Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A treasure trove of new magazines

Over at MagCulture.com, Jeremy Leslie has been sorting through the pile of magazines he acquired at the Colophon 2009 event. There are some fascinating sounding titles/concepts/executions, and it's well worth reading his descriptions. I particularly like the idea of a food magazine that comes complete with all you need to make tapas (http://www.lamasbella.org/).

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Exciting Magtweet discovery

My Magtweet avatar has just discovered Kaastor.com, which calls itself a "community built database of magazines" – 32,500 titles listed.

I haven't even looked at it properly yet (seems to be a sale site, which could be very useful for collectors) but I'm a sucker for magazine databases.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Magtweet update

This is hilarious: Penthouse magazine is now following me on Twitter. I don't quite know what to say ...


Instant Update @ 10:45
Don't worry about clicking on the Penthouse link - it appears to require a subscription to see anything more than the front page (a quick check for research purposes, you understand). For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, this strikes me as a particularly bad business model for this kind of magazine in this medium.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Magazines, newspapers and political coverage for the elite

Three things to consider:

1) Professor Tim Luckhurst (University of Kent, formerly editor of The Scotsman) writes about newspapers' role as the Fourth Estate in Scotland and, whether he meant to or not, more generally:

The country's broadcasters are ill equipped to fill the vacuum left by its failing newspapers. Broadcasters can never do the job of a free press. At their best they provide balanced, informative news. It is to newspapers that citizens must turn for investigation, exposure and crusading zeal.

(taken from his article in the Independent)

2) Max Hastings (former editor of the Daily Telegraph and London Evening Standard) writes about the disastrous effects of financial market deregulation on his pension fund:

One of the illusions of the Thatcher era, now laid bare by the economic crisis, was that of "financial self-empowerment". Margaret Thatcher aspired to give individuals discretion over their finances, above all pensions. Even back in the 1980s, this notion rang alarm bells with some of us. I suggested to a financial journalist friend that most people were neither eager to accept responsibility for their own money, nor fit to do so. He, a good Thatcherite, shrugged and said that we would just have to grow up, wouldn't we?

(taken from his article in the Guardian)

Before we get to item 3), can anyone else see a disjunction in those two extracts? To me, they say, yes newspapers can be investigative crusaders, guarding the interests of the entire nation, but, actually, they usually choose not to be because ... well, because of all sorts of non-journalistic reasons. Proprietorial preference, perhaps; the desire to remain "one of us", maybe.

Was Mr Hastings not in a position to express his concerns to the Telegraph reading public? Perhaps he would like to tell us why he did not. Some people have tried to blame Robert Peston for precipitating the current crisis but it looks to me as though it goes back to the period Mr Hastings writes about, when newspapers such as the one he edited signally failed to act as a Fourth Estate.

And, despite Professor Luckhurst's protestations, perhaps that is one reason why people have turned away from buying information from newspapers - because they have come to realise that newspapers are rarely "at their best" and hardly ever offer "investigation, exposure and crusading zeal".

3) Peter Wilby writes about B2B/Special Interest magazines in the USA:

Most of their subscribers are members of professional elites. And in the US, at least, they are gradually taking over the coverage of politics. Press coverage is being remoulded to serve an elite that will pay a premium price to keep tabs on how politicians and civil servants are affecting elite interests. News of how democratic institutions work is being segmented and privatised. And this process began 20 years ago, long before the recession and even before the growth of the internet.

(taken from his column in the Guardian)

Although this segmentation and privatisation (which is how magazines work) is presented as a bad thing, surely it provides a model for newspapers? One reason the Daily Mail is successful is because it is so tightly focused on a particular segment of British society; the same principle applies to the Financial Times. As Vin Crosbie noted recently: "Wonder why there r no good suggestions how 2save traditional newspapers? Bcause that generic package of news has bcome obsolete." (It was a tweet, so forgive the txtspk).

The generic package of news has become obsolete:

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Monday, March 02, 2009

More about iTunes for publishing

The iTunes for newspaper publishing idea is taken up by David Carr in the New York Times.

The only trouble is, the examples he cites as successful examples of getting readers to pay for content involve either magazines or a highly specialised newspaper:

Other print publications have looked directly to the reader to help bear that cost. Cook’s Illustrated is a delightfully retro magazine that takes a modern approach to food. And its approach to publishing? Cook’s Illustrated takes no ads and charges for access to the databank of recipes. Apart from its 900,000 print subscribers, in addition to 100,000 or so newsstand buyers, the company has 260,000 digital subscribers at a cost of $35 a year, and that group grew by 30 percent in 2008.

I get Cook’s Illustrated at the office and don’t have access to the deep digital archive of recipes, but I’ve thought about how handy online access would be in the kitchen. Similarly, I subscribe to Consumer Reports because it has valuable content that I can’t get anywhere else. Both Cook’s and Consumer Reports have set a trend in part because they had no ads to begin with, so turning toward their readers to pay for operations and future growth made sense.

But I also subscribe to The Wall Street Journal, one of the few pay newspaper sites. I could cobble together a free version — you can get behind the firewall at The Journal if you go through Google News and know exactly what you are looking for — but I chose to pay the freight. To me, paying for content I want online is not all that different from paying for a DropSend account, which allows me to send and receive large files: the paid option outweighs the hassle and time of the free ones.
David Lazarus follows a similar line of thought in his LA Times article.

Luckily we in the UK have Martin Belam's Currybetdotnet to put a sensible gloss on their arguments.

Yes, an iTunes/Amazon Marketplace idea is worth pursuing - but newspapers, on the whole, are not differentiated enough to take advantage of an open marketplace. Somehow, that idea is almost as ironically funny as Max Hastings (former editor of the Daily Torygraph) writing about the effects of unregulated financial markets on the value of his pension.

I especially love this sentence: "Even back in the 1980s, this notion rang alarm bells with some of us." Well, Max, you didn't do much about it, did you?

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

How about a bigger Kindle for magazines instead of iTunes on an iPhone?

If screen size is the key to creating a satisfactory "magazine" experience on a handheld digital device (hdd), something the size of a Kindle should be better than an iPhone – and something more like a sheet of A4 better again. This is what Hearst, the American publisher of magazines and newspapers, seems to be hoping, according to various reports (well summarised on this post from CNet).

Implementing a tied-in device could also give Hearst the opportunity to try an iTunes like subscription service, and such a service could be extended to include other publishers, thus creating the Amazon-style service proposed in previous posts.

Fortune magazine's first report of the Hearst hdd
The Wall Street Journal on Hearst's plans to charge for content

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