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Where Digital Magazines Fit In the Days Ahead

How digital magazines will serve as a beachhead for testing new digital formats.



By Matt Kinsman
11/19/2009

At the FOLIO: Show Virtual last month, Steve Paxhia, president of Beacon Digital Strategies, and author of the 2008 Gilbane Group report “Digital Magazine and Newspaper Editions,” shared his thoughts on how digital magazines will fit in with the growing number of digital channels available to publishers.

Paxhia’s predictions for next 12 months include:

•    An improving economy will change the focus from cost savings to revenue generation and brand building. “The motivation for publishers is to develop products focused on revenue generation and brand building as opposed to cost savings.”

•    Unified publishing will replace post-print. “Unified publishing strategy has to replace post-print—we see that starting to happen.”

•    Print on demand will gain momentum. “While magazines are starting to go purely digital, things like Hewlett Packard’s MagCloud have the ability to print individual copies and cost-effectively deliver to the consumer while reducing the upfront capital cost of fulfillment and the waste of magazines that are never sold. This trend is at the very beginning but I think it will gain momentum very quickly.”

•    New devices will enable a reinvigoration of the browsing metaphor. “Current screen displays make it hard to easily navigate and comfortably read online. However, as we get to devices with larger screens that are light, flexible, with color and high resolution and you can hold it much like you would a magazine or newspaper, it will become very appealing. When these devices come online, I think browsing will come back with a passion.”

•    Engagement and interaction will become keys to digital growth. “When you go digital, don’t go in a static way, be dynamic,” said Paxhia. “Replicas are preserved largely for advertising audits. Browsing says we want people to flip through content in a pleasing way and see it the way editors wanted them to see. Replicas don’t get there, they’re frozen to preserve the format from different device.”

While publishers are gradually moving beyond the digital magazine as a facsimile, they need to start creating content for each specific format. “Publishers need to stop thinking print first, digital later or vice versa and think instead about one continuous publishing operation,” Paxhia said. “With the explosion of new devices, publishers are challenged with supporting multiple formats simultaneously. It’s difficult to move from a page-constrained magazine to online or mobile. You have to take the formatting out and generate these multiple forms after the fact.”

That’s particularly true as publishers design content for mobile. Conde Nast this week introduced an iPhone app that offers a version of GQ’s Man of the Year issue on the iPhone or iPod touch. Reader can also click on featured products and go directly to the product’s Web site, download songs and watch video interviews.  

“The key with iPhone and other smart phone apps is that publishers develop content specific for the smaller screen,” said Paxhia. “People aren’t interested in reading long articles with complex illustrations and charts, it’s too hard to navigate. The top three places where most iPhone reading is done is in bed, in the bathroom and on the train.”

By Matt Kinsman
11/19/2009







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