Posts Tagged ‘Wired’

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?

How Google works

March 1, 2010

Curious about Google’s back end? Check out this great article from Wired, which describes how Google’s search algorithm has developed over the years – and how cool it really is. Take how Google is learning language:

This is the hard-won realization from inside the Google search engine, culled from the data generated by billions of searches: a rock is a rock. It’s also a stone, and it could be a boulder. Spell it “rokc” and it’s still a rock. But put “little” in front of it and it’s the capital of Arkansas. Which is not an ark. Unless Noah is around. “The holy grail of search is to understand what the user wants,” Singhal says. “Then you are not matching words; you are actually trying to match meaning.”

Not as easy as it might seem.

What you can learn from Demand Media

November 15, 2009

Thanks to D.B. Scott and Graham Scott for pointing me to a recent Wired article on Demand Media, a company using proprietary search analytics to create article and video ideas/titles – then corresponding content – to overpower the internet (and Google) with the answers to people’s very specific questions.

Demand is focusing on quantity over quality, and I’m not suggesting you go that way. And focusing on SEO at the expense of other traffic sources is in my opinion shortsighted. But there are a few thing that branded media sites can learn from Demand:

Give your readers what they want
There’s no room online for the pet projects that no one actually reads. Even if you think an article/series is the best thing ever written, that’s not worth much if it gets a fraction of the traffic of the rest of your site. It’s simple math: with limited resources, put what you have toward what has the most impact.

Don’t be afraid of going niche
People search for the oddest things – and it’s information they really want. So don’t think you have to regurgitate the same old mass-audience content year after year online. That’s why we have archives. Build a good base of evergreen content, then branch out into the more specific and esoteric. Demand, for instance, claims to have done well with the search phrase “Where can I donate a car in Dallas?” Think of (and research) what similar keyword phrases are a good fit with your brand and site.

Don’t put in more effort than you need to
I’m not saying you should sacrifice quality – far from it. I’m a strong believer in having your website meet the print product’s standards. But only to a point. You don’t need to spend hours tweaking every word on the screen. Make it good and then move on to the next project. And this is especially true of video – web video doesn’t have to even come close to TV production standards. Why waste the time and money?

Aim for trust
It may seem like Demand is spewing out content with little care for how good it is (and I’m sure that’s sometimes true), but there’s still a lot of trust inherent in their brand. Take YouTube, for example:

[Google] has struggled to make money from the 19 billion videos on YouTube, only about 10 percent of which carry ads. Advertisers don’t want to pay to appear next to videos that hijack copyrighted material or that contain swear words, but YouTube doesn’t have the personnel to comb through every user-generated clip. Last year, though, YouTube executives noticed that Demand was uploading hundreds of videos every day — pre-scrubbed by Demand’s own editors, explicitly designed to appeal to advertisers, and cheap enough to benefit from Google’s revenue-sharing business model. YouTube executives approached Demand, asked the company to join its revenue-sharing program, and encouraged it to produce as many videos as possible.

The bottom line? Demand knows what it does and does it well. Can you say the same for your site?

How to make money online

July 12, 2009

The debate is still on (and for good reason) about how the media can make money with their online properties. Readership is certainly there, but display advertising isn’t bringing in enough revenue and most readers are unwilling to pay to read articles online. The New York Times is said to be about to charge a monthly fee of $5 for access, but whether the strategy will work is questionable. (They might suck me in, though – I’ve become extremely addicted to their excellent health section.)

The Guardian recently spoke with Chris Anderson of Wired on his thoughts on monetizing media websites. His ideal model, they write, is that we shouldn’t charge for everything, but for those things that people are really willing to pay for: “It’s not about whether to charge but choosing carefully which specialised content people will pay for and developing additional premium services.” Golf Digest, for example, is considering starting a branded club that will charge for membership in exchange for services, discounts or other premiums.

The million-dollar question, of course, is what will people pay for? Figure that out, price the model well, and you may just bring in profit from your brand in excess of advertising, using the “free” content on the website as a lure.

Web vs. print at Wired

May 21, 2009

Thanks to Rex Hammock for pointing out this interesting comment thread on a Boing Boing article about Wired that itself comments on a New York Times article discussing Wired’s ad revenue problems. (And this is why I love the internet.) Discussion topics include:

• Does print matter?
• The division between print and web staff
• Could wired.com survive the death of Wired?
• Can a print publication really be relevant when discussing tech?
• Why was/is the liquor cabinet on the mag side?

