Publishing Executive May/June 2010
Crafting a long-term solution to the depressed economic and publishing times we're in requires tough and often unpopular decisions. Outsourcing is one example. It was the topic of a lively panel discussion at the Publishing Business Conference, March 8-10, in New York. Panelists and attendees shared stories of the urgency to squeeze efficiencies out of their processes and how best to achieve their goals. The conclusion: Outsourcing—using an off-shore vendor or an outside partner—is an unpopular, often painful decision, but a viable option for major cost savings, especially in desperate times.
The launch of the iPad has put a renewed focus on digital media applications, and early evidence suggests the impact of Apple's new product on the digital editions market will be profound. With its portability, interactivity and high-resolution color screen, the iPad seems taylor-made for magazines, and audiences have responded enthusiastically—as widely reported, the most downloaded free news app in the wake of the tablet's launch was a magazine reader.
34% of iPad buyers said they will use the device to read newspapers and magazines, while 68% of 25- to 34-year-olds and 59% of 35- to 44-year-olds indicated a willingness to pay for news and magazines specially formatted for e-readers.
Few things have received more buzz in publishing recently than the notion that publishers need to start charging for content online. While this conversation has proven to be somewhat cyclical in the years since the advent of the Web, ebbing and flowing with the relative success of bringing in ad revenue, there is growing evidence that the twin factors of changing consumer perceptions (iTunes and, more recently, Rupert Murdoch have put paying for digital content firmly on the public's radar screen) and sheer economic necessity may finally have forced publishers to abandon the idea that their product can be supported solely through advertising, no matter how targeted those campaigns may be.
I love mobile devices. I bought my first PDA, a Cassiopeia, back in the late '90s. It was a Windows CE device, had a large, color touch screen, and ran scaled-down versions of Microsoft Office applications. I worked for Windows IT Pro at the time, and believe it or not, we actually launched a mobile version of our website specifically designed for mobile devices using a platform called AvantGo. That was 12 years ago, and we were able to aggregate enough of an audience to actually sell sponsorships.
Here is an interesting observation and a modern-age publishing dilemma. Due to print publishing's vagaries and analog necessities, this article was due to my editor four to five weeks before it would be released in Publishing Executive's print and electronic editions. I was asked to write about what publishers should be considering regarding the iPad. Basically the questions are: Where do we go from here? Should publishers be developing apps or wait till the e-smoke clears?
In mid May, Time Inc. announced the promotion of Brendan Ripp, former vice president of sales, to publisher of Time. But the real news to me was that part of this transition was Time's "formal integration of print and digital ad sales."