The Future of Digital Magazines

April 28, 2009

The title of this entry is tongue-in-cheek (at least I’m keeping my tongue in my mouth), as I just discovered Zinio’s little-publicized side venture: Undercover Mags. If you go to the site by clicking on this link, it will take you to the magazines deemed of interest to heterosexuals, and you’ll be greeted with a not very discreet screen of revealing anatomical images:

undercovermags2

If you go to their alternate site for the gay community, you’ll also be greeted with revealing images, a little too revealing for me to post, and a wide selection of digital magazines organized under categories like anal, black, hairy, hunks, jocks, legal teens, etc.

Zinio doesn’t appear to be completely hiding it’s involvement with the site: its name does appear in small print on the bottom of the home page.

But I wonder if the publishers of Reader’s Digest, Parenting Early Years, Parenting School Years, Cosmopolitan Bride and American Cowboy are aware of their “alternate interest” publishing colleagues?

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Good News for the Future of Publishing

January 16, 2009

I subscribe to Bob Sacks’ exhausting three times per day newsletter. As I’ve previously noted, Bob is one of the great veterans of magazine publishing and of publishing in general. He’s on our side. I recommend that you subscribe.

Many of his newsletters are simply reposts of articles of interest, but once a week or so he posts readers’ comments (anonymously). Because of the frequency of his newsletter I’ll admit that I often fall behind, but tonight I’m thinking about a recent issue where he noted one reader’s criticism (not verbatim): “I’m sick of reading all this bad news. Isn’t there anything positive to report?” Bob’s comment as I recall was essentially: “Send me some good news and I’ll be glad to post it.”

So it got me thinking about where are the rays of sunshine in the otherwise gloomy publishing landscape. Let me note a few:

1. eBooks are taking off. This may not be, in the short term, great economic news for book publishers, but I think it’s very good news. OK, some business models will require adjustment, but if we’re attracting (or retaining) a generation of readers with the Kindle, Sony Reader et al., then I’d say this weighs in strongly on the positive side.

2. Likewise digital magazine services are creating thousands of digital magazine editions for publishers who previously dealt only in print. I was initially skeptical of this technology (as I was of eBooks), but now see the many possibilities these digital magazines offer to augment the efforts of numerous print publishers. I’ll be going into ever-greater depth on this subject in my article on The Future of Magazines, but note that this has clearly become a very positive technological and business option for all kinds of magazine publishers.

3. Apparently the downward trend in reading has reversed. After a very depressing report several years ago from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA (noted extensively in my article on The Future of Book Publishing), a very recently-released report “Reading on the Rise, the National Endowment for the Arts‘…documents a significant turning point in recent American cultural history. For the first time in over a quarter-century, our survey shows that literary reading has risen among adult Americans.”

4. Please, please, look into the progress that Quark and Adobe are making with their competing product offerings. Each have become so sophisticated and powerful that the press has been doing justice to neither. From my perspective, designers and publishers now have access to technology for a few thousand dollars that would previously have cost them $100,000 or more (of course both companies offer server-based versions at significantly higher prices, but they’re for high-volume publishers). The financial analysts have downgraded Adobe’s share price figuring that a few thousand is too much to pay for their current offering (Quark remains a private company). I say to the financial press: You’ve no idea that the ROI on these offerings can be measured in weeks, not years, and that the published output will be a thousand times better than the outdated high-priced products they replace. They are both fine “Hall of Fame” candidates in my Future of Publishing showcase.

I’ll leave it at that for now. I’ve got a few more, but will save them for a later blog.

Cheer up! As Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker said nearly a half-century ago, when faced with a great political defeat: “This too shall surely pass.”

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Good News for Digital Magazines

December 3, 2008

The last full-time job I had was in the late 1980s at a Toronto-based company called McCutcheon Graphics. It’s where I gained the knowledge that allowed me to later set out on my own as a consultant and publishing industry analyst.

The president of the company, John McCutcheon, was a one-of-a-kind businessman (now retired). I learned a great deal from him. One of his adages was: “Don’t approach me with a problem unless you’ve already got a suggested solution.” The solution wasn’t necessarily the one eventually put into place, but it changed the whole corporate culture of the company from a place where you could just rag about co-workers, policies, and everything else. You had to be thinking of solutions that could move things forward.

Every Monday morning when John showed up for work he’d rub his hands together and ask his secretary, “Where’s the Good News Report?” The company had numerous regional offices, and the Good News Report gave John a summary of the previous week’s business: sales, expenses, returns, and unusual items.

I loved it that John had dubbed this weekly summary The Good News Report. It set a tone for the business…things were always moving forward, and the news was all good (even when it wasn’t).

I can’t think of writing another blog that could only be called The Bad News Report. We’re all reading or viewing those reports daily in just about every medium there is.

I want to read a Good News Report!

Here it goes. Go to the site of issuu.

What a breath of fresh air! Digital publishing done right. I’ve covered the concept of new digital magazine formats in my article on magazines. They’re fast gaining in popularity, but it’s my impression that these services are too expensive for the average small publisher.

issuu solves the problem in a manner that does credit to what the Web does best. First of all it’s free. Lots of sites offer “free” but usually free comes with so many strings attached that you need to subscribe to the paid service to actually get what you want; what you need. Not on issuu. Upload your publication, whether it’s a magazine, a book, or a single sheet, and it’s immediately available for all to see. OK, there are some ads (and will probably be more soon), but they’re not obtrusive; they don’t ruin the user experience. Here are my uploads thus far on issuu (you’ll need to register). Click on one of them, and you’ll find some excellent Flash-enabled technology that makes it simple and pleasurable to peruse the content. Try it yourself: the process couldn’t be easier.

Just as exciting is the range of content available on the site. Check out the catalog of publications. What a refreshingly eclectic mix, rather than the same old stuff you find everywhere else. The top publications attract hundreds of thousands of views, but don’t go by popularity alone. You can delve into a range of subjects, and I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by some of the unusual publications you’ll uncover.

Of course there’s a paid version of the service available for those who want to access the technology but keep their publications on their own Websites. I’d say that the pricing is very reasonable.

So there you have today’s Good New Report. Enjoy!

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