Does the homepage really matter? Yes -- but not, perhaps, for the reasons you may think.
The homepage is the single best way for editors to convey the sensibilities and values of their websites. Everything about the page â the design; the selection of stories and images; the treatment of features and widgets; the language and cadence of the headlines; the typeface; the frequency with which the page is updated; even the ads â is a statement about what matters to the publication. With one glance at the page (literally, a 10-second glance), a reader can get answers to these questions:
â˘ Whatâs this site about? News? Analysis? Service? Gossip?
â˘ Whatâs the sensibility? Serious? Playful? Quirky? Geeky?
â˘ What are the subject areas that matter most to its editors? Washington? Wall Street? Hollywood? Silicon Valley?
For these reasons, the homepage is, as the marketing team would put it, the ultimate brand statement. And, by the same logic, all this is true for the home screen of a magazineâs tablet app, too.
Thereâs one thing, though, that the homepage is not much good for: driving traffic. While I donât have data on this, itâs my sense, anecdotally, that many editors continue to believe that one of the primary goals of the homepage is to guide readers to the articles on the site. I know thatâs what I long believed. But the evidence â and here there is data â suggests the homepage is overvalued as a mechanism for generating visits to interior pages.
Across The Atlantic sites, the fraction of visits that begin on the homepage is surprisingly small. About 13 percent of visits to our flagship TheAtlantic.com start on the homepage. That figure is about 8 percent for The Atlantic Wire and 10 percent for The Atlantic Cities. That means, of course, that roughly 9 in 10 sessions begin on an article page or, much less frequently, a channel or author landing page.Â
It is the case, of course, that getting promoted to the homepage can give a boost to an article. Just not as much as we might have thought â and not the way we imagined. In the ongoing cubicle game to puzzle out the Google algorithm, our editors have noticed that a story that gets a big burst of traffic in a short period of time tends to fare better in search returns. The overall number of readers to the piece may not be huge, but if they come to the article within a narrow band of time, that may be enough to affect search returns, even days later. And, naturally, a story that does well in search tends to attract a larger audience.
So hereâs a traffic lever: a homepage tease can, in certain circumstances, generate a concentrated burst of readers to an article, which can tickle the Google algorithm and improve the storyâs performance in search. This peculiar bankshot is one way that a storyâs placement on the homepage can bring substantial traffic.
Still, with 90 percent of visits starting on a page not considered the homepage, one conclusion is obvious: Every page is a homepage. However readers arrive at our site â from a Yahoo link or a Facebook post or a Google search or a mention on YourMomsBlog â we need to find ways to keep them there. That means designing article pages to drive the next click: related content headlines, video boxes, most popular modules, most shared modules.
Many sites are good at this, but, paradoxically, being too good can be a problem. Iâve seen article pages on popular and respected sites with pop-ups, oversized social buttons, and right rails that look like Times Square. Donât forget why the audience came in the first place: to read the article.
For big media companies, all this can be scary. As powerful as the brand may be, itâs disconcerting to realize that each article lives out there by itself and has to succeed on its own. This is more true than ever in the atomized world of social media, where the individual post, photo gallery, and infographic is untethered from the brand and shared as an independent unit.
You can post that unit to your home page â and if itâs good, you should. But thatâs not how readers will find it.
Bob Cohn is editor of Atlantic Digital. In this role, he oversees all editorial components of The Atlanticâs digital and mobile properties, including TheAtlantic.com, TheAtlanticWire.com, and TheAtlanticCities.com, as well as the print publicationâs integration on digital platforms.
Frank Cutitta, CEO of the Center for Global Branding, speaking at the American Business Media Annual Meeting in San Francisco Tuesday, offered an insight into the relationship of IT and Marketing. With a slide showing a road sign warning drivers to slow down next to another of a rocket careening out of control, said: âIT is the land of slow and no. Theyâre like, âFrank, we have to really think this through.â And marketing is the unguided missile. Like me.
âThere are few people with âdouble-deepâ skills, expertise in IT and in marketing,â he concluded.
