Tag: magazines

A new game for publishers, portability plus price

“Ezines”, those nifty flip-the-page websites, are sprouting up like weeds, particularly in the fly-fishing world. Some are vying for easy distribution, while others hang on the green bandwagon while manipulating InDesign files from treehouses. Regardless of intent, various pundits have called it the death of print, while publishers declare the insanity of such thoughts. Further, if you keep a close eye on new media chatter, you might also find that some traditional publishers have simply regurgitated their print editions in mobile applications. Such investments far exceed that of ezines, hence the problems publishers may be having finding a price that both suits consumers and provides for a recovery of their investment. Whether it be Flash-based open source scripts or flashy looking tablets, however, it’s the general availability of new technology that is the genesis of the efforts.

You could argue the relative merits of these channels until the cows come home, and frankly I enjoy observing all the banter for and against. Nevertheless, I think it comes down to just two factors, portability and price. The first is all about convenience – whether you can consume it anywhere you want, whenever you want. Then there’s how much you want to pay for it. The problem for publishers is individual preference, and adapting to changes in those preferences.

For example, I’ve always been a disposable content fan. I bought and read a lot of magazines, but did so mostly when I was doing a lot of business travel. Periodicals alleviated in-transit boredom, and the investment was always small enough that I didn’t mind tossing them in the trash before heading home. Same goes for books – unless they were reference materials I bought paperbacks whenever possible. When rich websites arrived, I found myself consuming more timely content via that channel – pulp took a back seat.

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Who said print media is dead?

Well just about everyone. But it depends on where you look.

Newspapers are crying “Craigslist, Craigslist!” Mags just blame blogs (I think). But no matter where you turn in the print media realm, some entrenched someone is blaming the internet for their woes. Personally, I think the above mentioned problems stem from piss poor content. A recently lobotomized chimpanzee could probably still reason that much of what they are reading, otherwise passed off as “news”, is really some journo’s half-baked attempt to skew the issue of the day to their fancy (while they wait for their contract buyout). Plainly and simply, it’s primarily bunk.

There are, however, a few good tithings within. Plenty of publications are getting bought out by guys who think Google is stealing their content. This levels the playing field by letting a few shareholders save face, and it keeps Google somewhat in check (baseless lawsuits notwithstanding). And there are plenty of blogs out there that get to opine endlessly about the need for print publications to adapt – some of these folks will eventually succumb to gainful employment as the VP’s of Internet Strategy for these dinosaurs, and many developers will make a few bucks setting up in-house blogging networks. Additionally, a few feed aggregators get bought, and some twenty-something MBA school dropouts get to pay Mom, Dad, and J.P. Morgan Chase back. Several years from now mainstream print publications will figure out whether their desperate attempts worked. I suspect many won’t last that long.

Meanwhile, those three-inch thick books that wind up on your doorstep (i.e. yellow pages)? Well, they’re print – pretty much newsprint, just bound. They take up a lot of paper and press time. They’re given away. There are few internet-oriented barriers to entry. Time to dig another grave?

Uh, nope. They seem to be thriving. Maybe it is because they whine less.

UPDATE/ADDITIONAL: Peter Kafka says the economic downturn is making magazines bleed. A comparison of rate cards to home prices? Very original.