status Viv will assume the accoutrements of print magazines, like rate bases (the circulation that’s guaranteed to advertisers), audited circulation, subscriptions and a cover price. A year’s subscription—six issues—will run $30, but single copy prices are not yet set, said Russell. The first issue will be free.

Viv’s staff totals around 20, and it’s based in Thousand Oaks, California. Advertisers already on board include Estee Lauder and luxury giant LVMH. Ad rates are somewhat variable, depending on how much storage space the pages bells and whistles take up.

The notion of doing an entirely digital magazine has been frequently discussed among the halls of major magazine publishers, but none have taken a leap like Viv. (Time Inc. did try the Web-only Office Pirates, but it was operated as a straight Web site and in any event died a fairly quick death.) I’d be telling a very big lie if I said Viv’s success was guaranteed, or even likely.

But I can’t help but think this: I just returned from the American Magazine Conference, where a bunch of top execs once again made the argument of how magazines are embracing the Internet, oh yes, we truly get it now, whatever “it” is. And yet it takes someone far outside from any big magazine company to try something that smacks of the next-generation magazine.

UPDATE 11/2: As I’ve been reminded, Viv is not the first magazine to try an all digital approach, nor the first to do so through Zinio. That would be Citizen Culture, which converted to an all-Zinio format in December of last year.

Needless to say, Citizen Culture, too, was launched outside the auspices of any major publiching company.

Reader Comments

John Weir

November 2, 2006 10:32 AM

Hi Jon,

I agree entirely that its smaller publishers that will be driving new thinking in the magazine world. Over here in the UK, there's a similar slowing in magazine consumption, and at the same time a growing internet population. Magazines have to evolve - and digital magazines are a likely next stage in development.

The business model however is yet to be proven, but with the launch of Monkey from Dennis and Cosmetic Surgery Answers as purely digital magazines, we are starting down that road.

John Weir

Gail Harlow

November 2, 2006 10:44 AM

What Viv is doing isn't a first. Making Bread, a women's finance and lifestyle magazine, launched on www.newsstand.com as a digital-only publication, in late 2002. Unfortunately, it wasn't adequately funded and closed up shop in 2006.
In my opinion, digital magazines have the potential to succeed if their editors and designers think outside the box and use all the bells and whistles the medium allows to set themselves apart from their print cousins.

Al Kratzer

November 2, 2006 11:19 AM

The mere fact that they are going to use zinio shows that they do not get it. For a look at what an online fashion magazine should be, go to:

http://www.zoozoom.com/

Al

Myles Fuchs

November 2, 2006 1:20 PM

Not to be left out, NewsStand, Inc. was the eEdition partner for the above-mentioned Making Bread magazine as well as we are the current eEdition provider for The New York Times; USA TODAY; Barrons'; Harvard Business Review as well as 100's of other daily newspapers and magazines.

Good to see a number of other vendors entering our growing category as well as many other publishers.

Myles

Anita

November 6, 2006 6:34 AM

To see what online magazines ("with bells and whistles the medium allows") should be, nothing beats those at http://dima.jp/

Serafima

February 2, 2007 3:40 AM

Jon hi

VIV magazine was not the first to pioneer digital only interactive magazine. Avantoure - life is a game! www.avantoure.com was launched before VIV and entirely digital using ZINIO technologies. Avantoure has been published for 1 year now by an independent London based company. The company was registered in December 2005 and first issue cam out in March 2006.
And Citizen Culture was converted from print into digital only not launched as a digital only publication.

Jon, I would suggest you check the info before you publish any blogs.

Serafima

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