MORE 2012 ABM ANNUAL MEETING COVERAGE:
ABM Annual Meeting CoverageJack Griffin at ABM Annual Meeting: Not Enough Advertising to Support All of Us
The Western Publishing Association had its annual conference Friday in Los Angeles after a layoff of a couple of years. Called WPA Media Publishing Conference 3.0: Navigation. Innovation. Growth, the event was lightly attended, with perhaps 100-120 total attendees, including speakers and exhibitors. (Pictured to the right is the closing panel: Rick Calvert, CEO, BlogWorld & New Media Expo; Jordan Gold, VP, products & content, Freedom Interactive; Dan McCarthy, partner, DeSilva + Phillips. Pictured below to the right is the closing panel audience.)
But the content was often quite strong, and as with all face-to-face events, there are always important snippets of insight and business approaches worth holding on to. Following are some of the highlights.
â˘ Paul Miller, CEO of UBM Electronics and UBM Canon, on the future of his business: âI donât think advertising is the future for us. Weâre engaged in marketing services and e-commerce.â
â˘ Also from Miller: âThe tech-publishing sector is the front seat of the roller coaster.â
â˘ Dan McCarthy, partner at DeSilva + Phillips, in the executive forum: âThe holy grail is to push your way into your audienceâs workflow. Salespeople need the tools to say, âThis is exactly what Iâve given you, but what are you giving me credit for?â Counting outcomes is the single biggest practice that needs to move from digital to print.â
â˘ 1105 Media CEO Neal Vitale, during the same session: âPrepackage what it is you want your client to know.â â˘ McCarthy in the same session: âClients stop doing business with you not because your results are bad, but because your customer service is bad.â
â˘ McCarthy during the closing session: âThere are three trends in companies that are doing really well. First, demand value for the things they think are valuable. They sell something. Second, they build their companies around technology, including emerging ones. And third, they have people of all ages working at their companies. They donât need young people, they need smart people able to learn new things. And hereâs another: They are increasingly willing to partner.â
â˘ McCarthy during the closing session: âThe position of âchief digital officerâ is window dressing. It makes me cringe. The guy or woman who runs the company should be responsible.â
Expanding the b-to-b audience is something all publishers in this demographic are trying to doâgrowing circulation beyond traditional bases is essential in 2012 and something Nick Cavnar, vice president of circulation for Hanley Wood Business Media, understands.
When looking at new media versus a qualified model, media professionals can see that the results provide somewhat of a schizophrenic audience model, Cavnar told an audience of about 30 at a recent meeting of the National Trade Circulation Foundation, Inc.
Print circulation sticks with the old rules, Cavnar said. The cost of print, paper and postage favors the highly qualified audience model, while new media focuses on new metrics of tracking what an audience views, opens, clicks and likes as a way to validate qualifications.
The question of breaking with the traditional, said Cavnar, is worth considering.
âAdding additional âexpandedâ circulation by sending the digital edition to newsletter lists, event attendees and others normally means going to a broader list that isnât as tightly qualified as the print circulation,â he tells AD. âExpanded circulation might include business groups outside of the core advertising marketâsmaller companies, distributors and manufacturers as well as end users. Expanded circulation may also show up as non-request sources in a BPA statement thatâs always been 100 percent direct request, or might include 3-year dates.â
Cavnar is right. Looking beyond your traditional audience to target and convert newsletter recipients, trade show and conference attendees, and Web visitors as part of your qualified audience is an easy and effective way to expand reach. But, what about less obvious means of expansion, and not just with digital editions?
Young people in colleges and universities around the United States could be a perfect source to expand your b-to-b audience, capturing an entirely new generation of professionals while they are in the beginning stages of their careers. While converting new bases and young professionals can be an effective way to expand reach, there can be some issues associated with breaking from the norm.
