Posts Tagged ‘magazines’

How magazines can improve their iPad apps

December 9, 2011

There’s a great post on the blog carpeaqua on writer Justin Williams’s frustrations to do with magazine iPad editions – and suggested improvements. His recommendations include valuing efficiency for the user, allowing backgrounded and multiple downloads, and making it easy to archive older issues to free up drive space.

I’d like to add a couple more, too. First, to Apple and Zinio: Provide better options for users to browse through and discover issues. The advantage of a virtual newsstand over a physical one is to allow multiple methods of organization. For instance, I’d like to be able to browse by language or country. Second, to magazine publishers: there’s no reason subscription prices should be higher in foreign markets. You’re not mailing the apps and there’s no justification for price variations – you’re just driving away potential revenue sources. Third, and this one’s for Bloomberg Businessweek in particular, though I’m sure everyone’s guilty of something: test, test, test. Then test every possible scenario again. I paid for a month-long digital subscription but only downloaded one issue during that time – and now it won’t let me download the other three. That’s the kind of thing that makes readers unhappy with your brand, which is presumably not what you’re going for.

Are you reading magazines on the iPad? What do you think publishers could improve on?

Experimenting with Tumblr, and should your magazine be on it?

November 10, 2011

I’m sure I’m not alone in my tendency to get a little obsessive with new toys. A few years ago, when Twitter was still fresh and shiny and I was web editor at Best Health, it wasn’t unusual for me to stay late and spend hours browsing and scrolling (this was before Twitter had decent search abilities) looking for Canadian women with the right interests to follow – and, hopefully, to follow us back.

Lately, my obsession is Tumblr. You may have heard of Tumblr as that thing the kids are into – and you’d be right, as it’s definitely packed with teenagers. But I’m not really an early adopter when it comes to technology – more like a mid adopter – and I’m convinced now that Tumblr is going to hit the mainstream. So convinced that when I decided to finally start a blog oriented around my freelance writing topics (shameless self-promotion: A Health Writer’s Notebook focuses on health, fitness, nutrition and travel with some beauty and food thrown in, and lots of pretty pictures), something I’d been planning on for months, I settled on Tumblr as the platform to use.

So what makes Tumblr different from everything else? For one thing, it’s ridiculously easy to use – it puts the Facebook “like” button to shame for its one-click-ability. Think of Tumblr as a hybrid of Twitter (you follow people, they follow you back, but it doesn’t have to be reciprocal like Facebook; reblogs are a major component of the culture) and a blog (reverse chronological posts with dates, you can post at will, it’s out-of-the-box easy to use with preset templates).

Other than the reblog, perhaps the most important feature is the Tumblr button you can add to your browser’s menu bar – click it while visiting any web page (though this can be blocked) and it will give you an option to share that link with your followers; or a photo from the page; or, if you highlight certain text, a quote. You can also easily post video, audio, a chat transcript or just plain text; the beauty of all of this is that Tumblr automatically preserves the original link in your post so that credit is given where it’s due and people can follow a post back to its original source. (Of course, this depends on users not deleting that information, but the good intention is there.)

The question remains: I’m busy enough with everything else – why should I be on Tumblr? And perhaps you shouldn’t – very few Canadian magazines are. (I’ve come up with three so far – En Route, Flare and Worn – but I’m compiling a list, so if you know of more, please let me know.) But know that a number of US magazines believe Tumblr is driving subscriptions, and Tumblr’s pageviews and signups have been growing this year at a ferocious rate – as of the end of September, they’d surpassed 30 million blogs and Tumblr now competes with WordPress on monthly visits. My recollection is that Twitter’s true move to the mainstream was Christmas 2008 – when people had a bit of extra free time to play around – and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens with Tumblr this year.

There are downsides, of course. For one, Tumblr currently hosts all its blogs – unlike WordPress, you can’t install it on your own server. This makes perfect sense for a community platform, but for a media brand it means giving up a certain amount of control. Tumblr isn’t as customizable as other blogging platforms, though it’s getting there, and there are some excellent themes available for under $50 (though many are free, the quality isn’t as good and they don’t stand out as much.) And Tumblr currently doesn’t offer a way to export posts (though I’ve heard of third-party widgets that will do it for you), so what happens on Tumblr stays on Tumblr.

That said, especially for brands with sharable, bite-sized content available for use – think great photos, news snippets, quotes and recipes – Tumblr’s a great place to be. It’s easy to use and it’s fun. At the very least, I recommend signing up for your brand name, if you can still get it, even if you don’t plan to use it right away.

