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Exact Editions

Updated: 2018-03-06T05:25:46.392+00:00


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Pristine Praise


Pristine Classical (the world's leading historic recordings site) have written up the experience of using Gramophone magazine on the Exact Editions platform. The full editorial is here, and we quote an extract in which Andrew Rose explains how the iTunes Newsstand interface, and the Exact Editions digital magazine platform works for him:The iPad's news stand is a simple little app that Apple have recently built into the operating system. When you first touch it an empty set of shelves open up on the screen, just begging to be filled with reading matter. Fortunately there's a handy button to take you straight to the news store, where you can buy individual issues or full subscriptions to a variety of magazines and newspapers from around the world. Once you've bought one of these (and most offer a free trial issue to get you started) the magazine cover appears on your shelf.Actually the shelf thing is a brilliant bit of nudge-marketing that really makes you want to fill its empty shelves, and so now I have four publications sitting there ready to read, including Gramophone at an annual subscription price which was around half the usual international rate. My daily paper - for which I now have the iPad subscription - is delivered as if by magic overnight while the iPad is asleep, ready to read when I get up in the morning. My Gramophone turns up on time every month. And because of the nature of my Gramophone subscription I can also read the same content on my web browser on any PC, and - at last! - copy and paste Rob Cowan's reviews directly into this newsletter rather than either scanning the text or retyping it. I've also been gifted every back issue going back to August 2010...So as a user what's it like? Well, what you see is what you'd get with the print edition - every page in full colour (including all the ads). When you hold your iPad vertically the screen holds a full page, when you hold it horizontally it spins around to fill the width of the screen, making the writing bigger but requiring you to scroll the page down to read the full text, something that can be a bit of a nuisance is a story runs along a number of columns. In the vertical view this isn't an issue though the text can be a little on the small side - but then you can quickly and easily pinch and unpinch the screen to change your level of zoom, thereby resizing the text to suit both you and the page layout. The contents page has coloured links over the page numbers, allowing you to jump straight to an article, and you can also run a text search across the entire issue - which is how I know for sure that there are four instances of the word 'Pristine' in November's issue, of which three refer to us. There's also a little "page flick" button, enabling quick "flicking" through thumbnail representation of the pages, a button that takes you straight back to the contents page, and one other control button, which switches to a two-page view, for those with better eyesight than me! All in all it looks good, it's easy to read, it turns up on time, and it's saved me money and shelf space. What's not to like? (Pristine Classical Newsletter November 2011)Rose goes on to explore the advantages and the options for independent music publishers who might want to sell magazines through iTunes. His view "And if you happen to be a magazine publisher who thinks this isn't for you, you really must read on..."It intrigued me that this very positive review of the process of transferring well designed and graphically rich magazines to a digital medium should have come from someone with deep expertise in the business of transferring digital sound to online media. Maintaining the fidelity and the richness of the print experience is still a real challenge. As is the problem of fidelity and authenticity in sound recordings. The review is also timely since this week Exact Editions is now unveiling a portal through which publishers can explore for themselves the digital services that can enable magazines to achieve the best digital quality and access th[...]

Apple's Newsstand and Skeuomorphs


Apple's Newsstand was introduced with iOS5 and it is defined as 'a custom newsstand for all your subscriptions'. It puts all your periodical subscriptions in one place, a Newsstand, a folder, that 'lets you access your favorite publications quickly and easily'. At this stage it has three particular advantages for the user: first, it does the sorting for you and puts your subscriptions in the one folder, collecting them together on the iPhone/iPad (many of us are lazy about arranging apps); second, apps which are handled through this route will update automatically in the background when a new issue appears -- a big plus since many magazine apps are very slow to upload; third the front covers of the current issues are shown on the shelves of your newsstand, a fact which makes these apps rather more interesting and appealing than most app cover artwork. This is an especially strong point for magazines, many of which have outstanding cover designs.This is all a fairly straightforward matter of iOS plumbing and 'issue management', but I just mentioned the Newsstand's 'shelving' and one of the most obvious features of the Newsstand is that it is presented to the user as a wooden, pine, racking system. Here is a glimpse of mine:This is a classic instance of Apple's 'skeuomorphism'. Skeuomorphism, originally a term from archaeology, is type of ornamentation where the design or look of the object helps the user to understand the function of the device or tool. Greeks made bronze jugs and vases that looked as though they had been made from coiled pottery, with curious twists and patterns, because these derivative ornaments helped the user to know which bit to grasp as the handle and how to direct the spout. iOS5 and its apps are riddled with skeuomorphism -- some of which goes over the top. Much of it incredibly helpful: paperclips that indicate an attachment, soft calculators that work like calculators, brushes that brush, cameras that have buttons and dials etc.The fact that the newsstand is a pine shelving system is helpful skeuomorphism because we know how to arrange items on a shelf, we know how to 'read' a shelf, we understand that the objects on the shelf will remain 'there' on both phone and pad and we know that can pick up one, or several of these objects and dive into them. All of this maps the functionality of shelved stuff straight into our collection of subscriptions. All is well and good.The problem lies elsewhere. The metaphor of the 'personal shelf' works well enough for an individuals collection of 6 or 60 periodical subscriptions. But it provides no help at all when we come to the other angle on Apple's new newsstand. The newsstand is not just a way of organizing an individuals collection of subscription, it is a new classification within the app store for periodicals which are consistent with the distribution and access rules that pertain to the individual-facing, personal newsstand within an iOS device. 'Newsstand' is a new and rather unusual category within the iTunes store itself, and only the apps which would work on the 'pine-shelf' personal newwstand appear there. A lot of newspapers and many magazines have not appeared in newsstand yet, perhaps because the developers have not yet got round to it, but others are not there because they never will be. Apps like Flipboard or Zite which aggregate magazine content will not be going into the newsstand, nor will news apps that are based on real-time newsfeeds (there is still a seperate 'news' category for apps which are not in Newsstand). The 'newsstand' within iTunes is not a section for all newsy apps, it is a category for periodical subscriptions which meet some very specific criteria. All existing print periodicals could be transferred to it provided that the publishers develop an app which matches these criteria, so it will soon be an enormous emporium of periodicals. In fact what iTunes now needs is some sort of virtual kiosk, which would allow the prospective purchaser to float past and search thous[...]

Magazines that just work


Adweek has a nice piece on how the magazine BusinessWeek appears to be thriving. It has changed its name to Bloomberg Businessweek (is that really better?) and has a newly invigorated editorial and design approach.

So far, the Bloomberg money has bought signs of life. Businessweek has bulked up to an average of 66 well-designed editorial pages that offer a level of global business coverage not found among other weeklies. Ad pages are up 21 percent year-on-year for January through July, the rate base will soon be raised from 900,000 to 980,000 (approaching Forbes’ 1,020,000), and subscriptions are up 12 percent. The magazine now loses, according to Adweek sources, between $20 million to $30 million a year. (Josh Tyrangiel Means Business -- Adweek)

Bloomberg bought the magazine from the McGraw Hill company for $1 in October 2009.

The magazine also has a respectable app for the iPad, though I suspect that its not (yet) a key part of the revived magazine's business strategy. I find their app clever, but a bit too fiddly and confusing and its not on Apple's Newsstand which suggests that Bloomberg have not yet worked out whether they see it as an integral part of a digital magazine strategy or more of a trial balloon. But the resuscitation of the core magazine is a good story for the magazine business. A new owner has been bold enough to take a fresh look at the editorial mission, has seen the need for investment in editorial content and design quality, and the magazine is a lot better than it was 2 or 3 years ago. This week it has a tremendous article on Apple's extraordinary strength in supply chain management, investment and logistics. Now that they have the core magazine working really well, they can consider how to make it a digital success.