âThe âproblem and concernâ here is whether sales people and advertisers will understand the added value of these broader audiences, when for so long theyâve focused only on very tightly qualified print circulation,â says Cavnar. âThe challenge for publishers is to show that they are still delivering the tightly qualified core, but can offer additional broader coverage to the advertiser at very little or no additional cost, due to the lower cost of delivering the digital version.â
What about taking it a step further, beyond just the digital edition? A b-to-b magazine about construction, for instance, could contact college and university level architecture and design programs around the country and offer a subscription to students that could be incorporated into the course curriculum. Courting college professors could grow circulation--they could position a publication as a vital information source on the current market climate in a particular industry and secure new demographics for years to come.
Furthermore, if offering a subscription at cost, a reduced price subscriptionâmaybe $100 a yearâis considerably cheaper than the majority of academic textbooks and something the majority of students and educators would likely be open to. Take the New York Times as one example. While it isn't b-to-b, the paper offers journalism and communications students a discounted subscription, and the news reported in the publication is leveraged into classroom discussions and courses.
Whatever the avenue, the market is ever changing and looking beyond the traditional audience is not only an effective way to expand circulation, but vital to capturing overlooked bases of professionals.
T.J. Raphael is the Associate Editor ofÂ Audience Development Magazine.Â
Itâs 6 p.m. on a typical Monday and my office e-mail box has logged in 110 e-mails today. As is true of most workdays, about 20 percent of them were from people or businesses I knew or people or products I want to know. The rest were solicitations or introductions from those who shall be know as the âdeleted mob.â
Iâm not complaining, mind you . . . I can tie a chunk of my own compensation to efficient and targeted e-mail as can most modern day publishers. We live by the marketer who wants to use our qualified readers to target, often in some sort of adjacency to content. But does anyone else think itâs just gotten out of hand?
Here are just a few of the things that some publishers are doing today that really irritate me and, I think, help us devalue our brands and our relationships with our readers:
Letâs be chums: Why do publishers think it is okay to personalize e-mail blasts to, among others, âDear Warren N,â or âDear W,â or âDear (insert name) or âWarren?" Iâm a formal kind of guy so, âDear Mr. Bimblick,â is fine for me. Or if you really prefer the familiar, âYoâ works for me more than these just plain wrong salutations.
The sneak attack: Thatâs those publishers who run webinars that I donât sign up for and then email me â âYou missed our client-sponsored webinar on a topic.â Only problem is they donât always tell me the topic.
Speaking of webinar pitches: âTop 15 reasons why . . . â or âA free checklist of the 7 things . . .â Couldnât the marketers of these things be more original. How about, âYour business will self-destruct unless you listen to tips on how not to do email?"
Lousy house ads: So many e-letter published populate their e-letters with house ads for subscriptions or events that are clearly picked of from somewhere else. You canât read the date of the event. Or, there are nine typefaces crammed into a tiny space. And the clip art.
Anyway, time to go home and get through my personal e-mail box.
Warren Bimblick is senior vice president, strategy and business development, at Penton Media.
The IAB released its Internet Advertising Revenue Report yesterday, which details full-year 2011 results and was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers. As it has for the last ten years, except for a slight dip in 2009, annual revenue easily beat the previous yearâhitting $31.7 billion in 2011, a 22 percent increase over 2010 and an all-time high. In the last decade, revenues have shot up $25.7 billion at 20.3 percent CAGR. Even so, mobile got recognition as a format that came into its own in 2011, jumping 149 percent to $1.6 billion for the year. 2011 also marked the first year in the report that mobile was broken out as a standalone format. Its revenue increase drove 3.7 percent of the overall 22 percent advertising growth for the year.While mobile's 5 percent slice of the full-year digital advertising pie is a tiny one, it's passed email (1 percent), sponsorship (4 percent) and rich media (4 percent) in share of revenues. Mobile is now tied with lead generation. It's likely been singled out due to its big jump over 2010's $641 million, by far the fastest growing segment. Plus, the platform has traditionally been bemoaned as one that's not been capitalized on nearly enough. Nevertheless, digital video (6 percent)Â and classifieds (8 percent) are still slightly ahead, as are display and banner advertising which command the highest share of revenues at 22 percent and 47 percent respectively.
