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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

Publishing Futures 2012

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Publishing FuturesThe third annual Publishing Futures benchmarking survey is underway. This unique industry research provides an invaluable snapshot of the publishing industry. As we run into 2012, likely to be a big year for publishing whatever way you look at it, this type of insight is more important than ever. The project is run by Wessenden Marketing in partnership with the PPA and InPublishing magazine.

Responses are confidential and all respondents will get access to the project results sometime in December. Complete the survey here; it takes around 10-15 minutes to complete.

Written by Peter Houston

November 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Is Apple’s Newsstand the answer to our prayers?

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This article first published, InPub Weekly #068 21/10/2011.

Is Apple's Newsstand the answer to our prayers?

It’s just over a week old, but publishers are already daring to dream that Apple’s Newsstand can drag digital magazines out of the doldrums and into the mainstream.

In case you’ve been on the moon since Apple announced iOS5 at its World Wide Developers Conference in June, the Newsstand built into the operating system upgrade is a cross between an app and a folder on the desktop of the iPad or iPhone. It looks like the iBooks bookcase, but Apple is pitching the Newsstand as a cross between a newsagent and a paperboy. Basically, it stocks all your magazine and newspaper subscriptions in one place and delivers fresh content into publication apps automatically and in the background.

The introduction of the Newsstand has certainly brought magazine and newspaper apps some serious public attention; a few titles have even sneaked into the top-50 apps chart, wonderfully placing National Geographic in direct competition with Angry Birds.

In the US, downloads for the New York Times iPad app jumped from 27,000 to 189,000 and iPhone app downloads to 1.8 million from 21,000 the week before. Jeff Sonderman on points out that nearly one-fifth of the 9.1 million people who ever downloaded the New York Times iPhone app did it last week.

Leading UK magazine publishers have committed early to getting their titles on the Newsstand’s virtual shelves. At launch, Future had 55 titles listed, including Total Film, Edge and its most successful iPad title T3. Hearst in the UK made 21 of its iPad available in the Newsstand; Dennis Publishing, 18; and Imagine Publishing, 20.

With such a healthy representation in the Newsstand at launch, the British contingent has enjoyed a similar surge in interest. Future PLC reported more than two million downloads in the few days following the October 12th launch. “Future had sold more digital editions in the past four days through Apple’s Newsstand than in a normal month,” Future UK CEO Mark Wood told the Association of Online Publishers.

PixelMags, supplying iPad publishing solutions to Hearst UK and Dennis Publishing, says revenue and distribution of iPad titles has skyrocketed. In a statement, PixelMags COO Ryan Marquis said that on the morning of the launch he got a phone call from his server company, worried that they were under attack. “I told them that we were for sure – from all the new iOS5 users who wanted to download magazines from us.”

The stampede story is familiar to Exact Editions, delivering the Spectator and Press Gazette as iOS apps and reported to have made up to 10 percent of the magazines in the Newsstand at launch. “Sales are much higher today. Could this already be an iTunes newsstand effect? Another 20+ of our apps went in last night,” tweeted Exact Editions Chairman Adam Hodgkin on Friday the 14th.

So that’s it then. The Newsstand is out, the big publishers have jumped aboard and digital magazines are flying off its virtual shelves. The digital magazine future’s so bright we’ll all need to wear shades.

Not quite.

Firstly, we need a little fiscal perspective. Downloads do not equal money spent. Although Future saw 2 million downloads in a few days, these were mostly free container apps and sample content. Similarly, download growth of 14 times at Exact Editions includes a lot of “Freemium” sample editions. Real success can only be measured by real sales.

And just because readers downloaded something from the Newsstand, doesn’t mean they are happy. Alongside glowing reports of exponential download growth, reports a slew of negative comments directly from Newsstand customer comments. Alongside the obligatory complaints about buggy iOS5 app upgrades, rants against overlong download times, lack of interactivity and over-pricing are all too common.

It would be all too easy to convince ourselves that, overnight, the Newsstand has become the only game in town. But, despite being written off by the New York Times as one of 10 apps that the Newsstand would kill stone dead, Zinio’s own Newsstand, is still holding one of the top spots on Apple’s top grossing chart. And yes, Kindle’s Fire and Android readers are still out there.

No doubt, the Newsstand is off to a good start. It’s been impressive to see readers rush to fill those empty shelves and it’s encouraging to see publishers big and small acknowledge the opportunity to highlight, organise and update their digital magazine and newspaper content in one easy to use place. This is, however, only the first step. As always, the industry needs to deliver real value to the audience before the newsagent and paperboy are forever replaced by the Newsstand.


