“Netflix for magazines” service Next Issue rebrands as Texture

Shifting reading habits are prompting traditional publishers to re-think what a periodical should be in the digital age

Screenshots from the new version of the rebranded Texture.

Screenshots from the new version of the rebranded Texture.

The shifts faced by publishing companies over the past decade have come in various magnitudes. A single tectonic movement—from the printed page to the digital realm—masked smaller changes. Readers moved from desktops to laptops to tablets to an array of devices, from small tablets to big smartphones. Replicating a magazine on a tablet screen once satiated loyal readers, but they now demand multimedia alongside words and pictures. And people’s desire to read a title from cover-to-cover has been supplanted by a desire to skip between publications, based on topics or individual stories that interest them.

Reacting to the big shift isn’t enough for publishers—they need to pivot to address the smaller ones too.

Which is why Next Issue Media announced the relaunch of its digital magazine platform under a new name: Texture. The service launched five years ago as an ambitious collaboration between six leading publishers to create a “Netflix of magazines,” a single service that provided access to the world’s top titles for a single monthly fee. Alongside its new moniker, the platform offers a host of new features, including curated collections of stories from multiple publications organized around a single theme and a search function that digs through 15,000 back issues from more than 150 titles. “What we’re seeing is a natural evolution of the product, from a simple digital newsstand to a constantly-growing database of the best magazine stories in the world,” says Steve Maich, the head of Rogers Publishing (which is a part-owner of Next Issue and publishes Canadian Business). “It’s about the ability to discover content and indulge in the subjects that you’re most passionate about.”

Next Issue began as “digital translation of the print business that we know and love,” says Maich. Adding great customization, search and curation capability positions Texture to reach beyond traditional magazine readers to a new audience of “people who almost exclusively consume their content on the screen, rather than off the page,” says Maich. “The continued evolution of the service is about satisfying the expectations of that audience. Continued growth is going to be about leveraging the best of the digital world and the best of the print world.” The platform’s new name and look “was consistent with where we see the product evolving to, rather than growing out of the history of the magazine business,” says Maich.

The company first launched in 2011, roughly a year after Apple unveiled its iPad. With rapid growth in the tablet market, many publishers placed heavy bets on that device category. But tablet sales have slowed, while larger smartphones and “phablets” have grown in popularity. Texture is well positioned to compete in this diversified market, says Maich. “We don’t want to be making a bet on any particular device or manufacturer. We want to make sure we’re building a product that works no matter what device you’re reading on.” In contrast, other Canadian publishers have launched tablet-only products. Most recently, the Toronto Star unveiled Star Touch, a free tablet edition, on Sept. 15.

Texture will compete with a growing number of competitors, including Apple News. The relaunched service—which also competes with apps like Flipboard—distinguishes itself by offering full access to all of its titles. “It’s the only place where you can get the whole collection from this array of titles,” says Maich. “For $15 a month, you can get access to all the best magazines, including their back issues and archives,” says Maich. In addition to Rogers, Next Issue Media is co-owned by Condé Nast, Hearst Magazines, Meredith, News Corp, Time Inc. and KKR.

Next Issue has more than 100,000 users in Canada, says Maich, with readers spending the same amount of time with the content as if it were a print magazine, rather than a website. Further, Next Issue hasn’t significantly cut into Rogers’ base of print consumers. “We went into this wondering how much of our growth would come from people leaving their print subscriptions and joining Next Issue,” says Maich. “The vast majority are people who either never subscribed to our magazines, or were lapsed subscribers.”