It could be that there are a good many magazines out in the market which are suffering from tired ownership (McGraw Hill had no real rationale for owning a consumer-facing business magazine). There are some excellent editorial and content propositions that could be revived by fresh investment and owners committed to developing subscription audiences. This will become a positive story for the magazine industry in the near future as publishers realise that digital magazine audiences can be very large and can be reached very efficiently through the iPad and other web devices.

Amazon and Apple in Asymmetric Competition


Today it is widely expected that Amazon will launch a 'next generation' Kindle. The rumor mill says that it will be called the Kindle Fire, it will be running an Amazon controlled and adapted version of Android 2.1, it will be priced 'competitively' a bit lower than the basic iPad, it will have a smaller form factor than the iPad (7") and may look much like the Blackberry PlayBook, but above all it will be a new and better way of consuming the books, films, music and other digital media properties that Amazon successfully sells to its large consumer following.Many observers think that Amazon has perhaps the best chance of competing with Apple in the 'tablet space', which increasingly looks as though it might otherwise become an Apple preserve. As David Streitfeld in the New York Times points out, one of the reasons that Amazon has a chance is that it is not a straightforward competitor but an asymmetric competitor. The tablets that have abysmally failed to compete with Apple so far (and its a long list: Blackberry, HP a fistful of Android efforts) have failed because they have been competing head-to-head the level of hardware with a device that in every case, however serviceable the hardware, abysmally fails to match the content and software eco-system (its all about the apps) which sustains and grows Apple's market. Amazon will position its tablet not as a device that matches the iPad in specification and function, but as a better conduit to media resources and media consumption. Amazon does have a very significant content mix that it can channel through its device. In the books area it has a stronger and deeper selection than Apple, and although it may be lagging in its selection of music and film, it has nonetheless a respectable harvest. Books is a key strength and with its successful eInk Kindle track record Amazon has the potential to migrate millions of book lovers (and their purchased libraries) to the new platform. Apart from Apple no other media/tech player has anything like Amazon's content reach (not Google, not Facebook, not Microsoft or Sony).But the competition will be intriguingly asymmetric "because Apple sells movies, music and books in order to sell devices. Amazon sells devices in order to sell books, movies and music. Apple has never faced an opponent with such a vastly different strategy." (New York Times 25.9.2011)In fact the competition is deeply asymmetric in a number of ways. Amazon already provides access on Apple devices through its Kindle app, the chances are that Amazon will try to maintain the compatibility between its eInk-based Kindle app on the iOS platform and its native Kindle Fire app software. That could get to be complicated, it could inhibit development of better native-Android reading software, but this is an asymmetry that gives Amazon market reach. There is no chance that Apple will provide access to iTunes or to iBooks on an Amazon tablet app. Amazon would probably not allow that, and Apple certainly would not want that. If iBooks were to get a lot better, perhaps through taking advantage of hardware or system features, that would put some competitive pressure on Amazon's lead with eBooks. Asymmetric also in that Apple will stick to its 'agent' or facilitator role, whereas Amazon will act more as principal (Amazon is in fact becoming an eBook publisher). Apple will continue on its policy of levying a distribution tax from content that uses its iTunes marketplace (30%). Amazon will seek to maintain and re-introduce its 'merchant' role, wherein it can exploit and require deep discounts from publishers developers. Amazon will not lightly give pricing power to its publisher partners (its rules for the app market give Amazon the right to discount to zero!). Apple does give developers and publishers more pricing autonomy, because Apple knows that it will attract more developers that way and will sell more hardware and grow the ecosystem. Ironically, Apple will be able to mo[...]

Forking the Business


Reed Hastings the inspirational founder of Netflix just owned up to a big mistake in running his business (see his video apology here) and announced that in consequence of this misstep and failure of communication he would split his baby in two: Netflix (the old name for the new business) which would now solely be concerned with selling digital streaming video to consumers on a subscription basis, and Quickster (the old business with a new name) which would be solely concerned with shipping DVD's to customers who wish to have films on DVD.In software parlance he is 'forking' the code base (the assets of Netflix and the employees will be divided between the two new businesses), and he is duplicating the customer base (users will have two accounts where they had one before) and he is potentially setting them against each other.So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently. An Explanation and Some Reflections.This does seem like a pretty drastic change to a business that has been steadily evolving towards a streaming mode of delivery for film and TV. I hope it works out for the Netflix businesses and its customers, but it certainly seems risky.It is worth thinking about these drastic manoeuvres because a similar distribution challenge faces the magazine industry as digital delivery becomes more important. Will it be necessary for magazine publishers to split their editorial, development and design teams, their commercial and sales efforts to build separate digital and print-based work-flows and subscription operations? Some magazine publishers are working now with separate editorial and design workflows? Will this result in an inevitable split between subscribers for print product and for digital editions? Can magazines afford this duplication? Do consumers want two products?At Exact Editions we are convinced that such a split cannot work, is ruinously expensive and results in sub-optimal solutions for print subscribers and the digital audience. Perhaps magazine publishers have been too mesmerised by the possibility that magazines as digital resources on the iPad could be something completely different from the print object (and perhaps not quite honest enough about the talents that they have to produce something completely different and digital, some ghastly interactive apps have been the result). The key thing that magazine publishers have going for them is that they already (in many cases) have a strong and renewable subscription relationship with their print audience. Actually most music producers, film companies and book publishers would die for a situation in which they had a direct billing relationship with the digital audience. Magazine publishers have no idea how lucky they are. It is therefore vital to transfer this subscriber relationship to the digital sphere as soon as possible. Print publishers can do this because it can be very simple and straightforward to offer those print-subscribers who want it a digital subscription as a complementary part of their print subscription. Enfranchise the print audience as quickly as possible.Consumer magazine publishers are in an extraordinarily privileged position because they 'own' their audience (subscribers who come to them direct) in a way in which very few consumer media operations are able to match (music, film, book and TV producers all struggle through not being able to bridge the gap directly between digital product and digital consumer). From this standpoint the concession that Apple has given to magazine publishers is extraordinarily important.“Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 1[...]

Financial Times Tablets


As a regular FT reader I watch their digital development with real interest. Paid Content has been following their strategy and has a note about the reasons why the FT has now withdrawn its app from iTunes. Two months after the deadline for compliance hit, it’s now clear The Financial Times and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) can’t come to a compromise over the new requirement that in-app subscription payments must go through iTunes Store. The paper’s iPad and iPhone apps have disappeared from iTunes Store. Apple says the FT took them down to comply with its new terms. Financial Times Apps Finally Pulled from iOS Paid Content The FT has a really excellent HTML5 app designed for the iPad (and other tablets?) and subscriptions for this app can be purchased directly from the FT web site. Note that the headline is misleading, the FT has not pulled its app from iOS, the app actually works fine with an excellent touch-interface on the iPad. What has happened is that the app cannot be bought or distributed via iTunes. The reason for pulling out of iTunes? Well, it apparently isn't primarily about the 30% commission that the FT would have to pay for all subscriptions sold through iTunes: “(Giving away) thirty percent of subscription revenue isn’t something we celebrate, but that was secondary actually - we already pay other distributors and agents; newsagents take a cut. Central to our whole strategy and all our aspirations is to have that direct relationship with the reader.” John Ridding CEO FT, interviewed by Paid Content, August 8, 2011. But this is still hard to understand, because the newsagents and other distributors who sell the physical product not only take a cut, in aggregate much more than 30%, they deliver readers who have no direct relationship with the publisher. Refusing to sell subscriptions through iTunes and refusing to participate in the shortly to be launched Newsstand within iTunes is de facto hiding the publication from the 200 million people who have an iTunes account. The FT has lots of costs to get on to physical news stands but good product placement within iTunes is pretty much free for the publisher, so why turn that away? Sure some loyal readers who have purchased an iPad will be willing to go to the FT's web site and sign up directly there, through the Safari web browser, but everyone who has an iPad has an iTunes account and knows how much easier it is to use it to buy a subscription within iTunes than to transact with a web site using a credit card. The FT's move away from iTunes makes no sense in the context of customer acquisition, especially since Apple now allows publishers to provide free for subscribers access through an app. Apple has also stepped back from requiring that publishers who sell subscriptions should offer the best price in their iTunes sub. If the FT wished to promote digital subscriptions which include free access to the app, and at a lower price to direct subscribers who have given their demographics to the publisher, there is nothing now in the Apple rules to prevent this. They could have in-app purchasing within iTunes, but no reader demographics, and off-iTunes direct selling with complementary iPad access to those subscribers who complete the demographic form. Anonymous readers via Apple, and 'engaged' subscribers via their own transactional system. The FT's stance in this matter is so puzzling that I wonder if there is some hidden explanation. One that occurs to me is this: the FT will have spent some time developing its HTML5 app and the service that delivers it. It surely will have done this because the FT expects there soon to be a range of media consumption tablets of which the iPad is merely the foretaste. So the publisher would like to manage the way in which subscriptions are handled across all platforms, collecting similar information from Android, Windows and iOS platforms on similar terms. That t[...]

