Monday, December 14, 2009

News International joins the iTunes For Magazines gang

I know that BSkyB has brought its customer magazine in-house and renamed it, and I am conversant with the history of News International's doomed attempt at magazine publishing, but is is a Good Thing that Murdoch has decided to join Time, Conde Nast, Hearst and Meredith in the latest iTunes for magazines gang. Maybe the name "Hearst" threw him.

Wanted: magazine workers

Is a magazine online the same thing as a magazine in print?

This is the subject of an online survey by Rachel Singh, who is looking for people working in the magazine industry to participate. She describes the project thus:
This study is a research project being undertaken by me, Rachel Singh, a digital anthropologist-in-training at the University College of London (UCL). I hold a BA in cultural anthropology from the University of British Columbia and, among other things, I’m a former magazine web editor.

This study forms the practical project component of my graduate studies at UCL’s Department of Anthropology. The aim of the study is to discover the ways magazines can (and are) reinventing themselves. The idea is to compile research to serve as material for a potential dissertation on the shifting landscape of magazines in the 21st century and how it’s shaping a new global medium.

Along the way the study will ask questions like “Do you think print is dying?” These are not meant to reinforce doom and gloom missives of the death of print, but aimed at identifying the current trends/patterns of how magazines are navigating the ‘digital age’.

Initial areas of inquiry include:
• What does the future of magazines look like?
• What do traditional offline roles look like online? Ex. From features editor to online curator
• How are magazines using social media/networking?
• Print/Web team divides
• Old Media vs. New Media

I’m around moderating comments and participating in the conversation so if you want to reach me directly, here’s how:
E: rachel [dot] singh [dot] 09@ucl [dot] ac [dot] uk
T: @SLofM 

I have my own question: why does it take someone studying anthropology to do this?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How to monetise digital publishing: print it

One week Haymarket closes the print versions of magazines in favour of online only, the next it converts online only to print.

As the company itself reports, a "best of" bookazine compilation of is now available, just in time for Christmas. There's lovely.

NB: Interestingly Zemanta has only picked up on the Christmas word so here's a lovely seasonal picture:

Christmas decoration at a shopping mall in BrazilImage via Wikipedia

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

How Sports Illustrated may work in tablet form

The tablet magazine version of Sports Illustrated in action:

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"iTunes for magazines" gets a little more focus

More details about the US consortium of magazine publishers and their planned "itunes" for magazines, courtesy of the Guardian/Paid Content.

UPDATE ( few minutes later after actually following the Zemanta links!)
In the comments under the Gawker post, lukeoneil47 makes the very good point that in the USA magazines bought on subscription are almost free already. That discussion in full (all material taken from


@sweetpickles: How much is this going to be? Magazines are already basically free. $10 or so for a year.
@lukeoneil47: Exactly; I don't pay enough for magazines to start looking for a cheaper way to get them, and an e-reader doesn't look nearly as intriguing on coffee table. (Or maybe it does, but I'm not letting my guests get their grubby hands on it.)
@DahlELama: Yeah but you might not have much of a choice in the future. Magazines are going to be newsstand or electronic. I don't think you will be able to get cheap print subscriptions any more.
@triplethreat: Interesting; that's definitely a perspective I haven't heard yet. What's the advantage to getting rid of the subscription model as long as the issues are still being created in print?
@DahlELama: Print subs are basically a loss and getting more so--they are super cheap in order to keep the rate base up, but are increasing in cost as printing prices, postal rates, and gas prices rise. Better to print just a few copies to sell at newsstand for those who really want the "object experience" (I made that term up) and put the rest of your energy into developing web audience and revenue models.

I think music will go same way. I mean, why make a CD? People would rather download. But a fancy vinyl box set? They will buy.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Reach for the Sky

BSkyB is going to rename its customer magazine, but does anyone remember the real Sky magazine? The one edited by one-time editorial genius Ian Birch? Whatever happened, etc, etc ... (Oh, maybe he's still in the States.)

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Friday, December 04, 2009

iPhone, Apple tablet, eReaders: which is the future for magazines?

I have reproduced here an interesting piece by Steve Smith, published by Mobile Insider. This long extract omits the aged-parent-pushing-GPS-toys intro and gets to the heart of competing technological solutions to what may be non-existent problems.

