OPLIN 4Cast #278: Magazine news

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Magazines certainly aren’t what they used to be. Publishers of print magazines have been rapidly developing new apps for putting their content on mobile devices, they’re providing content in video format through apps, they’re using augmented reality apps to build intersections between print and online content, and they’re redesigning their print magazines so they’ll look better on tablets and e-readers. And of course, there are increasing numbers of magazines that simply do not exist in print. Here are a few recent developments in the world of online magazines:

  • Magazine apps show encouraging take-up, but more disruption ahead (The Guardian/Stuart Dredge)  “One thing about all this innovation: it’s still based around magazines as standalone entities sold a la carte or for single-publication subscriptions. The print model, in other words. Yet there is disruption of this too, with the likes of Next Issue – a joint venture between Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc in the US.”
  • Next Issue Media launches with all-you-can-read pricing model (VentureBeat/Julie Klein)  “Today, Next Issue has tens of thousands of customers who read an average of two magazine titles through the app. The company does allow customers to access content for free if they already have a print subscription. Though [CEO Morgan] Guenther declined to say what percentage of customers are authenticating their print subscriptions, he did say that this option is a ‘big hit, people love it.’”
  • Farewell, app store? Netizine turns magazines into social networks, runs on HTML5 (TechCrunch/Sarah Perez)  “Instead of trying to reproduce the print magazine in digital format, with Netizine, the solution is to use social metrics as a way to present a magazine’s articles. For example, readers can dive into the ‘most commented,’ section first, or the ‘most bookmarked,’ ‘most shared,’ or ‘highest rated.’”
  • Fewer new magazines, fewer closures this year (Crain’s New York Business/Matthew Flamm)  “Not surprisingly, the numbers also showed more magazines launching as digital-only titles. MediaFinder counted 43 new print titles and nine new online magazines for the quarter. A year ago, the number of launches came to 50 print and four digital.”

Digital subscribers fact:
Hearst Magazines (Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Seventeen, etc.) hopes to have one million subscribers to the digital issues of its magazines by the end of this year.

OPLIN 4Cast #233: E-book gender issues

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Guess what? Men and women are different. While that is obvious in many cases, it may be a little surprising to find that men and women seem to have different preferences and habits when it comes to e-books and e-book readers. Forrester Research has been keeping watch on the digital book market, and our first link below is an article about Forrester’s predictions for that market from 18 months ago. Their most recently released report seems to indicate that they got at least one thing right: women are important to the future of the e-reader business. The fourth article linked below may provide some insight into a problem women may have with the current e-book business model.

  • E-reader growth hinges on women, $99 price tag, says Forrester (eWeek/Michelle Maisto)  “Finally, later adopters—the group with the biggest potential of all—are likely to be women who currently [Aug. 2009] buy or borrow approximately 2.7 books per month. They’re less concerned with having the latest device, they’ll wait for a $149 or $99 price point, and they buy their books from multiple sources. ‘Whereas Amazon was perfectly positioned to sell to the first wave of e-reader adopters, this group may be more likely to buy from a retailer like Wal-mart or Target,’ writes [Forrester Research author Sarah] Rotman.”
  • Female magazine fans flock to Nook Color (New York Times/Jeremy W. Peters)  “On the surface, the reason for the strong performance of female-oriented publications on the Nook is relatively straightforward. Generically speaking, the iPad and other tablets are men’s toys, while the Nook Color and other e-readers are more popular with women. According to data from Forrester Research, 56 percent of tablet owners are male, while 55 percent of e-reader owners are female. Women also buy more books than men do—by a ratio of about 3 to 1, according to a survey last year by Bowker, a research firm for publishers—and are therefore more likely to buy devices that are made primarily for reading books.”
  • Meredith takes an analytical approach to tablets and e-readers (eMedia Vitals/Rob O’Regan)  “What has [women's publisher Meredith Corp.'s Liz] Schimel’s team learned so far about the user experience? For one, there are distinct differences between users of tablets like the iPad and users of e-readers such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Users of tablets, she said, are looking for interactivity in the form of videos or hotspots—basically, more sophistication from a technology point of view. E-reader users, on the other hand, seem happy just to have content that’s portable. ‘The delight factor there is the fact they can get great magazine content on their e-reader device,’ she said.”
  • E-books drive older women to digital piracy (The Telegraph/Christopher Williams)  “One in eight women over 35 who own such devices admit to having downloaded an unlicensed e-book. That compares to just one in 20 women over 35 who admit to having engaged in digital music piracy. News that a group formerly unwilling to infringe copyright are changing their behaviour as e-books take off will worry publishing executives, who fear they could suffer a similar fate to the record labels that have struggled to replace lost physical sales.”

Nook fact:
Barnes and Noble has specifically targeted women in their marketing of the Nook readers, and that strategy seems to have brought them one of their biggest successes. They now claim more than 25% of the digital book market.

OPLIN 4Cast #232: The iPad at one

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

It may be hard to believe, but the iPad is only just a little over one year old. During that brief time period, it has had a deep impact on the way many people compute, has spawned a number of competitors, and has been extensively covered by technology news outlets. It may be slightly wrong to call the iPad a computer, since it is not really designed for crunching numbers. Some call it a “media consumption platform,” since iPads are used so frequently to read/view news and information articles from the web. For that reason, the iPad has led to some interesting revelations for the news and magazine publishing industries—and libraries—in just one short year.

