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.

OPLIN 4Cast #203: Can magazines and the iPad make it work?

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

broken heartWhat looked like a perfect relationship a couple of months ago may have hit a rough patch. The iPad seemed then to be the device that was going to save the newspaper and magazine publishing industry and go hand-in-hand with it into a bright digital future. Now the partnership is starting to show some strain. That doesn’t mean the relationship is over, but some folks are pointing out things the publishing industry and Apple will have to do differently if there’s going to be a happy marriage.

  • Pop goes the iPad bubble? (Brandweek/Brian Morrissey) “The iPad dreams of magazine publishers could be the latest death by irrational exuberance. Despite the optimism that greeted the new device, there is a danger that publishers are squandering an opportunity with clunky apps, bad pricing strategies and unsustainable ad tactics.”
  • My iPad magazine stand (Subtraction/Khoi Vinh) “In my personal opinion, Adobe is doing a tremendous disservice to the publishing industry by encouraging these ineptly literal translations of print publications into iPad apps. They’ve fostered a preoccupation with the sort of monolithic, overbearing apps represented by The New Yorker, Wired and Popular Science. Meanwhile, what publishers should really be focusing on is clever, nimble, entertaining apps like EW’s Must List or Gourmet Live.”
  • iPad subscriptions made easy (ReadWriteWeb/Marshall Kirkpatrick) “For all their dreams of success in a medium that privileges big pictures, multi-media and a touch interface, publishers of periodical content have been frustrated by the lack of subscription sales options on Apple’s iPad. Urban Airship is a small startup that has begun to power iPad subscription to content for publishers including NewsWeek, the Atlantic and the National Basketball Association.”
  • Newsweek offers iPad app (New York Times/Joshua Brustein) “But publishers soon butted heads with Apple over the issue of subscriptions. Subscribers represent a steady revenue stream for publishers. But magazines also see their subscription rolls as a valuable source of information about their readership, which they use to attract advertisers and new readers. They would also like to be able to bundle print and digital subscriptions. Apple has been unwilling to provide publishers with information about who is buying their apps.”

Numbers Fact:
According to a survey of 5,000 tablet users released October 22 by Nielsen, 41% of iPad owners who download paid apps have downloaded magazines.

OPLIN 4Cast #196: Tablet periodicals

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

iPad frakturOnce again, we’re hearing news about how tablet computers, specifically Apple’s iPad, are going to change the way newspapers and magazines are published, except this time it looks serious. It’s possible that any successful deal that gets more people to buy (e)magazine and (e)newspaper subscriptions may affect the collections that libraries keep for their browsing patrons. Nobody seems to be suggesting anything at this point, however, that would provide tablet users with searchable archives of newspapers and magazines, so libraries will still be the resource for patrons doing research.

  • Apple Coaxes Publishers to Join It on iPad Subscriptions (Wall Street Journal, 9/20/2010) “The subscription push appears to be a sign that newspapers and magazines will be Apple’s next front in its sale of media like music, television shows, movies and books. A hub for buying newspapers and magazines—similar to Apple’s iBooks storefront—also could help the iPad stand out from a coming wave of rival tablet computers backed by Google Inc.’s software.”
  • Apple Said to Negotiate With Publishers Over Digital Newsstand (Bloomberg, 9/17/2010) “Apple’s effort is aimed at luring more consumers to the iPad and helping publishers sell subscriptions, rather than single issues. The main hang-ups between Apple and publishers including Time Warner Inc., Conde Nast, Hearst Corp. and News Corp. are who controls data about users and how to split subscription revenue, the people said. Pricing for subscriptions also hasn’t been worked out.”
  • Magazines, newspapers still in talks over iPad newsstand (Ars Technica/Jacqui Cheng) “Publishers are also not so keen on giving Apple its typical 30 percent cut of sales as part of the subscription process. Some companies currently sell magazine issues as apps through the App Store, though, meaning that they already fork over 30 percent of the app purchase price (as well as any in-app purchases) to Apple. Still, this detail lines up with reports from earlier this year, which said that newspaper and magazine companies were less keen on giving such a cut to Apple than book publishers have been through iBooks.”
  • iNewspaper: The Next iPad Service? (PCWorld/Paul Suarez) “As someone who works at a daily newspaper and has dabbled in online journalism, I can see true potential in Apple’s reported app. The iPad has been a huge success for Apple. Forecasts say it will sell 11 million units by the end of the year. Making a newspaper or magazine available to those 11 million users couldn’t hurt—even if you only capture a fraction of that audience.”

Christmas Fact?:
It’s reported that Apple could wrap up this deal as early as the next month or two, though they may prefer to announce this periodical service early next year, along with the likely introduction of a new iPad.