The Changing Shape of B2B Services


In the last few months I have been hearing a bit about, which seems to be a Dropbox-type of solution for corporations, so I was interested to read a somewhat lengthy interview at Business Insider with Aaron Levie its youthful founder and CEO. Here are a couple of smart points: (On why the big office Suite products that bundle email, social, CRM, collaboration, ERP etc in a big coalition -- are not such a threat) ...If you go to the average company in America, that's not what they've implemented. They've implemented Salesforce as their CRM, Google Apps for email—a large number of them, in the millions—they'll be thinking of Workday or NetSuite for their ERP. Each of those companies is or will become a multibillion-dollar company just focused on that best-of-breed aspect of what they're trying to solve. With the Web, you can connect these properties together, you can connect this information together, so you don't actually take a productivity hit by having different services. There might be a slight management complexity, but there's new technology that helps with that, we distribute our products is totally different from how Oracle and Microsoft distribute their products—we're direct to the customer, we're all over the Internet, you don't have to go through a whole network and channel of distribution. The way our applications are built—we release updates to our products every week. Microsoft takes 3 years to release a new product. So the whole DNA of our company is completely different. That will take some time to cycle it into Oracle and Microsoft. (On why its not a problem selling into corporations that have pre-existing agreements) ...That [agreement] will expire and the customer will be ready to jump when it does. Companies that keep customers captive because of contracts aren't always the hardest to disrupt. Ultimately, it doesn't create a great customer-vendor relationship. There's a lot of fractures in the market where that exists. Business Insider August 26 These thoughts chimed with mine because we have in the last few months been seeing some RFPs (Request For Proposal) from larger magazine companies that we would love to work with and are to an extent already working with. It seems that the major magazine companies are now fully realizing that that they need a comprehensive digital magazine strategy and the Chief Information Officer who is often (but not always) charged with framing the strategy is inclined to look for a single contractor and a comprehensive solution from one supplier. The perplexities we have with RFPs are quite instructive. The RFPs that we see are almost always too detailed (in one case 12 features are required for iPad app deployment). They omit crucial elements (no mention of search, subscription terms, or compliance with Apple iTunes policies in one RFP). They envisage a solution that is much more expensive and more front-loaded than one we would supply. They underestimate the absolute necessity of instant and rapid improvements to web or app services (an RFP that asks for timetables between software releases and 'support policies' for previous releases is thinking in years and quarterly release mode, when app developers need to plan month by month and web solutions have to respond within days to a new requirement). An RFP that covers the range of options that a digital magazine strategy now needs to address is fundamentally flawed if it does not take advantage of a modular development and deployment strategy. RFPs often have a 'completion date' in mind. Remember that this is a consoling fiction (put there for the benefit of Finance Directors and CEOs), successful digital development does not complete but builds for the next stage. Modular development and deployment can be guided by an RFP but it cannot be ruled by it. We will continue to see RFPs and we will continue to [...]

Now that Google is a Phone Company...


Will it also become a tablet company? Google plans to buy Motorola Mobility, the mobile phone part of Motorola, for $12.5 Billion and a $2.5 Billion breakup fee (what Google has to pay Motorola if the deal does not go through). Shrewd comments on the strategic reasons for the acquisition are coming from MG Siegler and Florian Mueller.

This is a big deal -- a lot of money, and a lot of employees and mind-share. Google says that they are going to run Motorola as a separate business, but they are going to own one of the big phone makers and it will condition the way that they and all their competitors and collaborators look at Android. One of the interesting consequences of such a big shift is that it will lead to everyone in the technology space re-assessing their position in relation to Google and to other competitors. The wash from this wave will be felt even in the shallows of the digital magazine space. I offer three predictions from this perspective:

  1. This deal makes it more likely that there will soon be a competitive Android tablet. Soon means "not very soon", but one year to eighteen months from now there will be a much better successor to the Motorola Xoom, which was one of the better Android devices but nothing like good enough.
  2. The first good-enough competitor for an iPad that comes from this alliance will be a low-end Google tablet, one that is very good with all standard Google stuff (Maps, Gmail, Google+, Picassa etc) but it will not be strong with consumer media. Google is too far behind to develop a decent competitor for iTunes in the next two years. So Google will increasingly push for free media and web apps for paid stuff, their development and engineering talent will focus on the hardware integration for a device that is brilliant with web services, web apps and the web. Google/Motorola will be in a good position to produce a competitor to the iPad which is not like the iPad, and which is not dependent on media licensing and app developers. A tablet for commodities and utilities at $99. Digital magazines will work well on this device as web apps, but the tablet(s) will not be tied to an e-commerce solution or an app store. This deal does nothing to remedy Google's weakness in retail and support and direct consumer experience.
  3. So this makes it less likely that iTunes will face an effective Android competitor for media consumption. The wild card here is the strongly rumoured Amazon Android tablet. Amazon need this as a replacement for their eInk Kindle, but I wonder whether Amazon regard Google's embrace of Motorola as a helpful step or an increased threat? Is there still scope for a Google/Amazon alliance against the Apple dominant media player?
About one thing I am sure: Apple are happy. Apple will not see the Google move as a significant threat; Apple strategists will be thinking that Google is boxing itself into a challenging situation and undergoing an identity crisis: running a manufacturer, trying to align developers, losing existing allies, facing increasing regulatory concerns, channel conflict and patent wars. Google now has a lot of problems that Apple has largely solved.

