The sudden loss of Shojo Beat has left a real void in my manga reading.  Even if I didn’t get to read it as soon as it arrived, I knew it was there, and had it to look forward to.  Why Shojo Beat was canceled is still a bit of a mystery, since, for me at least, it did exactly what it was meant to do.  Get me to read more Viz titles.  While I didn’t love all the titles in Shojo Beat, I enjoyed most of them, and through previews found titles I wanted, or wanted to avoid.  It really was a great marketing tool, since I could sample a lot of different titles for a low cost.  Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way to do that electronically (and legally)?

I’ve had a few thoughts about this, and here are some of the things I’ve envisioned.  Everything written here is pure speculation, and I don’t know what’s profitable.  I’m throwing out numbers that I think are reasonable, but obviously people in the industry will have a better idea.  Just remember, these are my wishes, not business advice.

First Idea: The manga magazine model works.  People will buy and/or subscribe to a magazine with a few chapters each of several titles, move that model straight online.  Eliminate the cost of printing and distributing.  Make a manga magazine, with articles and features, and 6 or so titles. Put it up to be read online or downloaded to a computer or portable device.  Make it available by subscription for a price say have what the print was going for, so like $15.99-18.99 a year.

Second idea: A manga magazine like above that is customizable.  Keep the articles and features the same, but subscribers can choose which titles they want to read every month.  Have a list of say…12 titles and let readers choose 6 from that list, and that’s what they get every month.  And let them change out the titles every 4 months, about the equivalent of 1 volume, so if they find they don’t like one, they can find something else they’ll enjoy.  Letting the reader choose can take out some of the guessing about what’s going to appeal to who, and readers can take more chances on different titles.  Make the subscription pricing about $20 a year.

Third idea: Do a customizable manga magazine with tiered pricing.  Make this magazine wide open to any genre.  Have a list of say 12 titles again, and let readers choose from them again.  The difference here is that it can cross genre’s (assuming the previous two ideas were genre focused magazines) and readers can chose 4, 6, 10, or 12 titles to read depending on how much they want to pay/read.  Make the articles and features selectable too.  Pricing can be structured as, 4 titles for $9.99 a year, 6 for $19.99, 10 for $29.99, and 12 for $34.99.  With this model, packages can be set up, such as the Best Selling titles, a Potpourri collection, Adults Only, etc.  Subscribers can pick a package that has the kind of titles they want to read without being specific.

Fourth idea: Have a site structured like the unsanctioned Onemanga, where all the titles are available, and the reader can choose titles ala carte.  This should be a monthly subscription for like $4.99 – 9.99 a month to read whatever you want on the site.  Everything is open and available, and there are no time limits.  As long as you pay your subscription, you have access to all the manga to be read online only.  For this model, The first volume of each series should be available to read for free.  Music is starting to move in this direction with the growing popularity of smartphones with data plans.  I think this would work well for manga too, as there are many titles people would like to read, and not necessarily own.  If a company should decide to go with a higher pricing ($9.99 or up), they should then provide a way for the subscriber to get a print volume for say half price.  This makes the subscription price seem lower, and the subscriber is getting something tangible.  Music services are doing this same thing, and it seems to be working out for them.

The Holy Grail of Ideas:  This last idea is the most wishful of all these, and will probably never happen, but that’s why it’s wish.  A manga version of TV’s Hulu.  I would love to see a site like the last idea described above, but with ALL manga from ALL publishers available for reading.  You can keep the pricing structure the same and add ads from all the participating publishers to appear between chapters of volumes.  Just make the ads relevant to the title.  So, no Naruto in the middle of Nana.  I KNOW this will never happen, but wouldn’t it be so awesome if it did?  And then take this site and put it on all portable devices: the Kindle, iphone/itouch, Palm Pre, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP/PSP Go, anything that can get online through wifi or over-the-air internet.  Remove all boundaries.

It’s the impossible dream, but I’ll keep dreaming it anyway.

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