E-Media Strategist: Why Digital Magazines Don't Have to Suck
“Digital magazines suck,” proclaimed a media executive friend of mine recently. “They’re not print, and they’re not Web. It seems like a lazy way to get online instead of investing in a really good Web site.” Perhaps he has a point. We’ve all seen those PDF/Flash/whatever-based replicas of print. Many are clunky to use, slow to load and have type so small that you’re constantly zooming in and out. No wonder some publishers haven’t seen their efforts pay off.
I call them digital replicas, not digital magazines. Publishers often default to recreations of the print product since it’s easy and relatively cheap. If implemented well, replicas can help publishers reduce fulfillment costs and expand internationally.
But digital replicas have major shortcomings that limit their effectiveness and business potential. It’s not a problem with the technology, mind you; it’s what we as publishers are and are not doing with the technology. You see these digital replicas everywhere. Another colleague of mine compared them to the early days of television where people simply put a camera in a radio studio and called it TV. That didn’t last long, and eventually TV came into its own with content that took advantage of the medium.
Likewise, digital magazines are starting to come into their own in the form of stand-alone digital magazines. Organic Style, Viv and Military Electronics are examples of this new breed of digital magazines and, incidentally, all use different technologies. What makes them different from digital replicas? First, they are formatted to easily be read on a computer screen. They each make excellent use of interactivity within the content—video clips, animation, etc.—and they offer advertisers interactivity. They make the magazines immersive, rich experiences.
Not many publishers produce these stand-alone digital magazines because they require more effort and, yes, a bit more cost to produce. And while we may get some business benefit out of digital replicas for a while, ultimately, we need to come to terms with the fact that online is not print.
Eric Shanfelt is a 25-year digital media veteran and has been the Chief Digital Officer for several large publishing companies. He now consults with B2B, enthusiast and regional media companies on their digital platform, audience, and revenue strategies. You can reach Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.