These articles have more information on Tumblr:

Tumblr tips – Jaclyn Schiff
Tumblr is the next great social network – Steve Rubel
What media companies should learn from Tumblr’s success – GigaOM
Journalists, take another look at Tumblr – Teaching Online Journalism
3 ways publishers can use Tumblr – eMedia Vitals

Are you using Tumblr, or have you played with it? Any thoughts?

On multiplatform rather than print first

June 29, 2011

Popular Mechanics editor-in-chief Jim Meigs speaks to Business Insider on the magazine’s business strategy moving forward:

“We’re basically challenging ourselves to really think hard about the print magazine and how it operates, but also the whole business model,” Meigs said. “Are we putting our priority in the right place?”

The goal is to create multiple revenue streams: in print, online, on tablets, in books, and more, with a minimum of effort. It is an ambitious project — a side room at the PM office is dedicated the “reboot room”  — but one that needs to be tackled.

This is a true multiplatform strategy, designed to get results from all media, not just to do the best possible with what’s left over after the print edition is done. And it requires input from all staff in all departments, not just top-down decision making.

Why I buy music, and what it means for magazines

June 22, 2011

I admit it – I used Napster back in the day. Downloading music was so easy, fast and painless compared with travelling to the store to buy a CD that you might not end up liking. Being able to listen to an endless mix – rather than investing in and organizing a big CD-changer (remember those?) or (gasp!) listening to one disc at a time – was liberating. It wasn’t just free that Napster was giving us, though that was certainly part of it. It was a brand-new model of media consumption, part of the overall shift from information scarcity to information abundance. Before, when I was in high school, new CDs (and cassettes!) were treasured, shared, listened to over and over again. Then, all of a sudden, we shifted to having too much to listen to, to downloading something and forgetting about it. For better or for worse.

Then Napster was shut down, and other sharing tools after it, and while it’s still not exactly difficult to download (illegally!) just about anything, between jumping through hoops and ISPs throttling bandwidth, it’s a lot more work than it was in those early years. And frankly, I can’t be bothered.

Apple, of course, was the company who really paid attention to the new consumption ideal – not free so much as simple and convenient. The iTunes store has changed the industry, and offers the entire package of browsing, previewing, buying and consuming, all from wherever you happen to be. I can buy an album on my iPhone from the bus (I did it just the other week), listen to it immediately, and then, next time I sync my phone, it magically appears on my computer as well, as well as on other devices I choose to sync. Apple’s genius lies in making it easy for customers to give them money no matter where they are – or when. Store hours and location are no longer a limiting factor, and impulse buys are easier than ever. Apple makes the whole experience of buying music so easy and pleasurable that I haven’t stolen music in a very long time, nor have I bought a physical CD in at least five years, though probably closer to 10.

What does this have to do with magazines, you ask? Well, magazines have always been more about the experience and the packaging than the product. People subscribe to be part of a group, to have something to talk about and to have the magazine on their coffee tables as much as to read the articles. And newsstand purchases are the ultimate impulse buy.

Our digital strategies, I think, need to catch up quickly. The web is often denigrated as a “snacking” means of content consumption – people looking for quick tips to pass away their lunch hour rather than long, immersive stories that educate and challenge. And this has been quite true, because (to repeat myself yet again) most people’s computer-reading environments just haven’t been as conducive to proper reading as a magazine is. Uncomfortable chairs; small, flickering monitors; interrupting coworkers… you get my point.

But this is changing fast. The shift to a living-room computing environment means internet readers are more open to immersion. The iPad was intended first and foremost as a consumption device. And whether it’s through iTunes, Amazon or elsewhere, consumers are now well trained in spending money online with one click or tap.

The time has come to find the best way to present magazine content to consumers in the Apple model. Make it easy and pleasurable. Focus on the packaging and the experience. Appeal to both the bored in-transit smartphone user and the lying-on-the-couch evening reader. Give them something good enough that they want to pay, and to subscribe.

Will this happen through Apple’s upcoming Newsstand app, or tricked-out digital editions à la Condé Nast, or National Geographic-style repackaging? Will it come through web apps that work on multiple platforms and are managed internally by the magazine? I don’t know – I’m really not the best focus group. But they’re all worth a try – above all, we need real numbers, not just imaginary and untrustworthy research of intent. And I do think Newsstand is worth pursuing. A 30% cut to Apple might seem like a lot, but they’re the ones bringing people into the ecosystem, and ready to spend, and auto-renew. If your magazine isn’t there, consumers will find something else to read.

