The OTB of Magazines

Finally, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for print magazines. A new strategy has emerged thanks to The Industry Standard, the high priest of the Internet that folded after that bubble burst. Now, the magazine is back on line, but this time people are betting on it to win—literally. Yes, the Standard is now the OTB of the magazine world, taking bets on whether or not Yahoo will accept Microsoft’s offer, or whether Google will support Open ID. Register to bet and you’re given 100,000 virtual dollars to play with. The odds change, of course, and there are cut-off dates. But what's at stake is more than play money. The results of this kind of virtual betting, which are often right on the money, could determine a company’s stock price or whether or not that V.C. investment goes through.

Soon after it launched in 1998, the Standard became the “bible” for Internet business. It was fat with ads and attracted some of the best financial writers in the magazine universe. But after the 2001 crash, the magazine, owned by IDG, shut down as advertising revenue took a dive.

Now, the Internet is the media darling once again, and the Standard has been resurrected to catch the next wave. It makes sense. Global, institutional, and everyday investors want a reliable “weather report” about who’s going to win or lose. Will it be Blue Ray or HD DVD? Face Book or My Space? Dell or HP? The Standard will likely take their early model and turn it into “The Industry Standard Index,” competing with some of the hottest betting on news, sports, movies, currencies, and elections (including the 2008 Presidential election in the U.S.). They’ll once again become the go-to brand for investors and reap the rewards of advertisers who want to reach those eyeballs.

So would this betting model work for other now defunct magazines? Should House and Garden, recently shuttered (or should I say blind-sided) by its Conde Nast chairman, start a betting site for paint colors, fabric patterns and furniture styles? Should Meredith’s Child Magazine return with bets on popular names for kids that are available as a domain? And what about Time Inc’s Teen People? Why not bet on Brittany and Lindsay to see who will self destruct first.

Virtual dollars, virtual betting arenas, virtual results. Maybe this will give a “second life” to the dead pool after all.


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