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.