But above all? Make it easy and make it pleasurable. And if the magazine is worth reading, the readers will come.

#MagNet11: Meg Pickard on blogging, part 1

June 15, 2011

At MagNet last week I was honoured to be the official host and introducer for Meg Pickard of the Guardian, who presented two sessions on blogging, both of which I live-tweeted. The first was called “Building Readership for your Blog” and my barely edited tweets from the session are below.

Waiting to introduce @megpickard in her first of two blogging sessions today.

We can’t just do twitter because we have to do twitter, says @megpickard. Don’t do things because your rivals are.

Always think about how social helps you extend and amplify your editorial.

Only 1/3 of the Guardian’s web traffic is from the UK. 1/3 from Canada/US, 1/3 from rest of world.

The Guardian has 54 blogs, plus blog networks.

What makes a blog? Timeliness, hosted by an individual, display, plus interactivity – makes it diff from just publishing on web

Narrowly focused blogs can be good for SEO because of higher targeted keyword density, says @megpickard.

Downside of narrowly focused blogs: can be hard to find topics without being repetitive.

Advantage of broad topics on blogs: easy to write, encourages casual discovery and experimentation.

Downside of broad blog themes: hard to explain to readers, content may never find its audience or stride.

Broadly themed blogs can also be more challenging for SEO – less keyword density, less focus.

What kind of blog to avoid? Narrow focus, infrequent posts.

Bloggers don’t have to be famous, they have to be engaged and have personality, ability to be consistent.

At its heart, a blog is a conversation, a way of developing interactions with readers.

Good bloggers need to be engaged + knowledgeable about, interested in, aware of their subject matter. Discussion is key.

Bloggers have to be aware of the wider context of coverage and discussion online and curate/link/highlight as needed.

Andrew Sullivan: Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics…. it is, in many ways, writing out loud.

Common ingredients of a great blog post: good, SEO-friendly head; illustration/image/video; clear, descriptive blurb…

…good metadata (keywords, location, byline); engaging intro; external and internal links

The longer the blog post, the more you need to break it up with something pretty to look at. (images, etc.)

Short blog posts: <250 words, links, roundups, quotes, at least daily. Little and often.

Make use of services like Delicious that will auto-post links to your blog. Easy updates.

Long blog posts: 500-800+ words. “Think pieces”, perspective/analysis, reflection, live blogs, reports/write-ups.

If you do longer blog posts, make the words count.

Sometimes a blog post is a snack, sometimes a full meal.

More keys to great blog posts: human tone; encourage engagement by appealing for expertise or insight; ask questions; participate

“Don’t light a fire and then walk away” – make sure to participate in comments early.

RT @halifaxmagazine If you bury readers in links, they won’t click any; give them a few good ones.

@megpickard showing life.tumblr.com as example of magazine using Tumblr as a blogging platform.

Tumblr a good option for teasing the print edition. Less useful for writing longer posts.

rollingstone.tumblr.com – in addition to their blog. Tumblr and blogging are different strategies.

Another example – newsweek.tumblr.com. Note: no commenting on Tumblr. You can favourite or reblog.

@megpickard is live-tumbling as a demo to the crowd.

megpickard.tumblr.com – personal collection of stuff. Good example of playing with new/fun tools.

@megpickard started by saying everyone in room would have blog by 5 pm. I think everyone will have a Tumblr.

RT @sftcurls_blog: @kattancock there are some Tumblr themes that allow you to add Disqus for comments.

This is important: “Be of the web, not on the web”

Hoping people will arrive at your site and never leave – not a good web strategy.

Blogs are good for engagement, and advertisers these days want engagement.

@megpickard quotes @jeffjarvis: “Do what you do best and link to the rest”

Audience question on choosing between blogs, twitter, tumblr, etc. @megpickard: why not do them all?

Another great @jeffjarvis quote: “If you can’t imagine anyone linking to what you’re about to write, don’t write it.”

RT @sparksheet By not linking you’re getting in the way of the user’s web experience (invokes @jeffjarvis)

Don’t try to be the last point on people’s web journey. Be the first.

RT @sparksheet When people click your outgoing links, it means they’re trusting you to send them on a journey -@megpickard (great metric!)

Community keywords: interacting, regularly, context

Make engagement better by nurturing conversations you start. Lowers need for moderation.

Commenters are like children – give them positive reinforcement, don’t reward disruptive behaviour.

Very important online: be transparent about affiliations, perspectives or previous coverage of a topic or individual.