For the full report, click here.
Annual Internet Ad Revenue (in billions)
Source: PwC and IAB, April 2012
Bring your own device (BYOD) is one of those big changes currently sweeping through the tech sector. Instead of the new employee being handed an aging laptop much abused by the three previous employees, the newbie is being told to use whatever device they want and the IT staff will do the work of connecting the BYOD to the corporate network. Would that it be that easy, but the idea is powerful: the newbie gets to use his or her favorite device, the company doesn't have to keep shuffling around dinosaurs and that agonizingly embarrassing moment when you have to present your media company's hot new cutting edge capabilities on a laptop from the past decade is avoided.
But for b-to-b firms, as well as just about all media companies, the question is what will be the preferred media being displayed on all those BYOD devices? In other words, is BYOD just the first step in BYOM, as in bring your own media? The question is not insignificant as b-to-b media has just recently found its footing in the mixed format worlds of Web, video and digital presentations and is now juggling tablet expectations, smartphone proliferation and a generation reared on social networks. I'm going to argue that BYOD will indeed lead to BYOM and end up with another BYO: Build Your Own Community, which represents a great opportunity for b-to-b publishers.
But first, take a look at the present state of epublishers. The first e-books from the likes of Amazon and Apple were simply more efficient ways to shuttle the words from the author to the reader. Although bookstores, printers and author's agents suffered mightily in that shuttle, the ability to get the book to the reader in digital format was just one more example of that digital intermediation we have been hearing about since Esther Dyson outlined what was in store for the music industry in 1994.
However, now simply e-publishing that printed book in digital format is passe. As a WIRED article recently pointed out, publishers are now racing to make their ebooks more immersive." Immersive in the sense of providing multimedia, video, associated interviews and just about any other information relevant to the book and sticky to a reader that wants to really understand the full spectrum of the author's intention. The publishers that are successful in creating that immersive experience will develop a reader community loyal to the publisher and looking for more from that publisher and author.
The current b-to-b segment, particularly in the tech area, is undergoing great change as trends such as BYOB are being bolstered by other big developments such as cloud computing, big data analytics and mobile deployment. Smart publishers -- and I definitely put ourselves at UBM TechWeb and InformationWeek in that category -- are doing very well with readers and sponsors by developing robust communities around those topics.
The next step is to develop ebook-like immersive platforms that allow community participants to drill deeper into their preferred topics in the format they prefer -- in essence being key players in building their own community. And of course that ability to show community engagement along with enhanced multimedia formats also presents a new and exciting range of sponsorship revenue opportunities. Will BYOD lead to build your own communities? I think so and I'd be happy to hear from you on the topic, just remember to BYOB.
Eric Lundquist, vice-president and editorial analyst for UBM TechWeb, provides analysis and commentary on the hottest topics in enterprise technology including cloud computing, mobility, social networks for the enterprise and corporate and personal hardware and software trends. He writes regular commentary and analysis articles and videos on current technology trends as well as conducting interviews with senior industry and customer executives. He is especially involved in the Global CIO content.
On Wall Street, it is often said that stocks must climb a âwall of worryâ before they can reach new and sustainable highs. Unemployment, escalating interest rates, a poor housing market and deficit spending â these represent just a few of the worries in todayâs investor landscape. But if history is any guide, the next bull market is right around the corner as investors scale the wall and reach new levels of value.
The magazine industry today faces its own wall of worry. The traditional world of print is in a slow but steady decline and advertising dollars continue to migrate from print magazines to television, web, social media and other non-traditional channels. However, just like Wall Street, the publishing industry has the means to overcome this wall of worry and deliver new value. Enter: digital editions.
Weâre still in the very early days, but it is clear that magazine digital editions represent a massive growth opportunity for the entire industry. But as the opportunity becomes more tangible, it is equally clear that publishing industry executives must execute against some key value drivers.
