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Archive for the ‘e-Readers’ Category

Creating eBooks from magazine archives: the director’s cut

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Global Launch eBookPartick Smith’s closing comment on the The Media Briefing’s Making ebooks a news publishing revenue stream really struck a chord with me. Patrick is somewhat skeptical about asking readers to pay twice for the same content. His solution:

Maybe it’s best to think of an ebook as a special edition DVD, complete with a director’s cut, behind the scenes extras and cast commentaries. Something fans will pay for.

One of the last projects I oversaw before I left the day job was an eBook published for the iPad (it’s here if you’re interested). It’s a nicely designed publication, expertly curated from magazine archives to give readers a single place to go for comprehensive coverage of a single issue. The team added a concise overview video from the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, but otherwise it was completely repurposed content.

That project was sponsored and is free to download on registration but it’s valid to ask, as Patrick does, will readers will pay for a collection of articles that they may have previously read in a magazine or online. Some will. The convenience value of an eBook themed around an important issue shouldn’t be underestimated: This is the premise behind every yearbook ever published. But the idea of additional unseen director’s cut content has to be a powerful, additional incentive to purchase.

The problem is, where is the extra content going to come from? It’s natural for cash-strapped publishers to see eBooks as free money and the thought of investing in additional content doesn’t sit well. But if investing to create a more attractive product means sales will improve, then that has to be money well spent. Curate your existing content, spot the gaps and commission additonal content to fill them. This could be an up-to-the minute opinion piece that brings fresh perspective to archive material, an overview that ties together the threads of the various articles that make up the eBook, or video and audio that lifts the eBook beyond a words & pictures archive re-tread.

But this is playing catch-up with legacy content. The best, and most cost-effective, way to add value is to schedule “behind the scenes extras and cast commentaries” into your regular content creation process. If you have it in the back (or the front) of your mind that an article will one day be re-published as part of an eBook, plan for it. It’s difficult to imagine all the places your content might end up, but if you can focus on the requirements of your key digital formats it’s not impossible.

The problem with so much crossmedia activity is that publishers are trying to satisfy new media expectations with old media. There’s nothing you can do about the past, and the fact that you don’t have boat loads of digital extras shouldn’t stop you experimenting with new digital formats like eBooks. But the sooner you start to plan for the enhanced content requirements of digital, the sooner you will be able to add the value that differentiates your digital offering from your established products and tap into new revenue streams.

Written by Peter Houston

December 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Kindle VP says print-digital transition will be slow

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Print-digital transition for magazinesHow long have we been listening to the digital-media divas beat-up magazine publishers over their lack of progress in the print-digital transition? Well, this quote really cheered me up.

“Print is so good, that this is going to be a nice, long, slow transition.”

It’s from Russ Grandinetti, VP for Kindle content at Amazon, speaking at the Association of Magazine Media’s annual conference in San Francisco . Did you read what he said? Nice… Long… Slow. No doom, no gloom, just a nice, long, slow transition.

So what’s going on? Why has a guy who’s whole reason for being is digital content come over all warm and fuzzy about printed magazines?

Well for one thing it’s the truth. The rumours of print’s death have been greatly exaggerated – most magazine publishers would find it tough to turn the lights on in the morning without their print revenues. If only the magazine industry could stop panicking long enough to realise that.

More importantly Mr Grandinetti desperately wants magazine content on his devices and he seems to have, refreshingly, decided to ditch the Firefighter’s shrill cry of  “Jump! The platform’s on fire” for the Estate Agent’s soothing “How can we help you relocate with the least possible upset”.

None of this means that print will do anything but decline over time; without the miracle of an overnight switch from audience and advertisers, publishers are going to have to make their way in a predominantly digital world eventually. But woudn’t it be nice if the print disruptors and the digital enablers saw the sense in swapping  digital sticks for digital carrots.

Anything that helps publishers work with print and digital in parallel is a good thing. Grandinetti noted in his speech that when Kindle started out it was print books that were it’s toughest competition. Similarly, it’s print that gets in the way of  everyone reading magazine content on their Kindles or iPhones or whatever.

Much better then, to help publishers build out the complimentary advantages of digital – tracking, ecommerce, portability – and celebrate the enduring practicality of ink on paper, at least until the rumours of print’s death finally come true.