#MagNet11: Ian Adelman on magazine website design

June 14, 2011

My big dilemma at MagNet this year was whether to live-tweet or take proper notes. Live-tweeting was requested so I did that, the result being that my notes are… tweets. With that in mind, below is a barely edited transcript of my tweets in Ian Adelman’s session on making a better magazine website, with a focus on design. It was a great session, except that it wasn’t long enough. Next year!

Everyone in @ianadelman‘s session is energetic. I haven’t had my coffee yet. Session about to start.

@ianadelman has recently moved to @nytimes but talk is focused on @newyorkmag, where he spent 5 years.

As you’d expect/hope, nicely designed slides. Theme of talk is “Unbound”. Wants us all to unbind ourselves from roles.

Online, unbinding the magazine brings endless opportunities.

Focus on product experience. (product design + user experience)

@ianadelman plays to the hometown crowd – as a kid, lives on Charles St W.

Most important thing about being a designer – learning how to see things that you see, not what you believe you see.

“Setup is everything.” Analogy of a complicated-looking machine – you can’t just approach it haphazardly.

@ianadelman’s first editorial experience – launching @slate. Classic designs – 15 years ago.

Lesson from @ianadelman: keep a good visual archive of your work for future presentations.

@newyorkmag went from simply a print magazine to multiplatform publishing “thing”.

Homepage isn’t the most important page – article page is. (Can’t show us – it’s a work in progress.)

Use navigation to define web identity of the brand and improve “findability” in UE.

Think of existing and new users’ usage patterns when designing navigation.

Other thoughts for redesigns: SEO, subs/circ, number and usefulness of links in top-of-page area, revenue opportunities

Make navigation an expression of what your brand is about.

Anticipate what people want when designing navigations. Don’t assume.

Job as a designer: negotiating with advertising to make change in ad units for better design.

Redesign a good opportunity to redefine how you think about your web content.

Home page redesign goals: improve organization, better window into site content, lower bounce rate

In digital, watch for patterns instead of fixed collections. Home page: what’s new more important than where it came from.

Great visual of old and new @newyorkmag home pages with overlay of content updated daily/2-3 times a day/hourly

Old design: Home page only showed daily-updated content. New: pushed hourly content to top.

People look to left of webpage when scanning – good place for newest content.

A good homepage finds the right balance of automation and curation.

Striking aspect of @newyorkmag home page: big box and mag promo relatively low down. Makes for better design.

The more links on a home page, the more people will click through. Trick is to avoid making it look overwhelming.

Navigation on @newyorkmag 15% shorter on article pages than home page – more space for content.

Design is highly templated but allows for visual variety, editorial decisions.

Always think about what your user is actually going to come to you for.

@newyorkmag automated all its newsletters – less work, increased click-throughs.

Can we bring @ianadelman back for a day-long design session? Easily going to run out of time here.

Oh, oops. New York magazine owns @newyorkmag but tweets from @nymag.

Referencing @nymag’s The Cut iPad app, which is well worth playing with, for those of you with iPads.

“What do we do well, and how can we do it better?” How @nymag ended up with The Cut iPad app. Stripped-down fashion app.

The Cut’s iPad app from idea to app store in just over 2 months. “Insane.”

Shot of @ianadelman’s design team at @nymag. I count 14. We laugh in envy.

“Question all assumptions early.”

“Get better at seeing what’s there.”

“Stay focused on logical design as long as you can.” Don’t focus on the details/what’s superfluous until you’re ready. Low-fi 1st.

“Require inclusive design.” Everybody has useful input on defining what a product can be. Important for people to have ownership.

Be aware of your product, your capabilities, your contributors, your audience.

@ianadelman comments on similarities between @nymag and @toronto_life home pages. He should be flattered…

Only a small number of site visitors will ever convert to subscribe. Won’t be because they see sub offers all over the place

Look at how you take advantage of experience and action over time to find opportunities to promote subs and newsletters.

Balance “is stuff annoying” with sales potential for design of promos. Efficacy is reduced by piling on offers.

@ianadelman hates current @huffpo design, calls it “hostile”. Thinks they have huge opportunity.

Focus on how someone experiences site over time. Make “stuff” around content change, glimpses here and there.

No one cares that your site has x brand name. Self-publishing bloggers can outperform food magazine sites (& do all the time.)

Designers/web staff should help define UE based on ad buys. Work together for best experience + revenue.

Increasing acceptance of idea that people scroll. Ads above the fold less of an issue.