This article first published, InPub Weekly #068 21/10/2011.

Newsstand launches with iOS5, October 12th

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iOS5 Newsstand

So yesterday didn’t bring a new iPhone, but it did give us a bit more information on Apple’s iOS5 update – including the Newsstand launch – on October 12th.

When Apple first announced the Newsstand in June, there were more questions than answers.  We found out that it was basically a dedicated folder for organizing newspaper and magazine apps, but beyond that details were sketchy. Yesterday’s announcement from Apple filled in some of the blanks.

Many magazine publishers have wondered if they’ll have to go in the Newsstand, but it looks like it will be optional. Publishers who choose to register their apps for the Newsstand will appear in a special section of the App store. Unregistered apps will continue as they are.

The most obvious benefit of being in the Newsstand is to appear with similar magazine and  news content under one icon on the iPad  screen, as iBooks does for books. But probably the biggest benefit of registering for the Newsstand will be automatic background downloading of subscriptions using a push notification to alert the device to downloaded a new issue automatically in the background. To protect battery life automatic dowloads will only happen once a day; fresh content will be downloaded on viewing. Publishers outside the Newsstand will not be able to take advantage of background downloads.

Worried B2B publishers that are wondering if they can get their free-qualified titles into the Newsstand at all can relax. Apple is obviously focused on paid titles and its 30%, but it won’t be blocking free publications.

The mechanics of the Newsstand are becoming clearer, but the business model and the user experience won’t be completely understood until the application has bedded in, and there are still concerns. The closing paragraphs of this Poynter article by Jeff Sonderman sum up the issues beautifully.

Written by Peter Houston

October 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Pandora’s digital magazine targets over 1 million customers

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PandoraAnother consumer company is joining John Lewis and P&G in launching a digital magazine for its customers. Jewellery brand Pandora hopes to reach the 1.6 million members of its customer club with an interactive publication featuring content focusing on brand insights, fashion shoots, style tips and customer stories. Published six times a year in four languages, the magazine will build on the company’s Facebook following and encourage readers to share content through social media.

Interviewed in Marketing Week, Mikkel Berg, executive marketing director Mikkel Berg says the magazine will reward customer loyalty with opportunities to share opinions with each other and the company. “The dialogue gives us a better understanding of what Pandora customers want, which we can learn from and incorporate into our future plans.”

Written by Peter Houston

June 22, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Are you embracing digital with one hand tied behind your back?

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Future PLCFuture PLC, the special-interest magazine publisher, is to deploy Aerohive’s Wi-Fi Solution across 6 offices in the UK to enable its staff to test and promote its digital magazine applications on iPads and other smart mobile devices.

I almost skipped past this story the other day… Publisher gets WiFi… Big Deal! But then I thought a bit more  about it. How many publishers are making their staff embrace digital media with one hand tied behind their back? What proportion of the mobile magazine audience is consuming media made by people thethered to deskbound broadband connections configured long before the iPad or Smartphones were conceived? Well done Future for putting your money where your mouth is.

Written by Peter Houston

June 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm

B2B magazine people care too

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The Day the Lights Went Out in JapanB2B people are every bit as caring as other magazine people, but the pressures of the sector mean they don’t always get the chance to show it through their publications. UBM Electronics has used a digital magazine to break out of that box, launching a special digital edition of its EE Times publication – “The Day the Lights Went Out in Japan.” – to show support for their friends and colleagues in the Japanese electronics industry and raise money for disaster relief in the country.

The digital magazine, published on the NXTBook platform, includes analysis of the consequences of the earthquake and tsunami for the Japanese people and the global electronics industry. A statement on the EE Times website says, “We attempt to look beyond the crippled wafer fabs, auto plants and disrupted global supply chains to consider the lessons of the Great Japanese Quake 0f 2011. Our intent is to show solidarity with the people of Japan, and understanding for all.” Sponsors of the special edition were asked to donate $5000 a page to relief efforts and editors urge readers to join them by giving $10 to the American Red Cross.

In a business where the bottom line is everything, hats of to the people at UBM Electronics for taking advantage of the digital magazine format to do something pretty special. They have turned around a 78-page book in 8 days, honouring the victims of the disaster, but also delivering highly niched, mission critical technical information that the best B2B magazines excel in.

Written by Peter Houston

March 30, 2011 at 11:55 am

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