Written by Peter Houston

October 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm

It’s that Specialist Media Insights time of year again

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Specialst Media Show Insights Research 2012I just filled out the Specialist Media Show’s annual Insights survey. It only seems like a couple of months since I last completed it to be honest, but no it’s a whole year.

This year’s survey questions focus on mobile, social media, pricing, live events and long-term strategies for growth – pretty much all the things that keep magazine people up at night. Things like:

How are you currently charging for online content?

Which mobile devices do you have an app for?

Are you publishing to e-readers?

What proportion of your total website traffic is driven by social media?

Which of these live events do you run now or plan to launch in next 2 years?

The survey is a joint initiative between the Specialist Media Show, Wessenden Marketing and InPublishing. Last year’s research drew on the experiences of more than 200 niche publishers, showing that:

  • 33% were already charging for online content and 15% were planning to
  • 22% had a mobile app or were about to launch, and 15% planned to launch in the next year
  • 42% planned a tablet edition
  • 53% planned online video content
  • 63% were planning webinars

Maybe I’m just nosy, but I really like to know what other publishers are up to and, as always, willing participants will receive a copy of the findings. You can find out more and take the survey here.

How do you read on the plane?

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I just read a post on Australian Business Traveller. Not something I’ve ever done before, but this could have been written just for me; Editor David Flynn is asking Australian flyers how they read in-flight.

This is a subject close to my heart. I reckon I spent at least 200 hours in the air last year, mostly transatlantic. I had to get the calculator out, but that’s 8.33 days stuck in an aircraft seat with not much to do but read, play games or watch movies. I’ll watch the odd film and play the odd game of seatback backgammon, but I spend most of my flying hours reading.

My routine is pretty predictable. On the way out I buy a real-live copy of the New Statesman, that gets me through the personal electronics device blackout of take off to my meal. After the chicken or beef I move to my iPad, where I bounce between Instapaper and my newest favourite magazine. But I can’r read too long on the iPad screen and eventually I’ll move on to the Kindle and one of the 10 books I’m reading at any given time.

It’s pretty much the same on the way back, magazines, iPad, Kindle, although Newark’s Hudson News stores seem to offer a wider choice that Manchester’s WH Smith.

The point in sharing my inflight reading habits really has nothing to do with my reading habits or the flight. The travel scenario just brings the range of choices available to magazine readers into narrow focus. In everyday life, on planes, on trains, in living rooms and bedrooms, offices and cafes, people are reading pixels and paper in all sorts of formats and for all sorts of reasons.

The challenge for publishers is to make sure that their content is available on the formats that make most sense for their audience in the places that their audience wants it. Quick hits on the move, get on smartphones; lean-back long-form, paper’s probably still your best bet;  if you’re thing is searchability, the web on the desktop makes sense; and if you’re pushing social sharing, tablets could be the way to go.

There are no easy answers, like me on a plane, everyone is using multiple platforms. You need to figure out which ones your audience uses most and be there for when they need you.

Read the original Australian Business Traveller article here.

Written by Peter Houston

February 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue delivers on digital

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SWIMSUIT 2012 COVERWay back in December 2009, I blogged about the Sports Illustrated iPad demo and the future of the magazine industry. Well it seems the future has well and truly arrived for SI.

In that demo video, SI editor Terry McDonell imagined that the swimsuit issue would come to life on the iPad; 2012′s swimsuit issue has just been released and it sounds like it might just live up to the 2009 fantasy with a packed digital portfolio.

This year’s issue will be available on the iPad with more than 150 photos and 2 hours of video alongside an iPhone app that gives users a 360 degree view of bodypainted athletes. The tablet edition of the magazine will also be available for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Barnes & Noble Nook Color, Amazon Kindle Fire, and the Motorola Xoom.

SI’s swimsuit edition reaches more than 70 million people a year through print and digital publishing, broadcast and merchandising. This year, with ties into social media to allow readers to follow models on Twitter, see behind the scenes videos on Facebook, and vote for the first time for the magazine’s Rookie of the Year, it’s digital efforts have really come of age.

“You will see innovation on every Swimsuit platform this year,” said Terry McDonell, Editor Time Inc. Sports Group in a launch release. “The magazine tablet app showcases the highest levels of photography through scrolling-panoramic sequences, we created a new music section on, and on your iPad and iPhone the 360 degree views of bodypaint will offer an entirely new perspective on Swimsuit.”

