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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Digital Drift

At last. Some naysayers...

Digital magazines don't work. That's according to the publishers of a UK surfing magazine, Drift. Ignoring the deliciously ironic title for a minute, let's have a look at the facts - and the product.

Drift is a surfing magazine, based in the South West of England, and despite targetting surfer types - young, internet savvy and above all eco friendly, it isn't cutting the digital mustard.

Ultimately,according to editor Howard Swanwick, is that "I think digital magazines have had their day. As a medium to put features in, they don't work." That evidently is why he's switching to print - more costly, less accurate, less measurable and er, less eco - friendly.


Now I need to flag up immediately that I used to work with Howard in my dark and distant past, but despite that I have no axe to grind. I just think he's got it wrong.

Its about the ads Howard, and you haven't got any, so switching it to print is going to make f*** all difference. Plus, I'm afraid that your site is (1) slow to load (2) confusing in terms of downloading the digital product and most importantly (3) the text on the magazine is in places unreadable.

Back to the drawing board I think...


john said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Howard said...

This is an old, old post but just rediscovering it, here's my ten pence worth...

"Its about the ads Howard, and you haven't got any."

One of the reasons we had very limited inventory is because media buyers in the action sports industry did not understand the medium very well. Which is why we switched the format back to something they could engage with - familiar and safe. Yes, it has HUGE limitations, but you need to react to trading conditions wisely. Pursuing a format which doesn't impress media buyers State-side or in Europe is well, dumb. We went back to print and then reinvented our online presence for there.

Since ditching the digital magazine format we've reworked once more how we adapt our product to the inventory buyers, and have a new format with which they can engage. It still needs a certain degree of education, but buyers can get on board with our web based format better than they ever could with digital magazines.

In the action sports industry, there is no one doing well with digital magazines, they came and went. Even Surfline-funded Heavy Water magazine folded.

Wasserman tried it too but bailed. The real winners are the networked, socially integrated sites, lacking an aspirational feel, but creating traffic.

Banquet don't have a single digital magazine across their 18 site network, last time I looked.

Drift pulled some of this into an artist-driven network site, heavy on sub-culture, and then developed an html-based reader for the full length features. We have a low volume high-yield approach and it seems to be working. Where as the digital magazine format was a no-go for us.

So, I'll stick by my guns, and say that I still believe digital magazines have had their day, in the action sports market at least.

There is some fella in Devon running one still, but he hasn't got any adverts either. So I guess you're right John, it IS all about the adverts - and we've f***** got some - now we don't have a digital magazine.

"Plus, I'm afraid that your site is (1) slow to load - "

There are too many variables to answer this, what browser, os, connection, plugins do you run? It's at the same ISP as Origin's servers and they seem ok, and we've never witnessed it running slowly.

"(2) confusing in terms of downloading the digital product"

We don’t know if you are referring to the original web site we built in 2004, or the web site associated with the print magazine. But we had thousands of downloads, so I guess most people figured it out. It still didn’t persuade the media buyers that it was worth working with though.

"and most importantly (3) the text on the magazine is in places unreadable."

Again, we've never seen a problem with the format. But that doesn't mean there isn't one. Ask Jon Taylor – he built it.