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Archive for February 2012

Will e-commerce deals in digital magazines kill editorial integrity?

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Reporting on a  deal between Hearst and Amazon this week, Adweek asked, “Is it a magazine—or catalog?”

What’s the difference? Well there are a few, but the biggest is editorial independence. Catalogues are put out there with the sole purpose of selling product; magazines, traditionally at least, try to tell a story. Link magazine content directly to e-commerce facilites, especially where the publisher can look forward to a revenue share, and the lines all of a sudden get blurry.

Is this about giving magazine readers what they want? 70 percent of tablet owners say they would like to be able to buy items by clicking on the ads in a digital magazine, according to a survey by GfK MRI. Or is it more insidious, risking the very independence of magazine content as publishers push product to gain affiliat revenue? Hearst says shopping links are added after editors are done so there is no interference with the editorial process. Other see it as the thin end of the wedge.

What do you think? Will e-commerce deals in digital magazines kill editorial integrity? Yes or no? Vote on Quipol.

Read Adweek’s report on Hearst Linking its Digital Editions With Amazon.

Written by Peter Houston

February 16, 2012 at 6:08 pm

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.

Print magazines survive, at least for the 1%

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Most of us, the 99% if you will, are slowly but surely getting to grips with the idea that our magazines will be mainly digital in the future. Not the 1% though. Those guys can look forward to the pleasant slap of polybagged print on their doormats for some time to come, at least if a couple of recent magazine launches are anything to go by.

Two information providers to the financial services sector, Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters, have leveraged their subscriber and client lists to introduce high-end print titles targeted at, how can I put this, the better off reader.

Bloomberg Pursuits, launched this week and will be distributed exclusively to an audience with an average annual household income of more than $450,000, basically subscribers of Bloomberg’s financial data terminals.  Thomson Reuters printed 11,000 copies of “Reuters” magazine for the very exclusive crowd at the World Economic Forum in Davos, at the end of January, and its equally exclusive client list.

While the Reuters publication was mostly ad free except for a few house ads, Bloomberg’s title will carry 29 pages of advertisements from premier brands including Chanel, Cartier and Porsche.

Recent advertising revenue figures suggest that the luxury sector of the magazine market is doing well. While general consumer magazines are trending down, luxury titles are growing. Advertising revenue at “Departures”, a magazine for American Express platinum card holders, reportedly grew 46.2 percent in the last quarter. Quoted in the New York Times Decoder column, Mr Magazine, Professor Samir Husni, says that premium advertisers prefer print:“These advertisers view digital editions as a very disposable thing. You wave your hand and it’s gone.”

Well, I guess if you’re paying the page rates these guys are probably paying you at least want something that you can wave about.

Read more about Bloomberg “Pursuits” at the New York Times and more about “Reuters” magazine at Poynter.

Written by Peter Houston

February 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

New Yorker magazine loads first crowdsourced cover

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Don’t reset your router, your internet connection is fine. The New Yorker magazine cover on the left looks like that on the newsstands.

The inspiration for the ultimate print-digital integration cover came from reader Brett Culbert’s entry to the magazine’s annual Eustace Tilley competition that has readers submit their own interpretations of the publication’s original 1925 cover illustration by Rea Irvin.

Two things are interesting about this. Firstly that the competition entry actually made it onto the cover and out to the newsstands. Winning entries have been featured in the magazine before, but never on the cover. This says a lot about the growing acceptance of crowdsourcing as a legitimate way for magazine brands to develop content.

Second, just a few years ago very few people one would have had a clue what this image was about. “It’s blurred, there’s a daisy wheel, what does it all mean”. Now, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets we all know immediately that it means “Page Loading”.

While I hope this is just the beginning for magazines bringing their audiences into the creative process, I really hope that the slow-loading allusion soon becomes every bit anachronistic as Mr Tilley’s top hat and monocle.

To look at the other 2012 submissions to the Your Eustace competition go to the slideshow here.

Written by Peter Houston

February 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Apple Newsstand helps Future find the future

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What was that noise? A huge collective sigh of relief perhaps, as Britain’s magazine industry heard the news that media group Future had passed a major industry milestone. The group announced this week that it had posted enough digital revenues in the last quarter of 2011 to compensate for print revenue falls in the same period. UK digital circulation and advertising revenue grew 51 percent year on year, due mainly to Future’s early entry into Apple’s Newsstand. The group was amongst the first publishers in the Newsstand, releasing 65 titles with the service’s launch in October.

The launch of the Newsstand gave publishers a first glimpse of the scale that was possible with digital. paidContent recently reported that in the month after the Newsstand was launched the free container apps for Future’s tablet editions were downloaded nearly 10 million times, generating 75,000 subscriptions. “We are starting to see a significant change in the shape of the business as our digital innovation enables us to reach entirely new consumers in global digital markets,” said Future CEO Mark Wood in an Interim Management Statement.

via Milestone: Digital Gains Offset Magazines’ Decline At Future | mocoNews.

Written by Peter Houston

February 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Less content, more traffic. Who knew?

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Kerry LauermanKerry Lauerman, Editor-in-Chief at, blogged a surprising statistic this week | 33 percent fewer posts on Salon brought 40 percent greater traffic, year on year. That’s right: 33 percent less content, 40 percent more traffic.

That’s not in the script. What happened?

Lauerman says that – completely against the trend for more content, faster – Salon slowed down its process.

We’ve tried to work longer on stories for greater impact, and publish fewer quick-takes that we know you can consume elsewhere. We’re actually publishing, on average, roughly one-third fewer posts on Salon than we were a year ago (from 848 to 572 in December; 943 to 602 in January).

The Salon EIC pitches this more thoughtful approach against an obsessive focus on traffic and talks about the efforts Salon made to increase output while cutting staff by cutting story length |

In its best form, we wrote short little decoders of a big  story, and tried to link generously to the original source. At its worst, we monitored Twitter and Google for trending topics, and dispatched an intern to cobble together our own summary, posted it quickly, then prayed to the Google gods that the effort would win, if only briefly, their favor.

Lauerman bemoans the pressures of the last ten years on journalists to “second-guess everything we know” and celebrates Salon’s return to it’s primary mission of “originality”.

Before you abandon digital’s drive for fresh content and return to print-era publishing schedules, a quick reality check. Even on its reduced story count Salon serves its seven million visitors around 600 pieces of fresh content each month.  There’s no question that you’re going to have to publish more frequently that you used to – it’s the only way to get the attention of your audience and Google’s algorithms. But maybe Kerry Lauerman just gave you permission to think again about the value of what you are posting as much as the volume and to re-consider quality alongside quantity.

Read Kerry Lauerman’s original blog post, “Hit Record”, here.

Written by Peter Houston

February 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm

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