Full Interview with Zinio CEO Rich Maggiotto '96

Rich Maggiotto '96

The leader in a new and growing field, Zinio distributes digital versions of college textbooks and more than 1,000 of today’s top consumer magazines, such as BusinessWeek, US News & World Report, Elle, and Women’s Health.

And now, Bowdoin magazine becomes one of the first college publications available in this exciting interactive way. We talked with Zinio President and CEO Rich Maggiotto '96.

Bowdoin: What is Zinio?

Maggiotto: Zinio is the world’s leading online distribution website and digital system used by magazines and books publishers. People often liken us to the iTunes of print media. Users get immediate access to content online where they can search, save, read and engage with their favorite publications in an interactive way on their computers or mobile devices.

Our goal is transform the world of paper-based publishing into a paperless, environmentally-friendly, interactive experience for publishers and readers. Hundreds of magazines, textbook and general book publishers are currently using the Zinio service and the selection is growing dramatically every week.

B: How will work with Bowdoin magazine?

M: With Bowdoin Magazine, an alumnus who signs up for digital edition will automatically receive the exact replica of the print version on their screen – from there they can flip through virtual pages, easily link to sites, submits, class notes, and generally engage with a rich media digital experience.

B: What excites you the most about this technology?

M: I’m excited by the technology’s global reach -- more than half of visitors to Zinio actually select a title published outside their country of origin. We often forget that America’s biggest export is entertainment and information – in addition to movies, music and television, it also now applies to brands like Cosmopolitan, Harvard Business Review, and Seventeen.

I also love the fact that readers, regardless of geographic location, can immediately access digital publications, rather than waiting weeks or months for delivery. It always troubled me that you could buy a car or a house faster that receiving the first issue of your magazine subscription. Zinio’s immediacy, coupled with the fact that worldwide delivery of terrific content can now happen for anyone, anywhere, anytime, is the essence of our value proposition.

While we do power various book and textbook stores, our flagship website is the leading online destination for digital magazines, for instance. A visitor selects a country or language then has instant access to thousands of titles in their native language and currency anywhere in the world – it’s the first virtual global newsstand open 24/7!

B: When and how did you first see the potential for a company like Zinio?

M: I worked for America Online (AOL) in the nineties and witnessed the transformational power of the Internet. I was convinced that all forms of media required a ‘digital makeover’ and, at the time, I had been reading a ton of magazines like Wired, FastCompany, Technology Review on my business travels. I was intrigued and dug into understanding the paper publishing process – the more I did the more it seemed to me that it represented an inefficient and ecological nightmare ripe for change. Frankly. I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. Did you know that only 30 percent of magazines selling on a print newsstand actually sell? This means that 70 percent are sent back and discarded. Last year, in the U.S. alone, 12 billion magazines were printed causing the emission of 13 billion pounds of greenhouse gases. As an entrepreneur, I got over this guilt because a costly and inefficient manufacturing and distribution model meant a massive opportunity!


Not only is there an ecological imperative to do something, but it was also clear to me that the world was becoming increasingly connected online. In the past decade, consumer attention has been migrating to screens in vast droves. We have an affectionate term we use all the time: "screen-agers." Those accustomed to receiving and viewing content digitally and don’t read on paper anymore. I believe that the future of the publishing industry requires a shift to where eyeballs are and will be in the future. Print publishing is being hobbled like never before with shrinking circulations and advertising rate bases. Ad dollars are already following this trend. Digital initiatives have become the lifeline of the industry and Zinio is uniquely positioned to become the standard platform for the publishing industry and advertisers globally.

B: What’s been the greatest obstacle in getting Zinio off the ground?

M: Focus, focus, focus. When I was 27 years old, a venture capitalist I was hitting up for money told me after we pitched him that if I wanted “to start a fire in a field, I must keep my magnifying glass completely still.” I think the pitch may have been too ambitious! I have never forgotten that line. Saying “no” to opportunities and staying focused can be tough for an any entrepreneur. It was a challenge for us starting out and remains something I constantly have to remind myself as Zinio grows in size and reach. I also have to remind myself that there are many examples of over-night success stories that took 10-15 years to build.

B: What’s in the future?

M: I think that the arrival of e-paper display based devices will bring about seismic change in the publishing, print and paper industries. We’re not far away. Early electronic ink versions from Amazon (i.e., Kindle) and Sony are available and have revitalized the market for e-books. Steve Jobs has rocked the mobile industry with the iPhone which I think of as a really pocket-sized publishing platform.

Over the next two years, other devices will launch, including some with flexible and color e-paper displays. The first generation of e-paper display technology will be electrophoretic with monochrome display technology. LCD and OLED color e-paper displays will commence commercial production as early as next year. The second generation of e-paper technology will be electrowetting allowing top range color and refresh rates.

These technologies will continue to evolve and consumer habits will continue to change. There is no doubt that a convergence of forces is at work. Batteries now last longer and are getting lighter. Screens are becoming flexible. Wireless is becoming ubiquitous. Analog content is being increasingly being digitized, from music to movies to textbooks and magazines.