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Friday, December 31, 2004

Let's (not) party like its 1999 again

With the year drawing to a close, a few new year's wishes ; well perhaps resolutions really, for the digital magazine industry.

  1. Give it up

Well, for free anyway. The success of Home Computer Magazine has demonstrated what can be achieved if the product is unregistered, unlocked, and best of all free.

Do you really need that $1.99 Mr Ziff ? Well actually in your case....

2. Dress for success

Looking at the current crop of magazines in the digital format, its heartening to see how many products are designed specifically for the format. My favourites are the Magwerks titles, but there are many others using clever, innovative design that will get their readers attention. If you want to see what not to do, have a look at the drudgery of Business 2.0 online.

They'll be lucky to make it to 3.0 if they keep that up.

3. We all need standards

In this case just one will do. One of the biggest problems the industry faces is that we have around a dozen companes making fuck all each. And everyone with their own "reader".


What happens when Microsoft roll their own reader into Longhorn, and Adobe finally decide to concentrate on Acrobat that much more ?

4. Go local

For a major magazine publishing country like the UK not to have its own digital company is er "strange" to say the least. Let's hope someone takes the bull by the horns and gets there before the US..

Friday, December 24, 2004

It's the Law

Will the excitement never end ?

After last week's piece about Advertising Age comes the news that Newsstand have snapped up the National Law Journal to publish digitally.

With all those lawyers reading it, let's hope their DRM is up to scratch...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Digital comes of Age

Zinio today announced that they have secured the contract to distribute Ad Age, the magazine of record for yes, you guessed it, the advertising industry.

Cue dancing in the streets in San Francisco if not on Madison Avenue. Perhaps this will presage a boom in advertising in digital magazines.

However, you can't escape the delicious irony of the industry bible of advertising appearing on the desktops of hundreds of people who won't have a clue how to open it.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Call off the search

Some interesting news this week about Google. Buried in a list of patent applications by co founder Larry Page is one on a "Method for searching media". Innocuous enough, but a sign of things to come ?

Possibly. Because the most notable element of the application is the proposed ability of the search engine to search scanned printed media, or even digital magazines.

There are two key elements of the patent: a method for executing a permission protocol so that the publisher could authorize Google to display more text from the relevant publication; and storing scanned versions of printed documents along with data sets representing the ads that went with them.

What's driving this is that Google is finding it difficult to monetise news (quite possibly the only thing they share with the BBC) and is looking to CD, DVD and even audio book content to find other revenue streams.

The biggest drawback would appear to be getting permissions from publishers to get at their content, but if they (Google) do manage to get a subscription revenue stream going, that has got to be good news in pushing publishers (and their products) digital.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Bard Of Boston

Yes he’s at it again. Pat Kenealy, CEO of IDG, shocked organisers at last week’s Digital Magazine Forum with a “warts’n all” appraisal of the progress (or lack of it) of digital magazines.

They can’t say they weren’t warned – three months ago he laid into the major search engines at a similar conference – and is rapidly acquiring a reputation for er “speaking his mind”.

The Register has some good coverage of what he had to say, but in their analysis they miss a fundamental point.

Namely, that Kenealy’s comments were aimed squarely at competitors ; and Ziff Davis in particular.

"The technology is being over-used by a few”, he opined, no doubt aware that his audience included several Ziff staffers and of course top brass from Zinio.

IDG’s relationship with Zinio is interesting, given that so many of its (Zinio’s) top management are ex- Ziff. And Kenealy hasn’t been slow in the past to point this out –for instance this from Mediapost…

“Kenealy, whose company publishes IT-professional-targeted titles like
Computerworld and Macworld, has been telling anyone who will listen that rival
publisher Ziff Davis is misleadingly pumping up its rate base for PC Magazine by
giving away free digital subscriptions. Kenealy even claims that Ziff Davis is
taking advantage of a cozy relationship with former employees to facilitate the

IDG's gripe is that Ziff Davis is using sponsored or partner-paid
subscriptions, a common, though often criticized practice in the print world, to
provide consumers free subscriptions as part of larger purchases or in exchange
for personal data. Kenealy has a problem with Ziff's giving away digital
subscriptions in this manner because of they way they are tracked. “

Still, there is one area of his speech that was spot on, when he was talking about standards, and in particular the danger to the industry if there wasn’t some agreement.
He compared the fledgling digital magazine sector to the state of the laser printer market some years ago.

I’d go further – the industry is in some ways more like the automotive market, if every make of car ran on different types of petrol. Vendors need to sit down and agree some basic standards for auditing, advertising sizes etc, or the whole thing runs the risk of presenting as united a front as the current DVD debacle.

Monday, December 06, 2004

These mags work !!!

Just when I'd begun to despair of the industry, on the back of the latest round of "I'm tallest dwarf" discussions (of which more anon), along comes a company from Norway that has blown my socks off !!

Magwerks is the brainchild of Joakim Nilsen, a Norwegian, whose aforementioned company is producing three glorious digital products.

Music magazine, PlayMusic, Encore, for designers and a games magazine Probe are all produced on a platform designed by the company themselves.

Our regular reader will know that I'm not a massive fans of the "read once" type of approach favoured by Texterity and Olive, but these magazines are absolutely fabulous.

Scroll over the graphics and pictures expand ; click on the corners and the pages move.

Fabulous, ground breaking stuff.

Normal service resumed tomorrow.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Its a Digital World

IDG are giving PC World subscribers the opportunity to get a free copy of Digital World, their new quarterly supplement in the US.

IDG claim to have around 150,000 downloads of their PDF using the PC World list.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

BPA's hit parade

BPA Worldwide has unveilved its list of the top 25 BPA-audited business and consumer magazines, ranked by number of digital-only subscribers, for the first half of 2004. Previously, BPA only tracked digital versions of b-to-b magazines.

No real surprises - tech magazines like Ziff's EWeek are some way ahead of the competition, with 65,000 digital subscribers.

Although the audit supposedly covers "consumer" publications, I personally wouldn't put Java Developers Journal into my all time consumer list.

You can find the complete list at

Thursday, December 02, 2004

A funny thing happened

On the way to the Digital Magazine Forum here in windy NYC.

Well, not to me specifically, but it does make for an enticing intro, wouldn't you agree ?

Because all I have to report from day 1 is on the interminable debate between circulation luminaries on "how to classify digital downloads" (See all media passim).

To give you some flavour of the quality of debate, try this from Mediapost's coverage..

"While the subject of downloads of digital magazine editions may have seemed messy, what actually constitutes a digital magazine appeared to be equally confusing during the audit bureau panel discussion, as well as throughout the day-long digital magazine forum. "

Promising, wouldn't you agree. In principle, everyone seems agreed that digital magazines are a "good thing". However, rival circulation monitors BPA and ABC have very different takes on how to best register digital circulations for their media buying clients.

Judging by the apathy and indifference most media agencies display toward anything innovative, I wouldn't say they are being rushed into finding a compromise...