Can Webvan Founder Succeed With Offering Online Archives?

from the me-too? dept

Louis Borders had a big hit with his Borders bookstores, and then a huge flop with Webvan. Both were “me-too” plays that tried to do things bigger and better than their predecessors and competition. Now he’s apparently gearing up for another “me too” online venture. This one is called KeepMedia, and the idea is to offer downloadable archived content from a variety of magazines for a monthly subscription fee under $5. There have been others who tried similar projects, most notably Steven Brill’s massively overhyped, under-utilized Contentville. The price on this one is definitely low, but it still seems like it’s only going to appeal to those who are doing regular research, which may be a limited market. It’s also missing two of the largest magazine publishers out there, Time Warner and Conde Nast. What Borders should realize is that the value isn’t in the content itself (much of which is online for free or in a magazine’s own archives), but in the service of being able to easily research through all those old editions (going back decades, not just years). If they pitch it as a research tool – a Google for magazines – and make sure the searching tools are very powerful, they could find a market. If they’re just pitching it as content, there’s less value.

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