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Old 11-28-2012, 10:25 AM   #1
holymadness
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On the imminent disruption of the (magazine) publishing industry

From Craig Mod, an essay entitled Subcompact Publishing:

Quote:
Business skeuomorphism happens when we take business decisions explicitly tied to one medium, and bring them to another medium — no questions asked. Business skeuomorphism is rampant in the publishing industry.

So why do so many of our digital magazines publish on the same schedule, with the same number of articles as their print counterparts? Using the same covers? Of course, they do because it’s easier to maintain identical schedules across mediums. To not design twice. To not test twice (or, at all).

[...]

I propose Subcompact Publishing tools and editorial ethos begin (but not end) with the following qualities:
  • Small issue sizes (3-7 articles / issue)
  • Small file sizes
  • Digital-aware subscription prices
  • Fluid publishing schedule
  • Scroll (don’t paginate)
  • Clear navigation
  • HTML(ish) based
  • Touching the open web

[...]

Navigation should be consistent and effortless. Subcompact Publishing applications don’t require complex how-to pages or tutorials. You shouldn’t have to hire a famous actor to show readers how to use the app with his nose. Much like a printed magazine or book, the interaction should be intuitive, effortless, and grounding. The user should never feel lost.

[...]

The clarity of The Magazine is exciting. It’s doubly exciting because it’s precisely the sort of app at which incumbent publishers balk. This is expected. Again, from Christensen:

Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value. Products based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use.

We are the new customers: The new readers, the new writers, the new publishers. The Magazine is indeed cheaper, simpler, smaller, and more convenient than most other publishing apps.
Two things not mentioned that are worth pointing out:

1. Arment is able to pay professional print rates for articles published by The Magazine by charging only $2 a month, with zero ads, and still turn a profit. That is incredible. It shows the enormous cost savings possible by creating a reading product without photographers, layout artists, graphic designers, salesmen, printers, shippers, and vendors.

2. The Magazine favours short-form, blog post-esque writing. Craig Mod thinks this is the future of reading on handheld devices because attention spans are shorter. However, services like Longreads, Longform, and Arts & Letters Daily demonstrate huge demand for more in-depth pieces. It's not clear that companies like The Magazine are able to invest in a writer for several months so that he or she can do in-depth research, investigative journalism, or extended fiction pieces. Legacy publishing companies hold a distinct advantage there and should be trying to exploit it to the maximum.

Last edited by holymadness; 11-28-2012 at 11:03 AM.
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Old 11-28-2012, 10:41 AM   #2
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Who needs magazines? Pulse is free, Flipboard is free, blogs are free, web pages are free, ...
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Old 11-28-2012, 11:49 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tubemonkey View Post
Who needs magazines? Pulse is free, Flipboard is free, blogs are free, web pages are free, ...
Maybe some people want higher quality articles?

There are good free publications out there, but a lot of it is just regurgitating press releases or are little more than editorials. The reason is simple enough: people who write for a living need to be paid. Free publications depend upon advertising revenues, so the editorial staff tends to cut corners and the authors tend to go for quantity over quality.

Magazines have other things going for them too, some of which the "subcompact publishing" addresses and some of which it doesn't. This includes everything from being self-contained (i.e. you aren't reading from a fire hose) to affording a more visual layout.
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Old 11-28-2012, 12:02 PM   #4
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Maybe some people want higher quality articles?
No doubt, but not enough to keep prices down. The internet is a game changer for the entire print industry. With instant access to free information, magazine publishers will be hard pressed to woo digital customers to keep their empires afloat.
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Old 11-28-2012, 12:44 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by holymadness View Post
1. Arment is able to pay professional print rates for articles published by The Magazine by charging only $2 a month, with zero ads, and still turn a profit. That is incredible. It shows the enormous cost savings possible by creating a reading product without photographers, layout artists, graphic designers, salesmen, printers, shippers, and vendors.
Only $2 a month? That is $1 an issue.
My Economist and New Scientist subscriptions are each only $1.40 an issue, and that is for a complete, full-sized magazine, with well researched articles.
I'd say it shows the enormous profit possible when you charge close to full magazine price for something more like a large pamflet.
[Edit: Hadn't spotted it was twice monthly.]
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Old 11-28-2012, 12:59 PM   #6
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I disagree on scrolling being a good idea. I'd rather swipe sideways four times than down fifteen.
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by murraypaul View Post
Only $2 a month? That is $1 an issue.
My Economist and New Scientist subscriptions are each only $1.40 an issue, and that is for a complete, full-sized magazine, with well researched articles.
I'd say it shows the enormous profit possible when you charge close to full magazine price for something more like a large pamflet.
[Edit: Hadn't spotted it was twice monthly.]
$1 per issue without ads.

Subscription prices for The Economist and New Scientist are $2.50 per issue where I live, with advertising. Keep in mind, though, those publications have the advantage of massive scale, which a startup like The Magazine lacks; it may get cheaper or the quality may improve to become more "magazine-like" with time, it's hard to say after only a month.

