Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What's the Formula for Our Future Business Plans?

BoSacks - The Profit Prophet : What's the Formula for Our Future Business Plans?
A hint: The printed magazine replicated digitally is not the answer.
By Robert M. Sacks

I get the very strong impression that we are on the cusp of the next phase of information distribution. Kindle sales are booming, and there is competition aplenty for the black-and-white Amazon e-reader. Several new machines that cost at least $50 less than the Kindle now are on the market, with more seemingly on the way each week. In cooperation with Google, Sony is making available 500,000 free e-books for e-readers. It is important to note that Kindle sales figures are believed to have grown faster than iPod sales in the same time frame. That is very impressive. Most book publishers are adjusting and adapting to this new platform in one way or another at a rapid pace.

But where do magazines stand in this race for a digital foothold? The most obvious fact we all can agree upon is that magazines are not books. And while book publishers can get away with offering an exact digital replication of their text-only products, can and should magazines do the same and expect success?

I am a voracious digital user, reading multiple newspapers every day and dozens of magazines every week in digital format. But let me be clear: I'm not talking about going to a Web site and reading the news. I'm talking about reading, scanning and thumbing through entire issues of said publications in a paginated format.
Let me ask you this: What's the point of owning a sports car and never putting your pedal to the metal? What's the point of owning the best stereo system money can buy and not turning up the volume? Likewise, what's the point of having a digital magazine that doesn't exploit the full digital nature of the product?
Should the digital version be exactly the same as the printed version? The answer should be a resounding "no"! The editorial surely shouldn't be the same. Why set ridiculous restrictions on an amazing, new publishing product? There are terrific opportunities in the downloaded versions of magazines that ink on paper just can't match, and it shouldn't.
We absolutely need accountability and creditability when detailing circulation figures, but we also must not hamper the new digital magazine business with arcane restrictions based on ancient printing technologies and abacus accounting methods. We must move forward, not back, if we are to survive as publishers in the growing digital information age.
The bottom line is that the ads and the edit do not need to be and, in fact, shouldn't be exactly the same in both mediums.
They should be more enriched and focused in the digital version and have as much creative involvement and special interest as the technology allows. A static informational/branding ad should run in the print issue, while a dynamically charged ad appears in the digital issue. Static, informational editorial belongs in the printed version, while hyperlinked, graphically active, fully charged edit belongs in the digital issue. Those are the choices.

Does the advertising and edit have to be exactly the same in the digital version as in the printed version to be fully credited on an ABC or BPA statement? Of course not. It's time we as an industry start a constructive dialog. What is a successful and satisfactory formula for our future businesses?

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He also is the co-founder of the research company mediaIDEAS (MediaIdeas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator, and almost every other job this industry has to offer.

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