The Flipping Pages Blog

Looking for the future of magazines

Archive for May 2010

The Specialist Media Show

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The Specialist Media Show 2010This time last week I was headed along the interminable A14 towards Peterborough to speak at the Specialist Media Show. I have to confess I was quietly dubious about the whole venture; It seemed like a very long way to go for a brand new publishing event.

I needn’t have worried. It was excellent.

The show artfully managed a strong mix of exhibition, presentations, roundtables and workshops covering everything from postage to profiting from digital media. If you missed it, and I can understand why you did, keep an eye out for next year’s event. I promise, it will be well worth the journey. Follow @specmediashow on Twitter or join the Specialist Media Network on LinkedIn for updates.

You can catch up with tweets from this year’s event on the #specmedia hashtag or take a look at feedback for the event on the LinkedIn group. The workshop presentations are on Slideshare – I recommend eConsultancy’s Digital Business Models slides. Lots for digital magazine publishers to think about in there, especially on expanding your revenue streams.

Congratulations to organiser Carolyn Morgan and her wonderful staff for a superb first event. And sorry about my secret Peterborough scepticism.  I’ll have no doubts about the next one, A14 or not.

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

Announcing the Digital Magazine Awards 2010

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Have you entered yet?

If you have been reading Flipping Pages for any length of time, you’ll have heard me bang on about the lack of a dedicated digital magazine awards program (Where are all the digital magazine awards, Nov.09).

Good news! I might just be able to shut up about it.

The Digital Magazine Awards 2010 has been launched to “celebrate the best in digital publishing”, recognizing achievements  across a range of publishing sectors, from business to sports and fashion.

Last year, founder and organizer Bruce Hudson set out on the hunt for for a digital magazine awards program that might provide some inspiration for his own digital publishing efforts (check out Retro Magazine). Like me, Bruce found nothing; unlike me, he took the bull by the horns and set something up himself.

Bruce has taken the initiative, but the success of the awards will be down to publishers and editors taking the time to enter. I hope the sector embraces these awards and turns this start up into an annual affair, every bit as prestigious as long established print awards.

For more information go to or follow @DigitalMagAward on Twitter.

Written by Peter Houston

May 11, 2010 at 12:54 pm

How do you choose a digital magazine software supplier?

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Looking for digital magazine softwareThere is another great digital magazine discussion developing in the Magazine group on LinkedIn.

Luke Ray, owner of hot-rod magazine Fuel, has asked what digital magazine software companies publishers have tried and which would they recommend. In the discussion that followed there have been lots of software providers cited and some excellent personal experiences. Even the pitches from suppliers have been informative. But the whole discussion has left me wondering how Luke, and anyone else looking for a software provider, will actually make a decision.

Is cost the most important factor? Is it service? Do publishers, thinking about new reading platforms, need to consider a provider’s development plans. Are we swayed by strong references and a powerful portfolio?

I would love to hear what publishers consider to be the most important factors in choosing a new software supplier, or what makes you stay with the one you’ve got. Comment here, or join the discussion on LinkedIn.

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