From the Editor: Publishing’s‘Promised Land’
If you know David Granger, Esquire's editor-in-chief, you know that he is a voice of optimism for print. Today, as we in the publishing industry strive to decipher the new avenues we have for distributing content to our readers, many have predicted and continue to predict the demise of print. Not David Granger. However, he also isn't ignoring the cross-media world in which we now live. In his Guest Column, he writes about the "promised land … the green and verdant place where old and new media productively coexist, and everyone in publishing gets rich.… I tell you: I can see it."
Esquire has been an example of a magazine that has pushed the boundaries of its print format, being named Publishing Executive's 2009 Publishing Innovator of the Year for its use of electronic ink on its October 2008 cover. It has since produced covers with fold-out windows and issues utilizing augmented reality, where the movie stars featured in the issue can be seen singing and dancing. Esquire.com has featured videos of the likes of Megan Fox, taken in conjunction with the photo shoot for the cover of that month's print issue, and drawing millions of page views.
Its February issue pushed the boundaries even further by reaching right down into Barnes & Noble retail stores with what could crudely be described as a hologram of the cover model (Brooklyn Decker) showing up in the stores (on your iPhone), as you capture a geographic code with an augmented reality app. (Granger also seems to like to do things that are difficult to explain; see http://bit.ly/hmeiuT for more on this.) It's also using Twitter to develop closer, daily relationships with its audience, and its website to gain subscribers, who, as Granger explains in his column, are much cheaper to acquire via the web.
Still, we all know there are challenges in this new multimedia world. To name one: Apple, and its resistance to enabling publishers to offer subscriptions, especially without heavily involving Apple's online store. Whose audience are you when you buy Esquire? Apple's? I don't think so. And for business-to-business publishers, the situation is exacerbated, it seems, as they are not even collecting revenue from issues, as most are free, operating under controlled-circulation models. The audience is their business.
In time, as Granger hopes, these issues will be sorted out. I hope so, as well. They have to be.
Or, maybe they don't. One publisher I spoke with recently suggested that it doesn't matter if Apple keeps the names; collecting the names is the "old" or "legacy" way of thinking. We are dealing with new media, and you can't just plug old businesses models into them. You can reach and engage a new audience with new digital formats. You can use other methods to collect the readers' names if it's that important, or use tracking data for engagement analytics to sell advertisers.
Either way, not every publication is Esquire, nor do we all have its resources. But the way I see it, it's not just a matter of resources; it's a matter of perspective. The opportunities are out there. We are standing on the precipice of this "promised land." I can see it, too. Are we ready?