Apple Knows Plenty


Apple is poised to become the biggest company in the world by 'market capitalisation'. It maybe briefly inched ahead of EXXON yesterday in chaotic market trading, but it will very surely be well ahead of the pack by the end of the year. Apple's sales and profits are rocketing and the value of the company is still being significantly underestimated by the markets. The remarkable fact is that although Apple is now a large company by any standards (annualised sales of over $100 Billion) its profits and its sales turnover are still growing at an amazing rate. Big companies can be very profitable, and big companies can sometimes grow revenues quickly, but Apple is doing both of these things consistently, quarter by quarter. As can be seen in this chart produced by Horace Dedieu For fuller discussion of the chart see Asymco's note on Apple's growth scorecard for second quarter 2011. In Asymco's deadpan style these sales and profit growth stats are dubbed merely"exceptional" or "very good". But Asymco is being too phlegmatically Finnish, it is frankly unprecedented for a company with annual sales of approaching $100 Billion to be growing year on year at 82% (and in the preceding quarters 83%, 70%, 67%, 61%, 49%, 32%, 6%). You have to go back to Q3 2009 to find the merely respectable figure of 6% annual growth! The crazy thing is that there are some very strong planks in Apple's growth strategy that we still cannot infer from reported figures. Only Apple knows, or can guess, how strong a part of the growth story will come in the next decade from the sale of music, film, books, and apps all coursing through iTunes and all generating a 30% turn for Apple. This IP-derived cash will become an important part of Apple's revenue streams and even more of its profits, because the marginal cost of selling more digital media through iTunes is very low. We dont know much about Apple's revenue from apps in iTunes, but we do know, from a press release, that Apple had cummulatively paid out over $2.5 Billion to app developers by July 2011, which means that Apple has retained $1.1 Billion from its share of sales of apps through iTunes (over the 4 years that apps have been for sale in iTunes). At the iPad 2 launch event in January Apple had announced 2$ Billion in payments to app developers, so it is probable that Apple sales from apps will comfortably exceed 1$ Billion in 2011. Buried within these gross figures, that are reported in bald outline, there will be an amazing amount of detail that is available to Apple only. Apple now has a good deal of insight on the relative buying patterns of owners of iPhones and iPads (now 150 million and 30 million owners in each case). Apple has a lot of information on individuals buying habits for music, film, and for apps, for games, productivity tools, ebooks and magazines and newspapers. Very little of this information is aggregated or understood outside the confines of Cupertino. It would be very interesting to know what the average iPad owner spends on media in the first quarter or the first year of 'ownership', on games, music, ebooks and periodical subscriptions. If the 'average' iPad owner spends $6 per annum on magazine subscriptions through iTunes there is already an annualised market for nearly $200 million in magazine subs. That figure may be too high at this stage when there are so many 'experimental' magazine apps out there doing their publishers experiments. But it is not outlandish to suppose that periodical subscriptions spending could soon head towards $10 or $20 per owner, which will mean that the market will soon be measured in billions. It would be informative/encouraging to know whether expenditure on various classes of media tends to increase or flatten out? There is a widespread belief that app purchases tend to focus ar[...]

So What is the Business Model?


In looking to the promising digital future for magazines it is essential that publishers separate out two questions:What is the best consumer format for digital magazines? What is the appropriate economic model for the digital magazine business?These are very different questions. But the answers that we come up with are going to have a bearing, the one on the other. And vice versa. The magazine publisher has to get both right!Over-simplifying wildly, there are currently three views on the appropriate format for digital magazines battling for the attention of the consuming public.In some ways the simplest solution involves converting the magazines existing web site into an RSS feed which packages the contents of the web site for delivery in through a browser or an RSS aggregator. Many of the early magazine and newspaper apps were in effect re-packaged RSS feeds. In this view, digital magazines should aim at maximum topicality and a streaming delivery through which each story (or article) is delivered to the audience in a self-contained capsule, when it is ready and whenever it is updated, in a continuous flow. The RSS format has been leveraged and improved upon by Flipboard (Zite and Pulse are aggregators in the same category). This is a radical format change as a consequence of which the print magazine loses the 'rigidity' both of the 'issue' and of the 'page'.More of a 'half-way house' is the trend to develop digital magazines which although they drop the 'integrity/rigidity' of the printed page, maintain the edition-driven, periodical, grouping of the dated issue. Magazines which are delivered as digital editions to the Kindle have this re-flowable format and step away from the pagination of the print magazine, they probably also 'lose' the advertisements which form a part of the print version, but they continue to adhere to the serial clumping of the magazine associated with a publication date, and temporal sequence in the magazine archive. We can think of these re-flowable digital magazines as similar to ebooks. It is no accident that magazines delivered through Amazon's Kindle (a dedicated ebook reader) have this structure. But there are plenty of similar ebook-like apps in iTunes. The Economist's iOS app is a good example. The alternative model for digital magazine deployment, works from the supposition that consumers really want a virtual magazine. The digital magazine retains its print 'look and feel' with pages and settled issues, but the magazine becomes a virtualised object, at once familiar and flexible, browseable, searchable and linkable; a magazine which can be read on a mobile phone, a web-connected computer, or a tablet in analogous ways as the print magazine would be read as a physical product. Declaring an interest: this is the route to digitization employed by Exact Editions, but also by Zinio, and with some variations by Adobe. Commentators sometimes refer to these solutions as 'PDF magazines' or 'Page Turning' solutions/platforms, but such characterizations miss the point that virtualised digital magazines can be much more than mere replicas. Because they are virtualised replicas, they can have layers of additional purely digital functionality superimposed on the replicated structure. Obviously 'search', enhanced 'linkage' and integration with web services, multimedia elements and episodes can be stirred into the format and tablet-specific interactions work well on a digital object.There really is no uniformity of opinion about which of these models for digital magazine delivery is the most suitable and attractive. Speaking for myself, as you might predict from my statement of interest, I have a strong preference for the virtual magazine model (type (3)), but I also enjoy Flipboard and can see why some readers may prefer an Econo[...]

Jazzwise a new app with Bonus Media


We have a new app in the iTunes app store with some cool bonus media. I have also been experimenting with Google+ and Webdoc (first impressions: very useful and cloud-based) to see how we can give a few glimpses of the magazine apps that are coming through from us in increasing profusion.....

Some screenshots from the Jazzwise app. There is some music in the magazine app, but I have used the Webdoc tool to grab a fragment of Archie Shepp and Joachim Kuhn.

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Disruptive Paradigms


There is a fascinating confusion now reigning in the higher reaches of the Microsoft empire.Steve Balmer and his team are convinced that tablets should be viewed as PCs, and that there is no need to put a mobile operating system on Windows tablets ("iPads and tablets are just a different form factor of PC"). They appear to have completely misread the reasons for the success of Apple's iOS and its iPhone and iPad devices. As Horace Dediu notes:Summed up, the real challenge for Microsoft is whether they can keep their business model (selling OS licenses to hardware vendors) as PCs become more device-like. Not only is iOS setting the benchmark for performance but Android is potentially ready to take share if the market turns slightly more modular. Microsoft’s differentiation looks to be primarily its legacy of PC software. Asymco: is the tablet computer a new PC or Post PC?Horace Dediu clearly thinks that Microsoft are completely missing the point of the shift to a Post PC model of computing: deep integrated development from hardware through system software to applications; a new model for developer engagement; and novel challenges for manufacturing and distribution in which incredibly high levels of device standardisation and reliability have to be met. All of this Apple gets, and Microsoft apparently does not get it. They are stuck with an outmoded paradigm and it is preventing them from engineering a competitive challenge. Microsoft will not build a competitor to the iPhone or the iPad because Microsoft thinks that its future lies, as its past successes have lain, in licensing its desktop operating system (and a separate mobile operating system) to manufacturers. Microsoft will not be competitive because Balmer does not want to be in that competition to build an integrated device that works across all device formats and layers media on applications, on transaction engine, on operating system and finely engineered and integrated device. And it may already be too late.These shifting paradigms, are everywhere in the technological landscape. The shift from a PC oriented workstation to tablet and sundry mobile computing devices is just a particularly extreme and decisive example. I think we can see another disruptive paradigm shift working its way through the British newspaper industry this last week. The abrupt closure of the News Of the World was an extraordinary and rather shocking event. But as the ongoing fallout shows the real damage that is being done to the newspaper business is self-inflicted. The News of the World was paying bent investigators and cosying up to policemen because the business managers believed that it was only by delivering a stream of edgy/dodgy stories that they could persuade people to buy the paper. As the (mostly digital) competition got fiercer the methods became dodgier. Newspapers are hoping that their old business model can be replicated digitally, and they are not confronting the deeper problem which is that the package of business strategies and features that supported newspapers 10/15 years ago is no longer going to work (exclusives, classifieds, daily editions, ABC audits, bulk deals, tombstone ads, stock price listings).Some magazine publishers are also desperate to hang on to the old business model in the hope that it will continue to work. Jan Wenner the founder, owner and publisher of Rolling Stone is such and had an alarming interview with AdAge a few weeks ago.Ad Age: What's your take on selling magazines on the iPad and other tablets?Mr. Wenner: It's the same pretty much as I've said about the web. The tablet itself is a really fun device. Some people are going to enjoy it a lot and use it. Some people aren't. On this plane one person's traveling with a tab[...]