Be the Master of Your âDataâ:
The publishing industry must take the lead in defining the performance, engagement and consumer-based metrics that will drive the digital business and build value in magazine brands. What consumers are browsing, reading or sharing; when, where and on what device; and across which titles and categories â are just some of the data available. Maintaining control over this data is a critical factor in the long-term vitality of the industry and its premium advertising model. If access to data is limited by technology, distribution or other partners in the consumer value chain, our bright new digital future will most certainly dim.
Content is (Still) King:
The digital media world is full of free, on demand aggregator apps that scrape the web and deliver personalized streams of news and information 24 x 7. Many of these apps also serve as useful access points to the busy world of social media. However, it is important to remember that the foundation of a bright digital future for magazines is different; that future is founded on curated, authoritative content that people will pay for and is delivered to them by trusted brands. As such we must protect the value of our digital content and brands when considering our approach to such things as print/digital bundles, website paywalls and enhanced vs. transcribed editions.
The digital magazine platform can provide readers with multiple product and pricing choices for engaging with their favorite brands and content categories. Print/digital bundles and digital subscriptions are two areas of recent innovation. At Next Issue, we have introduced an âall-you-can-eatâ unlimited access plan that allows readers and their families to access any of our magazine titles, including back issues, at any time, for one low monthly price. This type of offer also naturally leads to innovation around search, recommendations and personalization, which in turn, will deliver deeper reader engagement.
In many ways, the magazine industry faces a similar challenge that confronted the television industry over a decade ago with the introduction of TiVo. In that instance, for the first time, viewers and not programmers were in charge of their television viewing experience, and the industry had to adapt. And from a data reporting perspective, not only did we learn what programming and advertising were actually viewed in TiVo households, but we also knew exactly when it was viewed; for how long; and if it was skipped, rewound, liked or disliked.
Since that time and despite dire predictions to the contrary, the television industry successfully adapted to these and other technology changes to grow bigger and more profitable today. With leadership, commitment and alacrity, there is no reason why the magazine industry cannot duplicate this success and achieve its own greatness in the digital realm.
So letâs climb our own wall of worry to a bigger and better future â as an industry we can do this!
Morgan P. Guenther is President and CEO of Next Issue Media, the digital publishing initiative of CondĂŠ Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corporation and Time Inc. Joining the venture in June 2010, he brings deep entrepreneurial, management, legal and deal-making experience in the technology, wireless and digital media industries, where he headed and advised innovative companies rooted in Silicon Valley.
In the world of publishing, it is expected that sales teams are rewarded for performance with commission; but for a long time, there was no opportunity for editors to earn outside of their base pay. âChurchâ may be considered holier, but âstateâ tended to be greener.
That is, until now. Recently, a few publishers began to compensate their editors based on performance. Performance is a relative term in this case: two publishers implementing this model chose difference audience indicators as the determiner of top editorial performers. Forbesâ chief product officer Lewis DVorkin expanded on how his company is rewarding writers at FOLIO:âs March Roundtable.
âWe had two individual contributors, not staff members, who drove one million unique visitors each and they were incentive-based. They were incented to drive audience, not incented to drive page views, and they are further incented to drive repeat users per month,â says DVorkin.
DVorkin then stated that Forbes âdoesnât focus that much on page viewsâ when quantifying successful articles.
On the other side is Vance Publishing Corporation, which launched its editorial rewards program in January. Dean Horowitz, vice president of e-media and market intelligence, details how Vance is rewarding top editors based on page views, or impressions, during a FOLIO: 40 interview.
âNow the editors who said they were posting and are not really posting are seeing how transparent it is, and how it affects their compensation. Initially, there was pushback: itâs open on who the top performers are,â says Horowitz. âWe have to value the people making the content more than ever before. Itâs about the product, more than it is the sales story.â
Vance installed an editorial audit board to keep the process fair as possible. âThey help make sure the editors arenât using search bait,â says Horowitz.
Both of these models seem to be in beta stages, but progressive nonetheless, in leveling the publishing payment field. At first glance, there are a few hitches that may or may not outweigh the positives. What constitutes a quality article may not always make it the most popular; for those tasked with more mundane subjects in any given niche, paychecks may suffer.