Still, if I recall correctly, The Economist is one of(?) the only magazines that is increasing its print revenue despite the upheaval of the publishing industry. That's very impressive, too.

To return to the mobile side of things, New Scientist doesn't offer a native reading application for phones or tablets. The Economist's isn't bad, but hasn't yet been updated for the iPhone 5 (boo).
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:08 PM   #8
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I subscribe to Discover magazine on the Kindle Fire. At first it was frustrating, because it was exactly like the magazine layout, which is great for the pictures, but not so good for text. Then I figured out that you could toggle it into text mode, which isn't as pretty, but is much more readable.

On scrolling, I agree, I would rather turn pages than scroll.
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:12 PM   #9
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Now that I have my tablet, I've gone back to having a few subscriptions through Play. The free content available on the internet is no substitute, both in terms of content depth and user experience. And, since I'm a "situational" magazine reader for the ones that are not time-sensitive, I can simply download the issues and read them offline, which will be nice when I go to Florida in a few weeks. Definitely more cost effective than paying newsstand prices at the airport, which is what I usually end up doing. I'll just carry one paper book or magazine for the climb and descent when I can't use my devices.

The free trials help a lot, too. I can see if a magazine has the same quality as it had last time I read it, or I can just get a couple of free issues and then cancel the trial if it's not something I want to keep getting on an ongoing basis.
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tubemonkey View Post
No doubt, but not enough to keep prices down. The internet is a game changer for the entire print industry. With instant access to free information, magazine publishers will be hard pressed to woo digital customers to keep their empires afloat.
Yep.. Just check out the slow demise of the newspaper industry. European newspapers are hard up enough to try to convince their governments to force Google to pay them for news search results.

Going down, screaming all the way.
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:14 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by holymadness View Post
Subscription prices for The Economist and New Scientist are $2.50 per issue where I live, with advertising.
I'd rather pay less, and ignore the adverts. It isn't like TV or radio, where they present a break to the content which can't be skipped.

Quote:
To return to the mobile side of things, New Scientist doesn't offer a native reading application for phones or tablets. The Economist's isn't bad, but hasn't yet been updated for the iPhone 5 (boo).
Zinio is the answer to both those issues.
The reading app is good on both Apple and Android, and they do regular sales. Currently you can get a 2 year subscription to Newsweek for 36c per issue. (Assuming you trust Newsweek to still be around in 2 years time!)

Quote:
Still, if I recall correctly, The Economist is one of(?) the only magazines that is increasing its print revenue despite the upheaval of the publishing industry. That's very impressive, too.
It offers content and analysis which can't be found for free on the web.
If you are going to charge, you have to offer something worth charging for.
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:31 PM   #12
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I'd rather pay less, and ignore the adverts. It isn't like TV or radio, where they present a break to the content which can't be skipped.
If we're talking about the print edition, sure. You can just flip the page—annoying but not life-changing. However, advertising on mobile devices frequently takes the form of persistent banner ads, which occupy 10-20% of your screen. I was shocked, and really really pissed, when I discovered that my paid subscription to the NYTimes did not exempt me from seeing these on their mobile app.

I'm willing to pay a premium for ad-free content. I recognize not everyone is, but everyone should still recognize that it's part of the value proposition.
Quote:
Zinio is the answer to both those issues.
The reading app is good on both Apple and Android, and they do regular sales. Currently you can get a 2 year subscription to Newsweek for 36c per issue. (Assuming you trust Newsweek to still be around in 2 years time!)
Sadly, Zinio is not updated yet either, but I'm sure it will be eventually. Good to know about the sales, as the regular subscription prices are higher than those I quoted above.
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:35 PM   #13
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If we're talking about the print edition, sure. You can just flip the page—annoying but not life-changing. However, advertising on mobile devices frequently takes the form of persistent banner ads, which occupy 10-20% of your screen. I was shocked, and really really pissed, when I discovered that my paid subscription to the NYTimes did not exempt me from seeing these on their mobile app.
Again, why I like Zinio, and an advantage of the old, outmoded, method.
The magazine I read is exactly the same as the print version.
The ads are the print ads, and easily skipped.
If you want new, digital magazines, they are likely to come with new, digital advertising.
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Old 11-28-2012, 01:43 PM   #14
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Again, why I like Zinio, and an advantage of the old, outmoded, method.
The magazine I read is exactly the same as the print version.
The ads are the print ads, and easily skipped.
If you want new, digital magazines, they are likely to come with new, digital advertising.
I interpret the phenomenon differently. Apps that do that aren't new, digital magazines. They're old, print magazines adapted to a new format, with all of their previous constraints and baggage.

It is my hope—though it be far from demonstrated—that the initiative written about above points a truly new "third way" forward.
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Old 11-28-2012, 06:04 PM   #15
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If you want new, digital magazines, they are likely to come with new, digital advertising.
I'd rather have old-fashioned print-style ads that don't bleed off CPU horsepower.
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