Chris Anderson even gets in on the discussion, but most of all the thread is worth a read (although I confess it’s long and I haven’t gotten through the whole thing yet) for web readers’ perspectives on magazines.

And I love this comment from former Wired staffer Brian Lam:

The spirit of what makes a magazine a magazine doesn’t have to die because it moves to the internet. In fact, it just needs to be treated more like a magazine and given the support the magazines have received so far.

Be creative with video

January 5, 2009

In this month’s Wired, Clive Thompson discusses how the shift to cheap production has changed the way people use and interact with video online. “In a sense,” he says, “you could argue that even after 100 years of moving pictures, we still don’t know what video is for. The sheer cost of creating it meant we used it for a stiflingly narrow set of purposes: news, documentaries, instructional presentations.”

And now? “The lid is blowing off.” The lesson? Don’t treat online video as just another form of TV. If you are going to do it, get creative and think of what the format can really do.

Leverage content for greater profit

December 9, 2008

Further to the discussion on how brand extensions can help you make money online, there’s an article by Clive Thompson in the current issue of Wired on “How T-shirts keep online content free“. The thesis? The content will build your audience; the money can be made by selling them branded T-shirts and other merchandise, as do the creators of animated comedy series Red vs. Blue:

Their algorithm is simple: First, don’t limit your audience by insisting they pay to see your work. Instead, let your content roam freely online, so it generates as large an audience as possible. Then cash in on your fans’ desire to sport merchandise that declares their allegiance to you.

It’s not likely to work for everyone – but will it work for you?

Now here’s a good use for a magazine website

September 11, 2008

Thanks to Corinna vanGerwen and Ivor Tossell for passing on this new feature on Wired: they’re blogging, from start to finish, the creation of a feature story on Charlie Kaufman, which will run in their November issue. 

Obviously anyone interested in journalism will be interested in this blog. But Tossell posed the question (on Twitter): would this kind of thing appeal to non-journalists, i.e. the general public?

Specifically? I don’t know. But in general? Yes, I personally think that any devoted magazine reader would be interested in a behind-the-scenes look at their favourite magazines. And I think this is a great use of a magazine’s blog – it’s a way to add personality to your brand and to develop community, making readers feel “in the know”. Blueprint used to do a great job of this before Martha killed it.

What do you think? Would you read this kind of content, and do you think your users would?

Why you don’t need to be innovative

September 8, 2008

There are new tools and new ideas springing up practically daily on the web, and it really is a full-time job (and more) to keep up with them all. But unless you’re the web editor for Wired, don’t worry about it – you really don’t need to be that cutting edge. Why? Because your readers probably aren’t, either.

What you do need to do, however, is embrace trends when they hit critical mass. The moment your not-so-up-to-date cousin/uncle/grandmother joined Facebook was a good sign your magazine should have had a presence there, too, or at least buttons on your site to help people publish links.

It should be part of your web editor’s job to be on the lookout for new tools that are approaching widespread usage – just make sure they have time in their schedule to do so.

Online content strategies from south of the border

July 31, 2008

From the New York Review of Magazines, “How to Tame the Wild Web” discusses the strategies being used online by three major US publications: Harper’s, The New Yorker and Wired:

Although most magazines have embraced the internet, there are, because of the wide variety of purposes and styles among them, conflicting ideas about what kind of website is in a publication’s best interest. How much content from the print side should be available? Should magazines charge readers for access? How rapidly should it be posted and how long should it remain online? Should magazines commission original work for their websites and, if so, how vigorously should it be edited and fact-checked? 

Essentially, magazines must decide whether to run their websites just as websites or as extensions of their print products. While both media deal with the mass communication of the written word, they require different skill sets—and mentalities. And it’s clear that the jury is still out on the best way to proceed. 

Magazines continue to scout out this relatively new terrain. In the process, they have adopted a variety of models, reflecting the diversity of their printed products. These models cover a broad range of complexity, scale and scope; magazines like Harper’s, The New Yorker and Wired bring different resources, both financial and technological, to the table. But these three examples are just that: examples from a wide spectrum of possibilities. 

It’s an interesting overview of some very different strategies being used by the three magazines, why they use them, and how well they work.

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