Vanceâs transparent model is commendable in its honesty, but may inspire an increased amount of jealousy and rivalry among employees. While a bit of healthy competition is welcome in any work atmosphere, pitting co-editors against each other for dollar reward (in the already cutthroat industry of magazine publishing) seems to be an inevitable and dangerous outcome of this system.
Of course, no new system is without flaw. Cheers to empowering editors, however publishers choose to do so.
âE.T.: The Extra Terrestrialâ was playing at the movies, Michael Jackson had just released âThriller,â the average cost of a home was $82,000 and gas was 91 cents a gallon. It was 1982. TIME declared the computer its âMan of the Yearâ and CRN published its first issue under the name Computer Retail News.
For three decades, CRN has been reporting on technology news, and these advancements have certainly forced publishingâan industry that had seen few substantive changes in the prior 200 yearsâto rapidly adapt to new platforms, new mediums and new business models.
Thirty years ago, reporters and editors were using a fluorescent-green terminal called Atex to file stories. Today reporters use their phones to Tweet, Skype to conduct video interviews and Facebook to elicit comments or story suggestions from their followers. Until very recently those who produced the content distributed the content. Today social media and mobile apps provide a new distribution model where the producers no longer have complete control.
It would be an understatement to say that the Web forever changed publishing. Over the past two decades, business models have been disrupted, publishers have gone out of business and a new breed of online sites has entered the market. For editors, an unprecedented sense of urgency was born. In just the past few years, we have seen yet another dramatic change in journalism, again all in reaction to the incredible pace of technology. Enter citizen journalism, crowdsourcing and blogging; then throw YouTube, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Stumbleupon and others into the mix.
While technology has helped deliver the news, it also has delivered shortcomings in news reporting. Today a mistake can be corrected and a story reposted in a minute, with less consequence than in yesteryear. But whoâs to notice, anyway? Todayâs readers donât consume newsâthey sniff it, take a nibble, and move to the next item in an endless buffet of shallow dishes hastily prepared. Scroll, scroll, click. Scroll, scroll, click. On the other side of the buffet table, frenzied reporters dish out the news as quickly as they can.
But the innovations that have made us sloppy could save b-to-b journalism in the future. Tablets and the subscription-based modelâas opposed to qualified circulation and the current advertising model many of us haveâcould force b-to-b editors once again to write content that is not only timely, but that is accurate, unique and consequential. Readers will pay for such content, just as they once had. Nondifferentiated content can remain free; differentiated content can command a price.
All of this, of course, has begun to happen with digital subscription-based models and Appleâs Newsstand feature. Thatâs where CRN finds itself after 30 yearsâoffering even more targeted content to give our readers a better perspective.
But, where will CRN and b-to-b publishing find themselves in 30 years? Artificial intelligence and data mining will enable even more precise data on what readers are interested in. Contextually relevant audiences will find us. And new companies that arenât in existence today will force us to rethink how content is delivered. Never again will we have 200 years with basically the same model. Disruption will be the norm.
Kelley Damore is vice president and editorial director for CRN.
For 35 yearsâmostly living in ManhattanâI have owned a car. This past weekend I gave up my car at lease-end and did not replace it. I realized that in four years I hadnât driven 9,000 miles and the cost and annoyance of owning was not worth it. I could rent when needed.I decided to use the cathartic experience to think of what else I donât need (another glass of wineâŚwellâŚ). Could I give up magazines? Iâm a magazine junky (I've had a New Yorker sub since 12). I counted. I get 28, mostly monthlies, meaning likely 300 issues in my mailbox each year. Itâs staggering and impossible to get through.Then I thought about my day and what I do. My iPad is always in my hands and Iâve prepared two icons to sort my magazines (plus those that annoyingly insist upon going into the âNewsstandâ). They range from some highly unsatisfactory replicas of print to some innovative replicas (The Economist) to very robust offerings that have expanded my love of a brand (my favorite is The Atlantic).