For a magazine concept that was dreamt up in 1964 to beat the post-holiday advertising slump, SI’s  Swimsuit issue is really working the medium.

UPDATE | To see how the Swimsuit issue cover has changed since 1964, take a look at Next Issue’s historical cover collection.

HP to use digital magazine to push webOS 3.0 apps

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HP's TouchPad

Interesting that, just as Apple gets its corporate head around iPad magazines and announces the Newsstand with iOS5, HP is launching a digital magazine along with it TouchPad tablet. The magazine (some say weekly, some say monthly) has the mission of promoting apps for the webOS 3.0 platform and will be free to anyone owning a TouchPad (due out in July). All about “discovering webOS 3.0 applications”, early PR says HP Pivot will focus on app reviews and developer profiles. But HP also hints at contributions from big name journalists, quoting a senior Condé Nast staffer in one press release, as saying Pivot is a “great environment for developers considering the platform.”

No surprise that HP is pushing its own apps a key differentiator for the TouchPad, but encouraging that it has chosen a digital magazine as the best way to communicate that to users.

Written by Peter Houston

June 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm

iPad challengers are good for digital magazine publishers

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Samsung Galaxy TabWith announcements from Samsung and Toshiba at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin last week, it looks like the big boys are gearing up to go after a share of the tablet market initiated by Apple’s iPad. It’s anyone’s guess whether they can compete with Apple, which already has an “installed” user base of over 3 million with the iPad. Early signs are that competition will centre on smaller sizes, lower prices and on the things missing from the iPad: Cameras and Flash, for example.

Why should magazine people care what’s going on in the consumer tech market? As long as digital magazines are tied to the desktop, usage will be limited. Tablets make digital magazines portable again – the one huge benefit of print that digital media has struggled with. The more tablet devices out there, the easier it will be for people to read digital magazines like they read print magazines, on the sofa, on the train, anywhere they want.

We can maybe imagine a world where everyone has an iPad. It might even be quite nice: Universal publishing standards could be set, we would all know where we stood. But the reality is that not everyone will buy an iPad, Apple doesn’t have all the answers and competition can only be good for this market. After some false starts, we might finally be seeing the development of a sustainable Tablet computer market, but we are only at the beginning. The more big players that get involved, the more choice consumers will have and the more likely users are to adopt these devices.

Just to be clear – by users I mean your readers, and by devices, I mean platforms for your digital magazines.

Written by Peter Houston

September 6, 2010 at 12:40 pm

QMags 2010 digital magazine survey

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QmagsVeteran digital-replica distributor QMags has released the results of its 2010 Digital Magazine Readership Survey. Questioning 170,000 readers the research points to an ongoing move towards digital content.

Conducted through April this year, survey respondents had to be subscribed to digital editions in the consumer, association and B-to-B space for at least six months. It’s no suprise that in this somewhat self-selecting group a majority chose digital information over print for industry, business, and product news.  Key reasons are familiar and include timely access to information, ease of saving back issues, perceived environmental benefits and searchability.

More intersting are the responses looking at reader engagement, motivation and reading habits.

  • Reading time – 70 percent said the average time spent reading digital magazines was between 15-45 minutes. This looks more like good old-fashioned print reading times rather than the drive-by reading habits seen on the web.
  • Digital readers are serious and interactive – Close to 80% responded that they read digital magazines “to do my job better”; 60% said they clicked on an article link and 55% said they clicked on a link within an advertisement.
  • Downloads preferred over real time.  Over three quarters of readers prefer to download their magazines – significantly more than those who view it in a browser.  Most digital readers don’t open the magazine immediately, but read it sometime during the week.
  • Timing distribution: Monday and Friday are the preferred days to receive digital magazines; 60% preferred their magazines in the morning.
  • Interest in mobile and e-reader delivery is growing – Two thirds said they prefer to read their digital magazines on a desktop or laptop computer, but 16% expressed an interest in mobile and 17% in reading devices like the iPad and Kindle.

You can contact QMags for a full copy of the survey results: Email

Written by Peter Houston

July 5, 2010 at 8:57 pm

iPad UK: It’s the end of the world as we know it. Hopefully.

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So the iPad has been released into the wild here in the UK, signaling the end of the magazine publishing world as we know it, hopefully. An end to emaciated revenues, closures and lay offs.

