Magazines Ireland Publishing 360
So, yesterday, I attended the “Publishing 360” event organised by Magazines Ireland, the trade association of magazine publishers in Ireland. It’s the first Magazines Ireland event I’ve been to, so I can’t say whether the numbers that attended were consistent with previous events, but there did seem to be a good turnout. Everyone from publishers, advertisers and industry experts were there.
The event revolved around the “Future for Magazines” with a number of talks about where the magazine publishing industry is heading. The simple consensus is well, digital. But as it turns out, things are not that simple. Rupert Turnbull, the publisher of WIRED UK, said that their strategy, and more importantly that of their parent company Condé Nast, revolves around 4 areas - Print, Digital, Live Events and Education / Consulting. Print remains at the core, with CN launching new print magazines all the time. Their digital strategy revolves around mobile, with focus on the iPad, while a number of magazines in the CN fold are sponsoring events as part of their Live Events strategy (WIRED sponsoring a tech event for example). Finally, they’re looking at Education in the guise of teaching people about future proofing their offices for instance.
This all sounds like a wonderful strategy, but I wonder how applicable it is to the Irish market? How many Irish publishers have the size, clout and more importantly, the budget of Condé Nast? I have no doubt that the ink cartridge budget at a single office of Condé Nast is greater than the entire annual turnover of most of the publishers in this country. The Condé Nast strategy is definitely something to aspire to, but difficult to do when advertising and circulation revenues are at or near all-time lows. As Karen Hesse of Dyflin Publications said, at a time when the publishing industry is in most need of innovation, the budgets aren’t there to pay for it.
So, if budgets are at levels where innovation is focused only on digital, where does that leave magazine publishing? Colin Crawford, CEO of Media7, gave the startling statistic during his presentation that publishers are currently losing €7 through print magazines for each €1 being made through digital. Rupert Turnbull mentioned that far more money was being spent at Condé Nast on publishing online and via apps than they were making from digital overall.
There are a number of reasons for this, one of the biggest being people who grew up with the Internet are not used to paying for Internet content. Publishers that gave their content away for free online, thinking it was a great way to sell more print magazines (and thus generate more advertising revenue) were suddenly shocked to find their copy sales plummeting (which resulted in LESS advertising revenue). In hindsight, it seems a simple thing to ask why consumers would buy a print magazine if they can get all the content online for free. The paper experience it seems is not enough to encourage them to part with their money.
Nor are digital advertisements worth as much as their print counterparts. Statistics around the effectiveness of advertisements in print have always been based on estimations. Just because you printed 25,000 doesn’t mean 25,000 people viewed the advert. In digital however, you can track exactly how many consumers looked at the page the advert is on, how long that page was viewed and how many times it was clicked on. Despite this, or maybe because advertisers can see exactly how effective their ads are, an advert seems to be worth more in print than in binary.
As a result, the budgets being spent on innovation in digitising the magazine content are not seeing a comparable return. But everyone needs to get online, right? The result is a digital replica of a print magazine, which is possibly one of the worst things to ever happen to magazine publishing. Personally, I (and as it turns out, most other people) don’t find reading digital replicas of magazines to be a great experience. As most magazines sizes are about twice that of an iPad (I spoke about this in a previous blog post), I find I have to constantly zoom in and out of a digital replica to read the text. It’s time consuming and very frustrating. The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) is not helping, demanding that for digital sales to be counted as part of the circulation for magazines, the digital version needs to be a replica or a near replica of the print version. ABC does not seem to look at the content, but rather how that content is presented. I’m not sure if anyone under the age of 25 would agree with that.
Advertising revenue, circulation figures, publishing issues at specific times of the year. The once mighty pillars of the magazine publishing industry are dissolving. When Colin Crawford asked the question, “will an issue based approach survive over the next decade?”, I’m surprised half the room didn’t throw up or start crying. The new (and excuse me here while I use some buzzwords here) paradigm shift in magazines is terrifying to publishers. But it shouldn’t be.
To me, there are a number of players in the market that are working on solutions, ourselves among them. Adobe seems to be out in front right now but they’re focusing on just getting the content out there and letting the Apple Newsstand take care of the rest. Our platform, FolioFourOne, is focused on not just getting the content on as many platforms as possible in a format that consumers can actually read, but on monetising that content in multiple ways. It’s not enough to just have the ability to sell single issues and annual subscriptions. We will also provide access to archives, online advertising, selling products directly from the advertisements in digital magazines, adaptive formatting and print on demand. We’re working hard and fast to bring these features to market.
Print magazines are probably going to disappear from our shelves in the coming years. We can’t stop it. But through the FolioFourOne platform, we can ensure that digital magazines will have a long and very healthy life.
Come join us.
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