I do still read many magazines in print, but far fewer than I used to (indeed, it is often the ads that turn me to print over digital). My tablet content has become my first place to read while many magazines have become coffee table decorations. To me, the future belongs to the media companies that get out ahead with the technology and really understand how audiences are consuming their content and serve it up to individuals in the manner they want it. Yes, individuals. At Penton, we are meshing metrics and asking subscribers about what experience they want. We thenâsometimes not easilyâdevelop product around it. Moving the revenue dial is going to be about moving with the users and coming up with the experiences that will make them need youâwherever that is. It is where that triumvirateâpublisher, editor and audience developmentâneed to come together and solve user experiences.Clever serving of content can be about pushing the needle on print, too. This Sunday morning, New York experimented with delivering this weekâs issue to my front door testing a âVIP hand delivery service.â Now thatâs brilliance. This wasnât about technology, it was about strategy and figuring out the right time to reach me. And, by the way, they got me to re-up, too.
Thereâs been a lot of chatter on the Web this past week about the impact the new iPad (with its retina display and four times the pixels) might have on digital publications like those created on Mag+ or Adobe DPS, which render most of the content as images to present a pixel-perfect design experience, since this approach creates âlargeâ files.
Thereâs no question that higher resolution images take more space, but in tests with our plug-ins, weâre seeing closer to a 2x or less increase. And since most of our issues are 150-200mb, weâre only talking about retina issues of around 300-400mbâsmaller than many non-retina magazines and far smaller than, say, a half hour of TV.
That last comparison is, I think, an apt one. Because while no one likes to sit around and wait for a file to download, far more important than the physical size is what that file offers. In other words, itâs not about megabytes, itâs about value.
"The Walking Dead" is the top selling TV show on iTunes. The HD version is not only more expensive than the SD version, itâs 2.5x the file size: 1.8GB for a 62-minute show. Try keeping a whole season of that on your 16GB iPad. Weâve seen in surveys that more than 40 percent of digital subscribers spend 60 minutes or more with an issue (80 percent spend 30 minutes or more). One of the most successful apps of 2010 was the book âThe Elementsâ from Theo Gray (a PopSci columnist), which cost $13.99 and takes 1.7GB of space. Whatâs an hour of a great experience worth in bytes?
And I think itâs important to remember that great experience matters in this space, especially if you expect people to pay for your app. The iPad (and certainly the retina iPad) is a vessel for premium content, and youâre not just competing against other magazines hereâyouâre competing against games, TV shows, 200,000 other apps and the Web. If you donât offer a packaging and presentation of your content that wows people, it wonât matter if your magazine is 50mb or 500mb; people will find something better to buy and spend time with.
A real-world example: Popular Photography+ is indisputably a niche publication for camera and photo geeks. Most of the information thatâs in it you could find on the Webâthere are no shortage of photography and camera-review sites. And yet, PopPhoto has 30,000+ paid digital subscribers on the iPadâthatâs 10 percent of its total rate baseâand is adding hundreds more every month. And its digital business has been profitable for a long time. People are finding value in a curated experience optimized for that canvas and the magazine is making a real business from it.
Thatâs an indication that premium curated content has an audience here, but it represents only a tiny slice of whatâs possible. For instance, why not instead of just delivering "Walking Dead" as a video file, make it an âissue.â In it, you could have interviews with the actors, slideshows of behind the scenes photos, an interactive game, a live feed of news from the show AND the actual episode itself, playable in full-screen and over AirPlay. And because itâs a âpublication,â you could subscribe to it! The total file size would be 1.82GB and it would probably see more downloads than any single issue or a magazine.
The retina iPad, with its print-like resolution and rich backlit color is giving an industry whose value proposition is built on beautiful imagery, careful design and readable text the most amazing platform itâs ever had for all of those things. Its introduction should not be a cause for fretting about the death of an experiment thatâs just begun on the altar of file size, but a moment to ask ourselves: what are we doing with it?
Mike Haney is the chief content officer for tablet solution provider Mag+.