Apple's Mega Newsstand


At its World Wide Developer Conference at the beginning of the month, Apple introduced iOS5, a close integration with Twitter and its plans for a Newsstand within iTunes. There was a brief overview of the Newsstand service in the presentation and this mention in the Press Release:Newsstand is a beautiful, easy-to-organize bookshelf displaying the covers of all your newspaper and magazine subscriptions in one place. A new section of the App Store™ features just subscription titles, and allows users to quickly find the most popular newspapers and magazines in the world. If subscribed to, new issues appear in the Newsstand and are updated automatically in the background so you always have the latest issue and the most recent cover art. Apple Press Release, June 6, 2011There is quite a lot yet to be decided about the precise shape and operation of the Newsstand but what we know looks promising. We know that its coming in the fall, which means that it must be near completion; we know that it will enable background downloading; and that it will present the front pages, front covers, of newspapers and magazines in a more topical and attractive way. We know that Twitter will be available as an omni-present system-call in the new iOS. We also know that Apple's newly introduced in-app subscription process, with automatic iTunes renewals is working well, many mainstream publishers have announced that they will support it. This is a separate but important development. We also know that Apple has relaxed its previously announced, but over-restrictive policies on pricing of subscriptions "outside" the App store. Apple will not be 'leaning over' and requiring publishers to charge no more for digital subscriptions on the web or on Android than they charge within iTunes. Apple is loosening up a bit.This really could be the very best news for the digital magazine and newspaper industry. Here is why:Apple sold nearly 20 million iPads in the year to April 2011. We do not know how many they will sell in the second year, but it seems reasonable to expect a very large number. Another 50+ million units seems probable. Three years after its launch the iPad could certainly have a 200/300 million installed base. That is scale.Apple has decided to bring some marketing and retailing focus to periodicals within iTunes. This is what the Newsstand announcement really amounts to. Apple will arrange focus and in-store presentation and highlighting. It is as though Tescos or WalMart announced that they were going to have a big newsstand kiosk in a prominent place within all of their retail outlets. The Newsstand will be a sales focus and it will attract masses of titles. Since periodicals have never been aggregated and retailed at remotely comparable scale, it is quite hard to envisage the potential for a newsstand which has tens of thousands of titles in all the main languages. Apple would only be doing this if it considered that newspapers and magazines could be a big category. Apple is building a platform from which it can sell billions of news and magazine subscriptions. It would appear that Apple will be going for a very 'format' neutral Newsstand. Apple has not said that all magazines and newspapers should have a specific file format, as happens with iBooks. It has not said that newspapers and magazines should or should not be 'interactive', though it seems certain that interactivity will be there (see most newspaper apps). This is ingenious because it allows/encourages publishers and developers to experiment with different sorts of delivery format. Apple is offering a sales platform, a payment platform, a cloud-based delivery and access platform. But it is not dictating the format or precise impl[...]

Now that Apple Owns the Tablet Space .....


When the iPad was launched, there was a widespread view (and I shared it) that soon, and not more than a year or two later, there would be some highly competitive and lower-priced tablet alternatives for customers to choose from. The iPad had opened a new hardware category, but competitors would quickly crowd into this new opening... there would be lots of choice and most of it would not be for Apple hardware.Whilst dissecting a review of one of the best Android competitor's to the iPad, Marco Ament notes:Translation: Android tablets have managed to copy the iPad’s hardware well enough — the easy part — but have failed to provide good software and significant third-party app choice — the hard part. The Android Tablet ProblemFor any 'head-to-head' competitor tablet to get into the market for a face off with the iPad there is the possibly insuperable problem that the new tablet lacks a coherent body of developers and of tablet-primed media. Apple has been building its iOS developer community and media resources for four years (arguably more). Apple has huge momentum and capability behind its iOS platform and this cannot be matched by any competitor. I don't think that a 'head to head' competitor to the iPad can emerge in the next five years. The competitive threat if it comes, will be from a completely new approach, an external threat not a mid-size device like the iPad. We should look to a paradigm shift as radical and disruptive as the iPhone/iPad surge that Apple has produced to disrupt the mobile phone and the laptop computer.Harry McCracken reviews the state of iPad competition and concludes that it is very hard to see why anybody in the market for a tablet would buy something other than an iPad 2.And yet no Apple competitor has started selling anything that clearly answers a fundamental question: “Why should somebody buy this instead of an iPad?” Sure, it’s easy to point at specific things that other devices do better (or at least differently) than the iPad, and some of the people reading this article can explain why they chose another tablet and don’t regret the move. (If you’re one of them, please do!) Still, sales figures for tablets show that when consumers compare the iPad to other choices, an overwhelming percentage conclude that the iPad is the best option. ....Instead of an iPad (Technologizer)If the 'competitors' to the iPad cannot emerge now, a year after the first iPad was launched, why should it be feasible that the direct competition will be stronger in a year or two's time? The iPad eco-system is getting richer and stronger at an amazing rate and that is the problem any direct tablet competitor faces. The fundamental point about the iPad and the iOS range of devices is that Apple is not really selling a hardware solution; Apple is offering a software and services solution, and it is the whole package that customers are buying into. This is something which no competitor to Apple is plausibly positioned to challenge. Not Microsoft (they don't really do manufacturing), not Google (they don't truly understand selling), not Amazon (who are best placed to have a shot at it, but do not have deep consumer-device engineering DNA).We will come back to Amazon in a minute. But first let us consider what are the consequences of Apple owning the tablet category for the next three, four years -- by which I mean that Apple has a good chance of being the supplier of most of the tablets bought for the plan-able future.Apple will sell a lot of iPads and will certainly offer a modicum more choice (high-end, low-end, high-res, medium res). Moore's law says that Apple should be able to produce a sub $200 iPad for Christmas 2012[...]

Is Twitter Becoming the Web's Intentional Layer?


Intentionality is a philosophical term of art, and it refers to or 'points to' the directedness or aboutness of much of our mental and linguistic activity. Of much of our action. But 'intentionality' has also been used by web commentators, John Battelle, for one, when he considers the extent to which Google is striving to build a method of search which captures the user's intent and which is at the same time harvesting and modeling intentions and desires:The Database of Intentions is simply this: The aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result. It lives in many places, but three or four places in particular hold a massive amount of this data ......... This information represents, in aggregate form, a place holder for the intentions of humankind - a massive database of desires, needs, wants, and likes that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited to all sorts of ends. Such a beast has never before existed in the history of culture, but is almost guaranteed to grow exponentially from this day forward. John Battelle The Database of Intentions, 2003 -- [at that time Battelle gave pride of place in his blog to Google, MSN and Yahoo. I think now he would pick Google, Facebook and Twitter, possibly Amazon and Apple].My intuitive 'internal model' for thinking about the web is of a constellation of HTML, of piles of content; comparable, and yet exceeding, the largest libraries. But the web is also and quite distinctively a constellation of links, hyperlinks, and these links are intents. Every hyperlink is itself an 'intentional act', a referential act that is also digital, an act that annihilates distance and short-circuits context and time, taking us instantaneously, magically, to the target of the link's intention. Every link that our finger points to on an iPad is the shadow of the intentional act of the author of the link, and the harbinger/blueprint for the intentional act of each user who follows the link. Viewing the web not so much as a static docuverse, but as a dynamic aggregation of usage and process, the intentional power of the web comes from the way it charts and shifts the attention, the intention, and the focus of its users. Google is as much an instrument for choice and for cognitive intent as it is also an engine for search. However there is a case for treating Twitter as a special case, as especially pure and nakedly intentional. Tweets are all about links and intentions and Twitter is building a massive intentional superstructure through the discourse and activity of Twitter users. There are at least three sources for Twitter's pervasive intentionality.Twitter's atomicity. Twitter's brevity hones the sharpness of a tweet's intentional aim. The 140 word limit forces directedness in tweeting. The character limit requires that the user targets with precision and clear reference the subject that is being tweeted. For a medium with such a narrow bandwidth, Twitter has been extraordinarily effective at finding ways of lassooing content with precision. Think twitpic and A picture may be worth a thousand words, but you do not need a thousand words to reference a picture in a tweet. It is not possible to say everything in a tweet (Godel's theorem and The Whitsun Weddings are just too subtle and long), but there is no practical limit to the stuff that one can refer to or touch on with a tweet.Twitter's asymmetry. Twitter in a deep way echoes the topology of the web, with the asymmetry of the follower/followed relationship matching the asymmetry of the hyperlink (that which is linked to often does not link back; [...]