@nymag’s Vulture blog example of designing around ads. 600×300 in right-hand column.

Aim for bigger, fewer ads. Better UE, better design, good for advertisers.

Vulture page automated. http://bit.ly/jjUoga Check out URL – SEO-optimized (entertainment not vulture)

Aim for multiple entry points when designing. Use automation to your advantage.

@nymag uses multiple CMS’s. @ianadelman would not wish it on anyone. Recommends choosing based on importance to you.

CMS considerations: metadata, custom fields, ease of implementation. @nymag – movable type.

Get good at making stuff before you build a business around it. Be careful of leaping into video.

@KMachado notes absence of social media promo on @nymag designs. @ianadelman: seeing random tweet on HP is waste of space.

Article page template where you get most of your views. Most important chance to say what you’re about, promote products.

Note Vulture’s “hot topics” secondary nav. Good place to put fresh, popular topics.

Design website from the perspective of mag design rather than following print’s lead.

#MagNet11: Dismantling the print-digital divide

June 9, 2011

Yesterday afternoon at MagNet I participated in a panel alongside Philippe Gohier of Macleans and Doug Wallace of The Kit, moderated by Arjun Basu. It was a lot of fun and went by far too quickly. Luckily, Shannon Ward of OnTrack Media was kind enough to take extensive notes and share them with me for the blog. Thanks, Shannon!

First, the Introductions

Doug Wallace – Editor and Associate Publisher of Content, The Kit
– print isn’t enough
– print & digital need to play off and reinforce each other
– budget needs to be allocated for this

Philippe Gohier – Web Editor, Maclean’s
– it’s really about harmonizing print & digital (not dismantling)
– content needs to be different for each medium and publishers need to understand what people are doing with it

Kat Tancock
– storytelling is the key regardless of medium
– great story about BCMag inspiring and keeping a connection to BC while she lived in NZ, and some 8 year old kid having the same experience with digital today!
– good editing is key today
– these are exciting times because we have so many more options for storytelling

Moderator: Arjun Basu – Editorial Director, Spafax

A: Are there commonalities in what people  expect from media?
P: Commenting is same core functionality that it has always been. It is simply reacting to content in a public or semi-public fashion. It is an enduring feature of how people read news
D: Good tweets will lure digitally savvy readers
P: Long form narrative on the web is ok thanks to ipad, etc., but what works better on web is primary source journalism (ie live blogging gov’t committee meetings)
K: It’s an issue of time & place rather than platform & reader. Recognizing that readership changes at different times of day – not that people necessarily want short content on web. As tech changes, so will people’s usage
(eg She read girl w/ Dragon Tattoo on iPhone on the subway)

A: Print is glorified, web seems to be denigrated. Why the bias??
D: Yes, but it will change with time. Advertisers still want print regardless of higher ROI on web, but cost is factor.
K: All print is not created equal (ie paper quality, design), but with new tech digital can be just as beautiful and also fun to play with. Remember we all learned to read on paper so we have built-in nostalgia.
P: We’re only starting to create good reading experiences on web. For instance, SEO is getting in the way, the obsession with page views over other metrics. Web needs to get better in terms of reading experience
K: google is working to fix this, starting to value publishers in terms of them having authority over random websites

A: We’re in a phase of the web that can be compared to when TV was treated like radio. These are early days and there is a lot to figure out. How has the editor’s job changed with a multi-platform environment? How do they need to adapt?
D: Storytellers will never go away but editors need to get more technical
K: Editors need to be be part of web culture (collaborative, sharing , linking, tweeting). Web editors are always working in tandem with the world, not just once a week/month. Editors need to have some tech skills to deal with the coders effectively

A: How have you had to change going from print to digital (to Phil & Doug)?
P: Everyone needs to remember that they’re working toward the same thing whether they are technical or not. Developers need to have their head in the publishing game as well, they need to always have eye to producing better news.

