Recently I’ve become quite a fan of my ex-colleague, Bill Pollak, the CEO of Incisive Media North America.
Along with the rest of the business media sector Bill is clearly looking at the future of his product lines and wrestling with the challenges they face. He is doing this in a very open way and with the aim of both engaging the staff of Incisive Media’s North American operations & reaching out to the industry he serves. I applaud his efforts & hope they permeate the rest of the company.
However, Bill’s post of the 28th November entitled “Capitalizing of Digital Edition Technology” tells me that there’s still a long way to go as the old ALM business faces up to a digital world.
In the post Bill says:
“If advertising declines, I believe publishers will be pushed to find ways to cut the costs of those publications, and that almost certainly means manufacturing and distribution costs. Turning a print publication into a digital one is an obvious solution, and one which we need to all be looking at with an eye toward how we can make the transition work in our favor.”
He then goes on to highlight a recent edition of American Lawyer which managed to embed video from an awards dinner into its digital edition pages & urges his teams to look at ways of selling this to advertisers.
With the greatest respect Bill you’re sending everyone off on a wild goose chase here. Digital editions like those facilitated by Zinio, Olive, NxtBook Media, Texterity etc. are a massive red herring & here’s why:
1) Recipients don’t read them. I could stop this post here. Just think about average open rates for e-mails these days let alone the people who cannot be bothered with re-formating and re-sizing something that wasn’t designed to be read on screen.
2) The digital version of a magazine is called a website – or occasionally a PDF. Concentrate on getting these offerings right rather than tinkering around with something that is designed to look like a magazine but isn’t printed.
3) Engagement with a media property is about much more than having a video pop up from a page. It’s about commenting, sharing, bookmarking, forwarding… how do you do this within a digital edition?
I understand why publishers are tempted to go down the digital edition route – quite apart from the suppliers being all over the trade associations like ABM & PPA.
Let’s see, I can charge the same amount (or even add a premium) to my advertisers and not have to incur any printing and distribution costs, hmmm. What’s not to like?
But the reality is that digital magazines are a gimmick, and not a very practical gimmick at that. They are trying to solve a problem by ignoring the original nature of that problem – the fact that advertisers, in the main, don’t see the value in spending money with your controlled circulation title. The old business case doesn’t make sense any more.
So, my advice to your publishing teams is this. If your magazine is not making money and you’re giving it away for free then cut back the circulation to the people who your advertisers really still want to reach – and make sure those readers are actively engaged with your brand.
If you still cannot make money then don’t pretend to be a print magazine online. Drop the legacy print title and start again.