M. Thea Selby is a Principal in Next Steps Marketing, a San Francisco boutique firm that solves audience-building challenges in creative, customized way using practical "call-to-action" marketing techniques where the return is clearly measurable by clicks, online sign-ups, responses to direct mail, orders from partners, or sales at newsstand.
She was the 2010 Women's Leadership Conference Chair, is a co-founder and board member of Exceptional Women in Publishing—a national organization dedicated to supporting women in and through the power of online and print media—and is the former CEO and Publisher of Light Green Media, a digital publishing company.
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Last week, just one day before the latest Audited Media results let us know that digital editions have grown 146% over last year, I had the opportunity to talk with Rich Maggiotto, co-founder and CIO of Zinio, one of the leaders in digital magazine publishing and distribution. Rich and I have known each other for over a decade, he always at Zinio, me bopping from Imagine Media to Red Herring, finally starting my own company 12 years ago. Zinio has had a long relationship with Apple, and enjoys a burgeoning one with Android-based tablet manufacturers like Acer, Lenovo, Sony and Samsung, among others.
My reason for seeing him was to try and catch up on what was going on, and what would be going on, with digital publishing. Here, from my notes, is our conversation.
Thea: How can we get the tablet-makers more interested in selling digital magazines?
Rich: Tablet-makers and players ranging from Google to Amazon to Microsoft are interested in magazines. First came music, then books, and now in 2013, TV, movies, magazines and newspapers are joining growth apps. The difference with magazines is that the content creators are very aware of their own value. They watched the canaries in the coalmine. The music industry gave away too much in the early days. Most smart publishers are rightfully committed to not replicate the errors of other industries in the digital space. At Zinio, we’ve committed to making digital magazines more interesting to publishers by lowering distribution costs, and more interesting to advertisers by suggesting more engaging advertisements, and more interesting to both by providing a treasure trove of previously untouched consumer data and insights.
T: Why, then, does it seem so chaotic in the world of digital magazines compared, say to music sales?
R: Magazines have no standard, there’s no MP3 (music) or ePub (books) with magazines. It’s at best the “wild west” with many formats and publishers going off in as many different directions. Unfortunately, this make the variety of branded magazine apps akin to games. You have to learn how to “play” each one. Reading needs to be simpler, consistent and more convenient. Say what you will about print magazines – but they’re pretty damn intuitive to read.
T: How do we do that?
R: Digital magazines need to enhance the reader’s experience by making a magazine more intuitive and more useful. Utility will win as we make magazines more share-able, more search-able, more clip-able, more shop-able – in essence, more connected and more intelligent. When you use Zinio, there’s always something to read. Modern consumers don’t want an app for every magazine they read any more than they want an app for every album or every book, and an app that you engage once a month for 30 days is an app you’ll never care about. We are obsessed with creating experiences guided by urgency, discovery, connectivity and forum.
T: Is digital going to take over print?
R: Digital will ultimately take over print. For some it’s already happening. The Financial Times just announced its digital circulation now outnumbers print. It’s not a sell anymore, not to the publishers.
T: Apple stock went down after the Q1 2013 earnings came out. Is Apple in trouble as far as selling digital magazines?
R: No, not at all. The majority of all sales of content apps still happen on Apple’s iOS.
T: Where is the digital magazine world going? Give us some things to ponder here.
R: Digital magazines will be much more tailored to the device and its screen size to make for a comfortable and useful reading experience. Cross-device cloud content consumption will accelerate. Article-ization will become more prevalent and we’ll begin selling more based on curation of articles. Pricing models will evolve introducing new ways to buy and consumer magazine content beyond single copy and subscription a la carte. Utility will rule the day as content-creators move beyond bloated issues filled largely with unimaginative video. People will discover and engage with magazines differently in the digital age.
Thank you, Rich, for your insight. Anyone care to comment?