A: Silos are a problem – how should an office be structured so people talk to each other?
K: I had an idea that magazine offices should move around once in awhile so everyone gets exposed to all parts of the team and gets the benefit of different perspectives (web editors get to do this more than print)

A: What does work in digital and not in print or vice-versa?
P: Primary source works well with digital only. “Professorial editorial” doesn’t work very well online (i.e traditional Maclean’s editorial does not work online). It is too haughty (Arjun). There is an expectation of confrontation on the web (pugilistic style).
K: Silos work well in print, but not being able to share online is not ok. (i.e ipad article with no share links) – Wired does this well on ipad app. Makes things easy on digital from platform to platform.
D: Video is great online and it is really fun

A: Do digital page turners on website work anymore?
K: they are archaic (amen!!). We need to make things easy for people on the web. If I have to zoom, it will not work

A: Paywalls – how long will it take for people to realize we will pay for content and not everything is free? (gave itunes store example, people pay for music now)
P: First, we need to figure out a coherent way to sell it to them. Current models are confusing. There is no good way for people to buy. There is an effort to minimize print cannibalization, but not all readers can go out and get a print copy! Suggests a freemium model (regular and first class – people are all going to the same place but with a better experience)
D: We’re all experimenting right now (and it’s a very expensive experiment – Kat). gives NY Times example.

A: Another question re: digital biz model that I didn’t quite catch
K: Problem of scarcity & quality, learning on the web that mags are in many times similar and lots are trying to present the same info. The economics change quickly and innovation is key.
K: Food bloggers sell cookbooks even though they give away many recipes for free
A: Brings up the google print magazine in UK, suggests there is talk of a print twitter magazine

Audience Question: Doesn’t it take more, not less time to read on the web? That’s why mags @ airports work well.
D: Digital can take longer to find the entry point
A: Brings up the buzzword “context”. Web has expanded the definition of context.

A: Let’s talk design & format. Do we expect good design on the web?
K: I do.
D: I insist!
K: Design is getting much better. Sites are starting to look like they’ve taken that next step that they didn’t 3 years ago
P: I actually don’t like our design online, but don’t mind the print version. Websites need to conform to the way users are using them. Referenced someone that said, “design is how it works”. Look at metrics and get an idea of how to present it in a way that users want.
A: …and that can change constantly
P: Gives pagination example  – people don’t read past page 2, but if page views (rather than actual reader engagement) is your metric then that will affect your design
P: We need art directors in our industry (web) badly!

A: Are we leaving to much to the web guys?
K: Or leaving design to web designers who don’t understand how to ‘distract people enough to read your content’

Audience Question: what’s the best way to put your print mag online?
K: Put it on your website, not in flip edition (like wired)
A: First ask, why am I going on the web? If you don’t have a good answer, you’re damaging your brand. If the answer is to enhance reader experience, then you will want to do more than a page turner.

Audience Question: Is maclean’s making more $ online than offline?
P: Hell no!
K: But you’re spending less
P: There just isn’t enough revenue to have massive resources on web. I was amazed at how little it would take to buy all ads on our website (5k)
K: digital is 40% of rev @ wired but they have 40 stories a day. “If you play small you’re going to stay small”

A: Where are we going?
D: Publishers are looking for a way to add a web component to their print with a reasonable cost model.  that is what a good art director can do.

A: Does a good art director need to think both print & digital?
D: Writers have to as well
P: Mobile is not the saviour people think it is. iPad actually make things harder, doesn’t mean people will automatically shell out $$ for what we did 5 years ago.
K: We need to evolve metrics beyond page views to targeted products (ex.national geographic is doing good iPad stuff). The beauty of iTunes store is impluse buying, but you need to price so it can be an impulse buy

A: Brings up Apple’s new magazine rack
K: Zinio dropped the ball and I’m hoping Apple will pick it up

A: Example of kid who tried to zoom a print pub. Aren’t we just pushing info, does platform matter in the end?
K: No
P: Yes, though there is a lot of crossover. What you do best in print is rarely what you do best on web. It’s a different experience readers are looking for. The two things are separate (ex web on tv)
D: What we do on the web would not make sense on the web. web and print need to live together and play off of each other rather than being separate camps
K: Print isn’t dying, but it is going to become a nostalgia item. Readers are changing, ie. she can’t read printed paper anymore. Deliver what the reader wants for where the reader is.

A: “Printyness” of magazines is rising.  Magazine’s are embracing their difference from the web.
Audience Comment: Community is key to online success, but hasn’t been exploited yet
K: the beauty of the web is it isn’t limited by geography

Audience Comment: It isn’t just a revenue issue, it’s also about cost. The model needs to work both ways.
K: Content that is great in print isn’t always the content you find in magazines

Audience Question: What is your opinion on physical newsstands?
K: Canadian newsstand is weak to begin with
A: Newsstand for many mags is just a branding vehicle. that audience can’t be proven well to advertisers. The web does data so much better, there is much more to sell, but it is honest. quoted someone” the difference b/wn old media and new media is truth.” the old metric system (PMB) is ludicrous.
K: The videos people want to watch are not where advertisers want to be
A: Had a one month app sponsorship recently! “What does that even mean?”
P: Revenue depends on pageviews but it depends on the sections people don’t actually go to, to the point where it is crippling

Audience Question: Are print subscribers the same or different from the digital subscribers?
P: Right now, we can’t know. unifying metrics needed
K: Rogers example  – her ipad sub was running out so they sent her a physical copy
K: Online ads are bad.
D: Design is the largest advantage that print has – people consider ads content
K: Is that because the ads are so much better done?
D: On web its easy to ignore advertising?