  • iPad usability: Year One (Alertbox/Jakob Nielsen)  “The most common uses reported by our participants were playing games, checking email and social networking sites, watching videos/movies, and reading news. People also browsed the Web and performed some shopping-related research. But most users felt that it was easier to shop on their desktop computers. Some also worried about the security of e-commerce purchases on the iPad. A common characteristic of all this iPad use is that it’s heavily dominated by media consumption, except for the small amount of production involved in responding to emails.”
  • Readers are more likely to skim over articles on an iPad than in a newspaper (Miratech white paper)  “The average time taken to read an article on each medium is very similar. A user takes an average of 1 minute 11 seconds to read an article on paper, compared with 1 minute 13 seconds on an iPad. Thus the length of time for reading an article on paper or iPad is very close. A more detailed analysis shows that the eyes linger longer on the paper version (275 ms on paper versus 231 ms on the iPad). This means that people concentrate more when reading an actual newspaper.”
  • The surprising reason publishers are finally saying Yes to Apple (Mixed Media/Jeff Bercovici)  “As things stand, if you buy a subscription to The New Yorker or Popular Science in the iTunes store, you will get a little dialogue box asking if it’s all right if Apple shares some of your personal information with the publisher. Initially, publishers were worried, reasonably enough, that users would overwhelmingly say no. But they don’t. In fact, about 50 percent opt in.”
  • The boundless library: explore the New York Public Library collections on your iPad (ReadWriteWeb/Audrey Watters)  “The app was designed in conjunction with Potion and it’s a joy to scroll through. While it does tout the ability to ‘explore the stacks,’ the app certainly recognizes the library mission here isn’t about ‘dead books.’ Rather the information is accessible and beautifully presented, taking full advantage of the touchscreen technology and the rotation of the tablet—the horizontal view lets you explore the collection visually, while the vertical view lets you read essays and thumb through imagery.”

Sales fact:
In the one year following its launch in April 2010, Apple sold over 19 million iPads.

OPLIN 4Cast #212: Changes coming for tablet periodicals

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

newspaper over tablet computerThere’s a battle shaping up over the business of selling digital newspapers and magazines to users of tablet devices, like the iPad. While Apple has been selling single issues of magazines and newspapers through iTunes for some time now, those sales are beginning to decline. That leaves an opportunity for competitors (i.e., Google) to think about rival services, and how to “do it right” when it comes to selling periodicals for tablets. And that also leaves room for publishers to try to negotiate a change to the current online periodicals business model to one that is more akin to the current printed periodicals business model, namely selling subscriptions instead of issues and gathering personal information about buyers.

  • Google Digital Newsstand aims to muscle in on Apple (Wall Street Journal/Russell Adams and Jessica E. Vascellaro)  “The remaining rivalries could speed up the migration of periodicals to tablets, providing publishers with more ways to sell their titles and more control over the sales. A similar battle between Google, Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble has already begun to reshape the burgeoning market for digital books, helping publishers win more flexibility in pricing their titles. While many media companies have rushed to build apps for iPads and Android tablets, they say their current inability to sell standard subscriptions through iTunes, a shortage of data about app buyers and tough business terms are keeping them from investing more in the effort.”
  • What those low iPad magazine sales numbers really mean (The Next Web/Alex Wilhelm)  “Ask anyone in online sales: limiting the number of steps is the key to higher conversion rates. Therefore, to truly juice digital sales, all we need to see is an industry wide 20% price cut (from current levels), and a new method of sales. Fortunately, Apple is likely working on the second bit, with their much fabled ‘iNewsstand’ that will make it much simpler to actually pick up a magazine. It will also encourage browsing, something that will boost drive by sales.”
  • Who is more willing to trick users, Apple or Google? (TechCrunch/MG Siegler)  “So what the publishers seem to be demanding is that Apple opts users into sharing information without telling them. Or, to put it another way, ‘make it opt-out or we opt-out’. Classy. Of course few customers would opt-in to sharing such data. Because who the hell wants to be marketed to relentlessly just because they signed up for a magazine subscription? No one. Except that’s the way the magazine subscription model currently works. Not because it’s a good model, but because in the days before technology started destroying print, people were naive enough not to realize what was going on. Obviously, the publishers would like to transition that happiness in slavery to the tablet space.”
  • Rupert Murdoch’s “Daily” iPad newspaper set for January launch (All Things D/Peter Kafka)  “It will come out daily, it will sell for 99 cents a week, it will use lots of video and it will have cool multimedia bells and whistles, including some kind of 3-D effect that lots of people are very excited about. And Apple CEO Steve Jobs may or may not participate in a launch event. Most important for other media companies: The Daily is supposed to use a new “push” subscription feature from Apple, where iTunes automatically bills customers on a weekly or monthly basis, and a new edition shows up on customers’ iPads every morning.”

Revenue fact:
Apple typically keeps 30% of the sales of apps through the iTunes store, including single issues of periodicals, and passes the rest to the publisher.