I spoke recently at the Publishing Expo at Olympia on a panel entitled “Digital editions vs Interactive magazines”. I’m not sure that my presentation actually fitted within those boundaries but I was billed as the sceptic so I took my artistic license to the limits!
I’d popped into the show the previous day as I’d not been along before and I couldn’t believe how many of the presenters , exhibitors and delegates were talking about Digital Editions/E-zines/Interactive magazines. Not that I don’t think they have a place in the digital landscape but the prevalence of the pageturning technologies was overwhelming.
What was equally shocking was that nobody was talking about web content management, the CMS and search vendors were conspicuously absent so I was a bit nervous about how my presentation would be received.
My argument was that the discussion about whether an on-line version of the magazine is better than an interactive pageturner is missing the point.
Big changes are coming to the industry
In the next five years, the publishing industry faces changes as profound as those that have transformed the music business. Digital content is expensive to create and print publishers need to look beyond creating a digital version of the print magazine and fully embrace the web if they are to have any chance of survival.
Simply applying the magazine paradigm to screen based content doesn’t work. On-line, we scan and search for snippets of information. Off line we relax and consume larger volumes of content at our leisure. The two experiences are completely different.
The question I posed is whether the publishers are adopting pageturning technologies because the users are crying out for it, or because it’s an easy option for the publishers?
Where E-zines work
There are some great examples of the E-zine working well. Virgin Media has a version of it’s monthly TV guide in this format. You can watch trailers of films, interact with games and it’s very entertaining. Whilst you could do most of that in a website, the format is perfect for two reasons: -
- There is no long term intrinsic value in the content, at the end of each month, the current edition is redundant
- Virgin Media have an enormous database of broadband customers to “push” the content to
It’s not cheap to produce though as you have to keep creating expensive flash and video content for each edition. The format takes a lot of effort to create quality results time after time and, like physical magazines, content delivered by email is consumed once (if you are lucky) and then put in the bin. For most publishers, it doesn’t represent a good return on your content investment.
The alternative is frightening
The alternative to this technology is a scary new world. Everything changes. You lose control over how the end user views the content. They could be using a PC or a Mac, Explorer or Firefox or even using an iPhone or a tablet. Design and content are separated at birth, sites are templated out and content fed into them afterwards. Editorial have to learn new skills, it’s not just about the words any more, they need to understand SEO, driving traffic, social media and analytics.
Getting the most from your valuable content
High quality web content however maximises the value of your content investment by benefiting from the “long tail” of search users. Content is consumed many times and provides value over the long term. The web is about connecting content and sharing it. Locking your content away in a flash based “microsite” doesn’t lend itself to the social aspects of the web.
My rallying cry to the audience was to think long and hard about deploying the technology just because they could and embrace the wider world of web content management. It’s a pretty mature market now and the pioneers have already made the big, costly mistakes so stand on their shoulders and look beyond just digitising the magazine.