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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 SI.com, 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

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