Audience Question: What is the “real cost” to produce an online pub if the content comes from writers already on staff for the print pub?
P: We effectively have two separate operations (web & print) and content is licensed from print ops. A certain % of revenue goes to the print pub to cover writing costs.

A: Is there pressure to make web financially sustainable?
P: We don’t make enough money to pay for one month of a top writer
A: Newyorker.com doesn’t create any original content except blogs (writers on retainer). these writers post when they want (have access to CMS)
K: Web writing is about interacting with a community of readers (i.e. good writers who have good twitter following is worth more than another writer)
D: My editors get paid to create a certain amount of pages and they agreed to let me repurpose in order to expand our sub base (but he was a start-up essentially)

Audience Question: What are ad rates for apps?
K: Admob and iAd take a %
A: Sponsorship is a model. It’s like the wild west – that’s why a brand is so important, right type of eyeballs regardless of format
D: Advertisers are buying across platforms, so it may be thrown in or at least not costed out on its own

What I love and hate about magazines on the iPad

May 16, 2011

The day the iPad 2 came out in Canada, I ordered one online. Turns out it was a good choice – it’s still hard to find them in-store. Since I received it about a month ago, I’ve been having fun testing out different apps from various publishers and developers. There’s good and bad out there, of course. And it’s sure a lot easier to spend money on magazines from the couch, when you don’t have to carry them home. Here are some of my likes and dislikes about the experience so far.

Like: Convenience
No longer do I have to choose which magazine to carry with me, and fold it up in my purse so it gets crumpled and ripped, then accidentally leave it at work and have nothing to read on the way home – or, of course, run out of things to read. The iPad is an all-in-one entertainment station, and perfect for frequent travellers and commuters. I also like clearing the clutter from my coffee table, albeit slowly.

Dislike: Gimmicks
Sometimes you just want to read, you know? You don’t want to have to tap things and slide things. Condé Nast has a bit of a problem with this – for instance, the latest version of Self (all links but the last go to the iTunes store) made you tap for product info in a fashion spread, but for no good reason, because there was already too much text on the page to give the creators any aesthetic reasons to hide the where-to-buy. And some apps are finicky in how the extras work.

Like: Zinio
I have always hated digital editions – on the computer screen. The flip technology is gratuitous and having to zoom in and out is unwieldy. But I have to give it to Zinio – they were in the right place at the right time when it comes to the iPad. It’s extremely convenient to have most of my magazines in one app, and I love the availability of magazines from around the world (my university-aged self is jealous of today’s access to multilingual media).

Dislike: Zinio
That said, Zinio is going to lose its prime position if it doesn’t up its game. I’m sure publishers are to blame for some of the challenges, but the Zinio app is basic at best. Why can’t I browse magazines by country or language? Why are titles not tagged so you can view similar ones you might be interested in? Why is the text quality so low?

Like: Creativity
National Geographic is doing a great job of realizing that magazine apps don’t have to be replicas of magazines. I’ve already blogged about their photo app, and they recently released a new one called 50 Places of a Lifetime – not as good, I think, but a great example of repackaging nonetheless. Epicurious tried and, unfortunately, kind of failed with their Word Games app. New York’s The Cut is excellent. And don’t forget web-based Aggregation, from the local industry’s own Gary Campbell and to which I’ve contributed.

Dislike: File size
My 16 gig iPad (yes, I should have sprung for the 32 gig version) is going to fill up fast with these file sizes. Come on, people, we’re smart. Let’s figure something out here.

Like: Smart use of interactivity
Self has long had workout cards you can pull out of the magazine, and related videos you can access online. On the iPad, the workout videos are right there for you to watch. Simple, easy, but brilliant.

Dislike: Poor communication with readers
Dear Fast Company: Why did magazine issues disappear from your app? I’d like to read them, please.

Like: Flipboard + Instagram. And Flipboard + Longreads.
Try these to see what the non-legacy developers are doing. While you’re at it, check out the Atavist, and wish you’d done it first.

