Techcrunch recently had an article about Uber launching a new magazine, this time aimed at its passengers (they already have a quarterly magazine called “Momentum” for their drivers).
It launched in NYC in time for Fashion Week. While many are looking at this as a content play and advertising play – I am looking at another angle.
Blocking the Competition
There are some uber drivers out there that might be building up their income by working with other car services such as Lyft. This is hard to police for Uber – but if they had a magazine in the seatback – now, it is hard for the passenger to miss Uber’s branding even if they never pick up the magazine. While I seriously doubt this is a key reason for launching the magazine, it works as a great side benefit for the company to reinforce its brand.
The Brand Experience
Sure, Uber certainly has an opportunity to create a ‘Starbucks’ moment with its customers. But if you consider that most of its passengers are either on a phone call or otherwise interacting with their smartphone – then the print magazine is more of a novelty than a way to build affinity. Add to that, most car passengers get nauseous reading in a moving car – that isn’t exactly the experience they would want to go for. Uber riders tend to be more particular… eg, not wanting to ride in a ‘dirty’ taxi. Now, there is a print magazine that has been touched by how many people? This might require a fresh magazine for every new passenger to make sure some are not uncomfortable.
airbnb also launched (earlier) a magazine that goes to their 30,000 hosts around the world.
Another consideration is that Uber is looking at advertising revenue. Given the size and scale of uber’s transportation business and future aspirations – I cannot see how a print magazine will go from red to break even to material income stream in the near future – although I won’t bet against it. Notwithstanding, this again seems more like a brand association – only key advertisers that align with the uber brand and enhance the uber brand may be invited. Given that there isn’t an easy for an advertiser to find this publication – this is more of a break-even with other benefits than advertising revenue in uber’s eyes.
Have other views on this? Seen the magazine? What was your experience?