Netflix-like model to work for magazine lovers?

Subscribers of Maghound can experiment with new titles on the cheap by selecting and replacing which magazines they receive in the mail each month.

A site that's slipped through the cracks of our coverage is Time Inc.'s upcoming service Maghound. It's best described as a cross between a beer-of-the-month club and Netflix.

For a relatively low monthly fee, you'll be able to pick out certain magazines you want to receive, and they'll show up on your doorstep for you to read and dispose of. If you like something, you can simply keep receiving it, while replacing less-liked titles with new ones at a much lower price than it would cost to go out and buy them at the newsstand. Each plan can also be scaled up to higher tiers, meaning that you can continue to expand on your read publications while experimenting with new titles.

According to Folio Maghound is opening up for business in September, also known as back-to-school time for high-school and college students. The site's reportedly been in development for four years, all the while the company's been tweaking the distribution and billing system.

It sounds like it's been worth the wait, if only for privacy. The service will act as a proxy for your billing information, meaning that even if you're subscribed to 30 magazines, only one company is going to have your information--Maghound. This could theoretically keep it from being sold to other companies, something nearly all publications have done to bring in an extra stream of revenue.

The company also has an inside track to your tastes and the tastes of others. It has the potential to build in a recommendation engine like what Netflix has to tell you magazines you would like or not like, based on what you've thought of your past orders.

Of course, the results won't be nearly as deep as Netflix, which currently has a library of more than 100,000 titles and a veritable arms race between teams of statisticians and software engineers to build better algorithms. Maghound is starting out with just less than 300 magazines (published by companies ranging from Time Inc. itself to rival Conde Nast) from which to choose. There will be "premium" titles, which cost a buck or two per month, something not found on Netflix.

I'm eager to give the service a look when it launches. I think there's a real potential to grab folks who want to save some money but not commit to certain titles. There's also a nice possibility for publications that tend to have better seasonal content, such as cooking and video game magazines, to get a few more subscribers at critical times.

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Software
About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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