Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine has switched to a freemium subscription model on the Kindle Store. A lot of the blogs that covered this last week sort of glossed over it, I imagine because we’re all getting inured to the idea of free and nearly free ebook offerings.
But what this long-running genre magazine is doing is far more interesting than just blindly throwing out freebies as a marketing campagin. This is the first print periodical I’ve seen to try out a true freemium model, similar to services like Dropbox or Evernote. In a lot of ways this is similar to how online newspapers and magazines use paywalls to attract both readers and paying customers—in this case, F&SF will offer all of its nonfiction and news elements for free, plus one story out of each issue, and charge of the remaining fiction pieces.
Another way of looking at this is the magazine is adopting an email list newsletter model to sell more copies. Each issue, everyone on that “email list”—meaning everyone subscribed to the free version—will receive a content-packed free issue that will remind readers to think about upgrading to a paid subscription.
I’ll be curious to see how it works out, and whether it will lead to other problems like devaluing the perceived worth of the magazine’s nonfiction content. Already paidContent has noticed one issue with customer service, although it’s largely Amazon’s fault. Because every Kindle subscription comes with a free 14-day trial period, some customers were getting confused by the free vs. paid versions and thinking that this was a trick—that after two weeks, the free version would automatically switch to paid. It’s the sort of customer hand-holding that Amazon normally does well, but in this case Amazon’s own platform has undermined the experiment by generating a lot of unjustified negative customer reviews.
You can view the special offer on the Amazon Store if you’re interested.