The Google Books Mess


There were a couple of tell-tale signs last week that Google may be having some pain and problems with its vastly ambitious Google Books project. First, was the news that Google was pulling the plug on its corresponding, open-ended, plan to scan and database masses of historic newspaper archives. Second a report that Google was diverting all its programmers from its eBookstore and perhaps not vigorously pursuing plans selling eBooks.The problem that Google has, is that there was huge momentum within the company towards its grandiose plan for a comprehensive universal digital library and this vision, with its accompanying class action settlement [ASA or amended settlement agreement] was decisively stopped in March by the opinion of Judge Chin (USDC SDNY)While the digitization of books and the creation of auniversal digital library would benefit many, the ASA wouldsimply go too far. It would permit this class action - - whichwas brought against defendant Google Inc. ("Google") to challengeits scanning of books and display of "snippets" for on-linesearching - - to implement a forward-looking business arrangementthat would grant Google significant rights to exploit entirebooks, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, theASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors,rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrightedworks without permission, while releasing claims well beyondthose presented in the case. (Opinion 22 March 2011)Chin's decision is styled an opinion, and it might yet be appealed or revised, but most observers would tell you that it has pretty well stopped the Google project in its tracks.Google has got a lot of figuring out to do:Google is not out of its legal woes, although such a rich and powerful company can probably stall or out-manoeuvre the authors and publishers who are parties to the original suite in the USA. Yet Google will need some resolution to the case or it risks enormous damages for breach of copyright ($3.6 trillion according to one scholar).Google will not find it straightforward to avoid legal actions in other jurisdictions. It has ongoing legal woes in France, and if some French publishers win substantial damages, many others will charge through these same gates.Google is continuing to scan without permission millions of works which are not out of copyright on behalf of its library partners. So the liabilities grow.Google will be required to deliver digital library services to some of its core collaborating libraries. The libraries of Michigan and Stanford in particular. To the extent that these services depend on copyright works digitized without permission Google remains at significant risk.There will be increasing concern about advantages that may accrue to Google from the works that it has already scanned and databased, and which it may use in ways impervious and invisible to external actors. Perhaps Google will gain enormous advantage in the fields of search, automated translation and semantic technologies through private access to vast amounts of unregistered, unlicensed, copyright material. That putative advantage creates legal risks for Google from competitors and regulators.Without a recognized and legitimized settlement Google cannot deliver services of general public benefit, and at some point Google loses good will. Without a settlement Google cannot even be generous.Google has plenty of agreements with publishers and authors for the distribution, display and potential licensing of millions of copyright works. So it could be an active participant in the eBooks market, but it has been strangely hesitant and s[...]

Too many Hoops for Hulu for Magazines?


Next Issue Media has launched a 'Preview Service' with seven magazines sold on subscription or as single issues. Next Issue Media has been called the Hulu for magazines and is the creation of Condé Nast, Meredith, Hearst, News Corporation and Time Inc. Only seven magazines currently feature in this Preview Service, but they are top drawer items: The New Yorker, Popular Mechanics, Fortune, Esquire and Time etc. The consortium is advancing on a narrow front both in content selection and in delivery channels, and at this point only the Android operating system, but no phones, and the only tablet device is the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Narrower still: since at this point the magazines are only available via the Verizon WiFi service and an app in the Vcast (Verizon) app store. But more magazines and more channels are promised for the autumn (more details at MediaMemo -- Peter Kafka).There are plenty of difficulties in running consortia, and I take my hat off to the NIM team for getting something out of the door when all the backing companies will inevitably have very different views on how the terms shall be crafted, and wary of precedents being set. Perhaps for this reason they are at this stage offering 'monthly subscriptions' and 'single issue purchases'. Supporting two very different access/license models indefinitely could get very complicated. Its also complicated for consumers that, depending on the title, 'existing print subscribers are eligible for a free or discounted digital upgrade'. If a subscriber to two print titles gets free access to the New Yorker but has to pay a digital upgrade for his sub to Popular Mechanics, NIM's customer support lines will soon be red hot. Building a system that manages all this reliably, will not be a trivial undertaking. And the consortium will lose its way if the magazine access model is not standardised across all the titles served, when 100s of magazines are on offer. Allowing publishers to set the price of their services is one thing but allowing the publishers to set different access models and subscription rights is fraught with difficulties.It is going to be a challenge for this Hulu for magazines to achieve the Hulu-style popular momentum that they will need to secure the continuing support of their backers. But they do have a chance, because their backers are strong media players, all with an interest in maintaining some leverage over other players who will be driving digital consumer acquisition. Having a 'tame' Android platform with some market penetration will be useful for all these publishers. But consider the range of devices that Next Issue Media will be playing with or against. These will include:Apple for the iPad (in pole position)Apple for the iPhone (not to be overlooked as its a somewhat different delivery proposition)Amazon for KindleAmazon for soon to emerge Android App store (and likely Amazon media-consumption Tablet). Amazon may have several tablet form factors.Barnes and Noble magazines on Nook and next generation Android tabAndroid app store (ie the Google managed app store, with flavours for several levels of Android phone/tablet). Lets call this 6a, 6b, 6c.....Blackberry Playbook platform (with its own set of 'Android' complications)HP Web/OS (Next Issue Media say that they will support this before the end of the year)Nokia/Microsoft tablets when they come...We have at least nine different platforms right off the bat, and the chances are that there are several more, some with a significant spin that we don't know about yet, that could play a part in the digital magazine market next year. Who says str[...]

