With the explosion of digital versions of magazines, are mainstream publications
still acting the role of digital laggard, afraid to adopt new technology wholeheartedly?
least in the case of mainstream magazine publishing companies. That’s my take-away from the Folio webinar
I attended today featuring two veteran magazine industry analysts. The session (aimed at the industry’s top executives
since that’s the primary audience claimed by Folio(http://www.foliomag.com/) seemed timely in view of the industry’s ongoing transformation (atrophy?).
Magazine executives will need to rethink their definition of publishing
if they are to be successful in this digital age, the two analysts for the Webinar, Bob Sacks and Dave Renard, said.
The “key to success is to embrace new technology,” Sacks declared, implying that much embracing has still to be
done. Being a publisher means more than the traditional role; it means information distribution, Sacks (http://www.bosacks.com/) added. Although not exactly a new concept, it has apparently not been adopted
by magazine publishers.
So in this day and age, what is a “magazine,”
anyway? The modern magazine is best redefined as “metered, edited, and designed content intended to be periodically
delivered to the reader in a format that is date-stamped and permanent,” Renard (http://www.mediaideas.net/ ) said. Magazine publishing delivers “paginated media,” or “metered,
edited and designed content,” the two analysts also said. Paginated media, noted Sacks, is still an excellent
way to go regardless of the “substrate.”
The Webinar was
titled “Digital Editions: The Next 12 Months,” and Sacks and Renard flagged several trends, including:
- the next 12 months will see the start of a “shift” to measuring magazine advertising
effectiveness in terms of “usage.” Until now, they said, the premise promoted by magazine publishers has
been that every page of the magazine is read—a premise that they called a “myth.”
- by 2016 advertising and circulation
revenue from digital magazines will account for “about 20 percent of a publisher’s total revenue.” (They
did not provide the current percentage.)
- increased emphasis will be placed on digital readers (e.g., Kindle), “as a new generation
of e-paper readers enters the market over the next four or five years,” and these readers will display color not just
black and white. These devices will move away from not being able to display two pages at once. Although the Kindle
is now “clearly” not ready for magazine content, it will come move closer to doing so over the next 12 months.
will increasingly be designed for digital, not print display.
you aren’t comfortable in the digital world, I don’t think you can survive in it. . . . You must understand what
a digital magazine is and what a digital magazine can be. . . . must understand the new sociology that supports it,”
Sacks said. He added, “. . . we must understand that all the achievements that the digital world has created will
not retreat . . .it will only get stronger . . . our industry is never going back to a print-only focus. . .the modern
publisher must be indifferent to the substrate. . . .remember, magazines are not changing, but the way people read is.”
Asked why anyone would want to read pages in a format smaller than print, Sacks replied,
that digital devices such as the Blackberry are not difficult now for “screen-agers” to read.
Questioned why publishers are so reluctant to create digital versions, Sacks answered that
they have “an irrational fear of the unknown.” Renard added that many publishers tell him that they hope
the big changes come only after they retire.
With advertising declines,
cuts in the number of pages, reductions in the frequency of issues, and the growth of web-based content, retirement for these
publishers could be coming very quickly!
-- Jeff Bogart