At PIRA’s Great Print Debate at IPEX on Monday, I sat on a panel of “experts” waxing lyrical about the future of print in the iPad age. There was a universal consensus that the world’s hottest tech toy is cool but it will not kill print. We agreed, however, that the three main printed media – newspapers, books and magazines – will be affected by the arrival of digital reading devices.

Almost everyone, panel and audience alike, thought that newspapers in print are doomed, but then we sort of knew that even before the iPad was a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye. Most believed that books, especially fiction, will survive because people love to read them on planes and trains and show off by leaving them lying where impressionable friends and colleagues can see them.

Magazines seemed harder to call. I think this is because they fall somewhere between “information commodities” like newspapers and “information artifacts” like books. This is certainly true of glossy consumer titles, which people buy as much to signal their lifestyle choices as they do to read.

In the business-to-business sphere, however, there is a strong argument that readers care more about searchable content; they just want to get quickly to information that helps them do their jobs better: Websites are the best place for that and the business-to-business magazine is history.

Except… almost every office I have ever been in keeps a stack of back issues of their favourite trade magazine, even although they are probably all available and searchable online. What’s that about? Why do people persist in hoarding back copies of business magazines? Why give up valuable shelf space to material that is available digitally?

I think it’s because they like the fact that they can see their professional library. They know exactly where it is. They can reach out and grab an issue, read an article they remember, copy it for staff or colleagues, avoid the distraction of web searches and the tedious results sifting required to avoid the Internet’s billions of blind alleys.

You can pick up a magazine, put it down, pick it up again and nothing has changed. It has a clean edges, a recognizable shape and this might just be where the iPad and its clones will help shape a future for digital magazines.

The economics of B2B print publishing make the long-term prospects for a hard-copy curated format uncertain at best. The iPad could provide publishers with a cost-effective platform for old-school issue-based curation alongside the digital benefits of multimedia, interactivity, connectivity and search.

None of this means the future for digital magazines is certain or secure. No one has produced a great iPad magazine app yet, faked-up demos notwithstanding. We’ve all still got a lot of work to do. But at least now it’s possible to imagine a full year’s issues sitting on a digital magazine rack on your iPad desktop. Compare that to a half empty shelf holding the skinny remnants of a shuttered print title, and I really hope that the iPad’s launch is the beginning of the end of the world as we know it.

Written by Peter Houston

May 27, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Will the iPad kill printed media?

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I aIPEX2010m fortunate enough to have been invited join the panel of one of the Great Print Debates at IPEX 2010. The burning question under discussion is the threat to print magazines posed by e-readers, Apple’s iPad in particular.

This is clearly a huge issue for the publishing industry and as editorial director for a group of B2B titles in print aswell as digital, I care deeply about where my brands and my career are headed. I spend a lot of time thinking about digital magazines. The stated mission of this blog is to look for a future for digital magazines, not print magazines. However, that doesn’t mean that I think print has no future.

Right now, with or without the iPad, most magazine publishers could barely afford to turn the lights on if it wasn’t for print advertising revenue. There is no doubt that we are seeing a decline in print revenues, but we are certainly not in the death spiral that iPad evangelists are predicting. This is because print still serves a purpose; readers read it and advertisers advertise in it, and this will be the case for years to come. Print is an appropriate technology. It is accessible, affordable and easy to use – that’s why it’s been around for 500 years.

I have no idea what the next 500 years will bring, but over the next 5 or 10 years, there can be no doubt that publishers will need to adapt to the inevitable proliferation of electronic content-distribution formats.

Publishers and printers will need to work hard to adapt their workflows to accommodate both print and electronic output, but with a real effort to manage publishing cost structures and develop a premium print offering, rumours of print’s death will prove to have been greatly exaggerated.

| UPDATE | I came across a couple of things last week that add weight to my belief that that the iPad, or any other e-reader, will not kill print.

Andrew Lowosky advises everyone to calm down, giving a series of reasons why he believes that iPad publishing might not be quite as easy or effective as the hype would suggest. He even warns that iPad overspend could “critically damage what might otherwise be a moderately successful print product.” Read his thoughts here.

BBC Radio Four’s In Business broadcast a show focussing on the pressures that digital media is putting on print publishers. Presenter Peter Day talks to the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine and the big print success story of the moment, The Economist, to learn how they are integrating their print and digital operations. You can listen to the  In Business programme here.

Written by Peter Houston

May 13, 2010 at 9:54 pm


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