Dislike: Pretending the internet is always there
Kobo is terrible for this, but so are some magazine apps. Don’t forget many users won’t always have internet, whether they’re underground or out of wifi range. Don’t annoy them with stupid alerts or a frozen screen.

Like: Web integration
The Wired app isn’t perfect. But when I was reading the May issue on Via Rail and wanted to share an article on Facebook (a very good one about Chernobyl that you should read), it worked. It was easy. And when people clicked on the link, it took them to that article on the website.

Are you reading magazines on the iPad? What are your likes and dislikes?

9 key points from the Business of Digital

April 19, 2011

On Thursday I had the opportunity to attend Magazines Canada’s all-day seminar the Business of Digital. With speakers including consultants Kim Machado and Kim Pittaway, Transcontinental Mobile’s Brady Murphy and Comscore’s Brent Bernie-Lowe, it was a great chance to catch up with both people and ideas in the digital world. Here are 9 key points from the event.

1. Google is dominating ad dollars
You know those charts showing an ongoing increase in online advertising dollars? Google is taking a huge chunk of that. According to Bernie-Lowe, almost half of online ad spend goes to search, and Google owns 80 percent of that. It’s something to keep in mind when you’re considering who your competition is.

2. Mobile is growing fast
Murphy says that 40 percent of the Rogers wireless customer base has smartphones – and a full 50 percent of all Canadian phones are predicted to be smartphones by 2012. Peak usage, he notes, is during “commuting” time – between 8 and 10 am and 5 and 7 pm.

3. Advertisers are now publishers
Machado pointed out that the competitive set editorially has grown wider as well – many advertisers are now publishing content on their websites and interacting directly with consumers, rather than via media. Pampers, for instance, she mentioned, has more than 550,000 fans on Facebook.

4. If you’re not on it, you don’t get it
This was Pittaway’s key message when it comes to social media, and it’s a good one – you have to use social media tools (properly!) before you can pass judgement on their utility and your strategy using them. The specific Twitter strategies she referenced were to listen, connect, share, ask and respond – all of which are focused on participating, not just broadcasting. Make sure you understand the medium you’re working in.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel
Machado gave examples of brands using social media tools to augment the capabilities of their sites. For instance, Food & Wine has hosted expert-reader chats on Facebook – since they don’t have chat software on their site. Instead of creating everything from scratch – or bemoaning your lack of tech resources – make use of the many free tools that exist online.

6. Beware of Shiny New Objects™
Murphy discussed trends like QR codes and augmented reality and how these are what he calls shiny new objects – tools that are good to show innovation but have limited reach and utility. Be careful not to pin your hopes on fancy gizmos that are yet unproven (but do use them for PR and to demonstrate to readers that you’re up to date).

7. Create online traditions
This was one suggestion from Pittaway that I really liked. In the same way that you have regular features in every issue of the magazine, have regular features on your online platforms. Do a weekly link roundup on your site, a (meaningful!) follow Friday on Twitter, or a daily inspiration on Facebook. These traditions create continuity for your readers and make your staff’s workload a lot more predictable.

8. Launch and learn
The day ended with a panel discussion on mobile, moderated by Steve Maich from Canadian Business and including Deborah Hall (Torstar), Tina Barnes (Postmedia) and Stephen Henrik (The Globe and Mail). One of Henrik’s tips was to “launch and learn”: “don’t be paralyzed by analysis,” he said. Barnes agreed, saying to experiment: “our strategy today may not be our strategy a year from now.”

9. If you don’t build it, they’ll still come
“People are going to go to your mobile website whether you have one or not,” noted Henrik, pointing out that mobile traffic is increasing rapidly (check your internal analytics if you don’t believe him) and sites that aren’t mobile-friendly are providing a very poor user experience for anyone who comes across them. Interestingly, he added that he hasn’t seen an impact on web traffic from mobile, indicating that overall web visits are increasing.

Quoted: On Apple’s subscription model

March 2, 2011

From tech blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball:

The idea with Apple’s 70-30 revenue split is that developers and publishers can make it up in volume — that people aren’t just somewhat more willing to pay for content through iTunes than other online content stores, they are far more willing. The idea is that Apple has cracked a nut no one else1 has — they’ve created an ecosystem where hundreds of millions of people are willing to pay for digital content.

Unfortunately he’s missing a few complexities of the issue from the publishers’ perspective, most notably name-gathering (although many analysts are for good reason not sympathetic about its absence in Apple’s model), but it’s a good read and raises some important points.

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