Apple's Terms of Trade Finally Win Acceptance with Magazines


Suddenly the dam seems to have broken and the major consumer magazine publishers are lining up for iPad editions sold on subscription through iTunes.In the last ten days, Time Inc, Hearst and Conde Nast have all announced moves towards selling their leading consumer magazines as subscriptions on the iPad. They are also offering free iPad access to their existing print subscribers, a simple and very necessary step as we have been emphasizing for months.In disclosing these new offerings the major consumer magazine companies have been stressing that Apple has been willing to make concessions and to grant flexibility (see reports of such by Peter Kafka at AllThingsDigital). I expect some modest concessions have been granted, but on matters of detail and to help with 'bedding in'. Apple has not had to modify its developer contract or bend on its commission terms. Apple has the whip hand and, more to the point, Apple will not make concessions on issues that put obstacles in the way of the successful operation of the iTunes service. Apple will not make concessions which force it to re-write its end-user license agreements. Apple will not make deals with magazine companies on its 30% commission when it has been completely impervious to the pleadings of the music publishers on royalty rates. The bald and uncomfortable truth for these giants of consumer publishing is that Apple is not going to do deals. Apple is not going to cramp the economy of iTunes for the sake of the magazine business. So what follows?Magazines will sign up to the iPad service in a growing avalanche. Now that the big 3 of the US consumer magazine business have moved over to the Apple way of doing business, we expect that most major magazine companies will move over to producing iPad apps for their key magazines. Within 12 months iTunes will contain many more iPad magazine titles than has ever been collected in one physical kiosk or emporium. Finding titles in such a rich product mix will become more of a problem. But magazines are better placed than most categories to thrive since magazine titles are (usually) so clearly branded and so distinctive.The magazines in iTunes will be offered primarily on a subscription basis. Hitherto iPad apps were being offered on a single issue basis.The major consumer magazines in all the major national markets will soon be offering iPad apps through iTunes and they will also be offering free digital access to their existing print subscribers. Magazines will do this because in that way they retain more control over their subscriber base and can avoid having all their subscription services handled by Apple. They retain, indeed enhance, the crucial relationship that they have with paying customers.The prices for digital magazines within iTunes will be pitched at increasingly aggressive levels, Bloomberg Business Week costs $36 per annum. The Esquire iPad app will apparently cost $19.99 pa. Apple's pricing rules mean that international pricing will level-down to the best home market subscription offers (US subscription prices for consumer magazines are low in comparison to European prices).These recent announcements have all been focussed on the iPad. Conde Nast and Time Inc are committed to producing iPad apps, it is not clear whether the iPhone market is being by-passed or merely temporarily left behind.Android apps also appear to be taking a back seat. It will be interesting to see whether this week's Google I/O, now in its second day, has any mention of digital magazines. Not much sign of them in the opening sessions.The apps that are being pr[...]

Measuring Digital Engagement


Mediaweek has a report on a lively panel discussion of digital magazine auditing at yesterday's PPA annual conference:
...during the ‘Magic Numbers’ panel session, Tye (James Tye, CEO of Dennis) called for industry measured data to be produced faster rather than waiting on the "perfect", multi-platform measuring solution for brands.

Tye said that despite the iPad "being around for a year now", Dennis has not been able to tell its commercial partners officially how many readers download its magazine iPad editions, such as Mac User.

"My worry is we have a system built on the past five decades, we need to build it faster and more reactive to what the customer want," he said.
"The iPad has been around for a year now, yet only now can we start to think about including it in our future auditing certificates", he continued. "As an industry I think we’ve got to learn to move quicker than that." MediaWeek 'PPA 2011: ABC under fire for 'five decades old auditing system'

Rupert Turnball, publisher of Conde Nast's Wired, also had some highly pertinent questions for the magazine audit organizations: "we are interested in measuring engagement and influence and the ability to amplify messages, and that's not measured at the moment." That is certainly something that advertisers and big brands are deeply interested in when it comes to digital media. The problem that the magazine industry faces is that there are plenty of solutions, and an increasingly perplexing range of digital advertising metrics (Google Analytics, Adobe Omniture, Hitwise, Flurry etc), but none of them are specific to the magazine industry. Since none of the digital advertising platforms (Google, Yahoo/Microsoft, Apple, Facebook .... etc) are specific to the magazine industry, none of the digital audit tools that are evolving will be specific to the magazine industry. Perhaps the most useful role that the magazine-specific audit bureaux could now play is to recognise that there is no longer a sensible role for narrowly magazine-based audit functions.

Digital advertising is multiplatform and multipolar and so it follows that the audit role has to integrate with the best tools across the web and mobile marketplace. Digital magazines have extraordinarily rich potential for advertisers, and influencers, but the challenge is to find a way of demonstrating and leveraging this without resorting to the simplifications of the one page audit certificate.

Time Leads the Way


According to the Wall Street Journal, Time Inc and Apple have reached agreement on the provision of free magazine content to print subscribers.Starting Monday, subscribers to Sports Illustrated, Time and Fortune magazines will be able to access the iPad editions via the apps, which will be able to authenticate them as subscribers. Time Inc.'s People magazine already had such an arrangement, but readers of most publications have had to pay separately for the iPad version regardless of their subscriber status. Time Inc in iPad Deal with AppleThis is a very sensible move, but it is not clear that Apple has had to give any ground. From the get-go Apple has made it clear that it was fine for publishers to sell digital subscriptions which include app deployment, and perfectly all right for them to supply free or 'complementary' app facilities to print subscribers. We have been pointing at this open door here and here and here.At this point Time's 'free' app access is limited to print subscribers in the US, and Time Inc are not currently offering 'subscriptions' to customers who buy through iTunes. This has perhaps been the one point where Apple has granted Time Inc some leeway. Buying the Time magazine app issues one-by-one is a lot more expensive than buying an annual subscription from the publisher, since there have always been masses of 'bargain' offers for Time print subscriptions out in the market, all of which now include app-rights (for US subscribers), Time Inc is not strictly playing by Apple's rules. Not by a long chalk, since Philip Elmer-DeWitt, at Fortune, can buy a Time sub for 28c an issue, as opposed to the $4.99 per issue available through iTunes. My guess is that Apple's concession was to 'allow' Time a period of grace to get its subscription offering for iTunes customers in place in time for the June 30th deadline that Apple has imposed. Apple might just conceivably have offered Time a month or two additional grace period. But I will be very surprised if Time Inc has not totally fallen in with the Apple way of doing things by the beginning of September. Apple is not kidding around on its rules or its 30% commission. On its iTunes page Time says that 'subscriptions will be available later', though at the moment the app only enables single issue purchase.Where Time leads, Hearst, Conde Nast, Meredith and the other big players will follow. Competitive pressures will ensure this. Print subscription revenues in the next few years are of major relevance to publishers who see their advertising revenues wilting. The other major consumer publishers will soon understand the tremendous incentive that Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated are giving to their print subscribers by offering complementary digital access on the iPad (these rival publishers will ruefully compare the brick-bats they are getting on their iTunes customer evaluations with the delight shown by Time's subscribers). At this stage the Time Inc circulation director will wonder whether he really needs to give Mr Elmer-DeWitt an Ultronic Multi-Functional Global Clock Radio when he is also throwing in complementary iPad access with the print bundle? At this stage the potential revenues from digital subscriptions begins to seem interesting and the cost of cheap clocks looks excessive. The second penny will drop when the consumer publishers realize that in offering complementary access to iPad users, they will inevitably have to offer a similar deal to Android users....... and finally, recognition will dawn that these [...]

Conde Nast Needs to Redouble its Bets on the iPad


AdAge is carrying a story that suggests that Conde Nast is pulling back from its out and out commitment to iPad apps. With hints and whispers that its initial forays have not been working too well. An anonymous company source opines:"It's a shift," one Conde publisher said. "The official stance was we're going to get all our magazines on the iPad because this is going to be such an important stream. The new change is maybe we can slow it down. In my opinion it makes Conde look smart because we have the ambition, but we're not rushing.""They're not all doing all that well, so why rush to get them all on there?" the publisher added. AdAge: Conde Nast Taps Brakes....The piece has a sufficient concrete detail on Conde Nast's plans and intentions to suggest that the story stands up. So what has gone wrong? Nearly everything.Conde Nast's mistakes can be divided between mistakes about the direction of the technology, and mistakes about the kind of success that digital magazines should be aiming at on a new tablet platform. First, mis-taking the direction of the technology:For no good reason at all, Conde Nast assumed or hoped that Apple would back-track and embrace Flash before launching the iPad.Conde Nast has relied too much on an alliance with Adobe and a fallacious confidence that Adobe's knowledge of the design and content management process in print production would somehow enable Adobe to come up with a winning magazine app work-flow. But Adobe's Creative Suite software solutions for building apps seems to be unreasonably cumbersome. Too slow and too complicated and in most cases the finished article is disappointing as an app.Conde Nast (and most of the other big magazine publishers) have expressed the hope that Apple would gradually 'loosen up' and provide publishers with access to consumer usage data sufficient to support the existing advertising revenues that magazine publishers depend on. The idea that digital advertising revenues and metrics will be controlled by the magazine publishers is a major delusion (incidentally even less likely to be realized in the Android tablet market which many consumer publishers are gazing at fondly).Although Conde Nast made some very rum bets on the technical direction that the iPad platform was headed; the worst mistakes they have made have been strictly publishing gaffes. Here are three:It is tempting to think that you can charge your existing subscribers MORE for delivering an iPad app. Tempting but fatal. First, because your existing subscribers will feel that they ought to have free access to stuff that they have already paid for in print (see the comments on the iTunes page for the New Yorker iPad app). Second, because publishers who price their digital offerings as though they were competitive with their print offerings will lose print subscribers: if a publisher treats his print and digital editions as though they were 'substitutable' purchases and prices them accordingly, he will find that the market treats them as substitutable. Above all, publishers have to look at this from the subscriber's point of view. The point of having digital and print editions is that you capture your subscribers from two different directions, not that you force them to choose between print and digital.Like most consumer publishers, Conde Nast have been looking at the apps market as though it was a completely new opportunity. When fundamentally a magazine app has to be the magazine, and this gives the publisher real strength if they [...]