Key question: "Am I really getting added value from these things, or are the newspaper and magazine publishers fantasizing that I will embrace a gadget whose main purpose is to make their business models survive? "

It is gadget lust all over again. There seems to be that sentiment abroad again that consumers will embrace a new range of tech gadgets aimed at particular aspects of life. Obviously, GPS is a hit because it does integrate so nicely with existing auto technology. But pie-in-the-sky projections around new set top boxes and Internet-connected TVs are crowding the trades this season, for instance.
And now we get a wave of enthusiasm over eReaders. Amazon, in their usual coy fashion, is alluding to record sales of the Kindle  -- even though they still won't tell us how many actually are being sold. Two Forrester analysts predicted an explosion of reader gadgets in 2010, with Barnes & Noble carving out some market share from Amazon and Sony. Another analyst claims that by 2012 color tablet readers will be in the market and the technology will get down to $50-$60 price points by 2020. We understand that several print companies like Time Inc. and Hearst are developing both software and hardware strategies that will vault over the current hobbled e-ink technologies with something that better serves newspaper and magazine presentation. And yesterday Sports Illustrated editors were giving many of us in the press demos of a digital version of SI designed for touch-enabled tablet devices that aren't even in the market yet.
All of this eReader self-love is going on in the midst of the worst recession in half a century. Who is going to buy this stuff, and when? My guess is that we will get a 2010 with a ton of R&D, press releases out the wazoo, and even more attempts by the key players to convince us how popular the gadgets are without actually enumerating how many they are selling. Watching Jeff Bezos on stage playing with ebook sales percentages to reflect Kindle popularity is now more comical than a fine Cirque de Soleil contortion routine.  
My main skepticism over the eReader is that it is trying to be an in-between device -- a tough sell when user habits seem to have coalesced around cell phones and laptops. The eReaders I have seen, and the larger ones print publishers are gushing over, lack the portability and voice connectivity of a smart phone and lack the broad functionality of a laptop. Arguably, the netbook was able to slip into the picture in the last year because it does indeed have the functionality of a laptop in a smaller size. But in most cases an eReader now is poised to add to the clutter, even as it sells itself with efficiency.
I am less concerned about the abstract rationale of these gadgets than the practical matter of how they fit into established habits and the practicality of everyday life. Yes a Kindle can carry thousands of books and newspapers and magazines, but the reality is that most of us usually only carry one of those things at a time. And then once we get to the pricier, larger screen tablets Apple and others may launch next year, the question is even bigger. Am I really getting added value from these things, or are the newspaper and magazine publishers fantasizing that I will embrace a gadget whose main purpose is to make their business models survive? 
The people in the industry I have grilled with this problem seem to think that convergence will solve it. Almost everyone agrees that people are not likely to cart around three devices, so an in-between device will have to successfully cannibalize the functionality of a laptop or a phone or both. Despite the revival of touch screens on smart phones, the dismal failure of the Tablet PC demonstrated just how important a hard keyboard is to anyone trying to do a range of tasks on a computer.
As for embedding voice communications into a tablet-sized device - that may be fine for the midtown Manhattan publishing execs who live out of their leather portfolios and day books. But there is no way in hell that even a sliver of America at large is going to allow voice functionality to move from something that fits in their pocket to something that has to fit in a pocketbook.
Which is not to say there won't be a place for some of these devices. I already see Kindles out in the wild, and most of the people I ask tell me they absolutely love the device and take it everywhere. But they also agree they are carrying three devices now, and I am not sure that situation can stand with most of us.
And as these devices get larger and more colorful -- more to accommodate publishers than us -- the challenge of adding another device climbs. And many more people I know are getting more accustomed to absorbing media via their smart phones than any of us expected. EBooks seem to be doing surprisingly well on the iPhone, and the recent mobile-ready app version of GQ magazine was pretty compelling. As eReaders try to find their in-between niche, the laptop market is intruding from above with more portable and functional Netbooks while the smart phones are pressing from below with better content experiences.
I don't know where this heads, but I do know that eReaders face some fundamental challenges that should make hardware makers and publishing cheerleaders ask themselves some hard questions first. Are they developing these platforms for consumers or for themselves?
But who is to say yet what gadgets ultimately catch on. Tech love is in the air.
 You can read it complete with mom-based top and tail here.

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