(thanks to Tim at Blue Collar MTB for this tip!)
Venerable cycling publication Mountain Bike Action has just gone completely digital by teaming up with a company called Zinio. MBA offers a digital subscription for the same price as regular old print. The benefits of this format are immediate delivery, a personal archive and more robust and precise search capabilities.
It looks super sharp and I'm curious how many folks will sign up. I also wonder if their advertisers will mind that their horizontal ads can't be viewed correctly. I think it's sort of ironic that MBA is the first to do something like this because I was just talking at Interbike about the fact that their format and design hasn't changed forever and that they were sort of the "old school" mag.
The interesting thing about services like Zinio is that this is sort of a compromise between two worlds; the experience of a magazine and the experience of the web. While I'm psyched to see MBA try this, I think it's pretty interesting to see how publishers are still clinging on to the magazine experience and being reluctant to offer the content free on the web.
While I give them props for trying something new, I don't quite understand why they don't just take a cue from Dirt Rag and release most of the content free as real web pages instead charging for this "digital magazine" format. Or, if they're not into the totally free model, why not do something like the NYTimes.com (and others) where most of the content is available free and certain articles require a subscription?
By using Zinio, MBA will drive absolutely no traffic to their own online property, the pages do nothing for search engine placement, and the content cannot be linked to from other websites. To me, these are huge disadvantages.
All that being said, I give them props for trying something new. As the online audience grows because of the increasing influence of consumer generated media like blogs and forums, print publications have to start experimenting and finding ways to offer more engaging digital content.
What will be next? Which magazine will get 100% behind the blog format? How long will magazines wait and watch sites like BlueCollarMTB increase in popularity before starting a blog of their own?