Consumer Publishers - What Apps Can Do For Them by Emma Bradfield


This was the title of a seminar I attended at the London Book Fair yesterday, presented by Ros Wesson. Ros highlighted the interesting shift that consumer publishing has made from a B2B to B2C model through apps.

Whereas previously, publishers were protected from readers’ reviews by a buffer, consisting of book distributors and sellers, the advent of the App Store has moved them to the front line, in direct contact with users and their make-or-break verdicts.

Although this sounds terrifying, it is a small price to pay considering there are no printing or shipping costs involved with apps. In fact, being so close to your audience can be turned into a positive. App developers can receive feedback directly from their users, such as on iTunes or via email, and this can be used to inform future app updates.

Indeed, Exact Editions encourages feedback from its subscribers. We’ve had lots of enquiries asking for the ability to sync more than one issue for offline reading and about the possibility of an Android app. These are just two examples of subscriber feedback which we will be implementing shortly.

As Ross suggested, positive iTunes reviews can then be used within the app descriptions themselves to encourage further app installations. There’s nothing like ‘consumer-quoted confidence’ to generate a buzz around an app and five star reviews should be used as valuable marketing collateral both within iTunes and without!

Are Magazine Apps like Games on the iPad or more like Books?


Bloomberg Businessweek produced a pretty effective and straightforward app for the iPad earlier in the week. And it got predictably mixed reviews from the magazine app critics. Grudging and faint praise, at best. Here are some typical gripes from Techcrunch:It is a perfectly serviceable magazine app. But it is underwhelming. There are no extra photos beyond what’s in the magazine, or even much in the area of additional multimedia other than a video intro every issue by one of the editors about how cover they chose the cover, and a couple audio interviews to accompany columns by Charlie Rose and Tom Keene. Erick Schonfeld Bloomberg Underwhelms with iPad App (Demo)Erick Schonfeld's reaction here is very typical of the criticism that magazine apps tend to attract. The critics seem to assume that a magazine app should really be something else. Its got to be more than a magazine. Heck, otherwise what is the point? No extra photos, not enough additional multimedia, just the magazine..... It is as though the magazine app needs to be specially designed and uniquely conceived for the iPad platform. In much the same way that computer games need to be adapted and versioned for the hardware platform on which the game will be played.We should look more closely at this question of what else a magazine app ought to be, other than the print magazine. But, first, consider how unusual this approach is. Content publishers do not, for the most part, look at the iPad and say, "How can we become something completely different on this device?" Hollywood does not think that films on the iPad need to be a qualitatively different entity from the film that one might see in a cinema or via a DVD. The point is rather that via the iPad the consumer gets an experience which is in someways pretty much as good as having the art-house experience (or not quite as good as, which is why we still like going out of an evening). Book publishers are not expecting books on the iPad to be qualitatively different from the books that get published on paper. Can you envisage the fury that would result if the Stieg Larsson books were not the same in their iPad editions as they are in print? Throw in an extra chapter? Have an extra deviation in the plot, an optional app-loop with more time in Australia or Poland, or additional detail on how to apply or remove tattoos, handcuffs, ride motorbikes etc? Publishers and readers are pretty sceptical about iPad app books that merely chuck in various bits of video/visual over-matter, or even passages with the author reading the book. These so-called 'enhanced editions' have something of the air of cosmetic surgery. Messing the book up is not going to do anybody any good, the sag lines show up pretty fast. Why should we not expect magazines on the iPad to be magazines? Just as we expect films to be films? The Exact Editions platform does support and facilitate bonus media for publishers who wish to make their magazines more interactive and use multi-media elements, but it is not clear that this is what readers expect from their apps. Most magazine publishers are sensibly enough avoiding the gimmicks, but many self-appointed app experts, consider that magazines should be something different. Qualitatively better on the iPad and radically different.There are things magazine apps can do better than print magazines, for the most part these are qualities that come from having a digital magazine. They are not speci[...]

Amazon, Apple and Google


John Naughton has a terrific column Amazon's new Cloud Drive Rains on everyone's parade in yesterday's Observer:"Impetuosity and audacity," wrote Machiavelli, "often achieve what ordinary means fail to achieve." If you doubt that, may I propose a visit to the upper echelons of Apple, Google and Sony, where steam might be observed venting from every orifice of senior executives? If you do undertake such a visit, do not under any circumstances mention the word "Amazon"........Behind the scenes in the US, though, there has been frenetic activity, with Apple, Google and Amazon racing to get into the streaming business. Apple has cloud services, customers who are used to paying for music, a good range of mobile devices but no licensing deal for streaming. Google has terrific cloud services and millions of Android devices but no music store customers and no licensing deal. Amazon has cloud services, a music store, paying customers, a terrific e-commerce operation, and access to Android devices. But it also had no licensing deal with the record labels. John Naughton Observer, 3 April, 2011This last sentence is not exactly right. Both Amazon and Apple already have digital distribution deals with the record labels; its just that Amazon's existing digital distribution deal is in crucial respects rather better and more permissive than the Apple deal. Ironically, and again crucially, Google does not have an agreed license, though it has been negotiating hard for months and the Amazon chutzpah may well make it harder for Google to get the deal it badly needs. Amazon has been selling digital music since 2007, so it does have a licensing deal with the labels and the Amazon deal is actually rather more favourable to streaming than the digital distribution deal that Apple was granted some years earlier. The crucial point about the music distribution deal that Amazon has, is that it allows Amazon to sell and deliver 'unencrypted' MP3 files to consumers -- and Amazon's new Cloud Drive is just allowing consumers to store their files in the cloud, rather than on a hard disk. Amazon already has a license to distribute (most) music to consumers through the web in a form in which music can easily and simply be stored in an individual consumers 'music locker'. Amazon's license with the record labels, is not ideal, but it is workable for streaming music and gives Amazon good leverage. It is not ideal because, Amazon's rights are currently restricted to the US (or in practice restricted to the US where individual content shifting is explicitly approved by the courts), and because without more leeway from the licensors Amazon may have to maintain individual Cloud Drives for each consumer (it would be more efficient to have individual libraries where common tracks were represented by 'tokens' rather than full copies). Apple, on the other hand, has distribution deals with the music labels which are explicitly tied to Apple's commitment to encrypting music in the way that is proprietary to Apple, and which limits music to devices recognised by the Apple DRM. Apple, we should assume is still significantly hobbled by these agreements. Having to encrypt all 'streaming' music in the DRM specific to iTunes is the major factor delaying Apple from introducing the 'cloud based' iTunes that it knows that it ought to be offering. A music streaming service needs the freedom for music to be delivered to a device as many[...]