Will Digital Editions Survive?
There are some things that seem certain to me. AOL is a goner and now Yahoo! with its 14,000 employees (yes, 14,000!) is doomed as well (although with Microsoft’s just-announced $45 billion bid for the company it may just take another shape).
With conversion costs ranging anywhere from $15 to $25 or more per page, plus a ludicrous 20 cents or more to send each recipient an e-mail with the latest digital edition, the economics of this new publishing technology just didn’t make much sense. We eventually chose a vendor (not my first choice) with a product that forced readers to download a viewer, which turned out to be a mistake. We’ve since settled on using the Flash-based product offered by our printer, while I consider myself lucky to not be involved in this project anymore as it still seems to be going nowhere fast.
Don’t get me wrong, for the most part our publishers know what they want to do with their digital editions, but the early promise of advertisers paying more to enhance their ads with audio or video just hasn’t materialized. I know there are some folks who will provide information to the contrary, but until publishers prove digital edition readership to their advertisers, my bet is against it. After all, just to be included in the BPA audit process, publishers need to send them copies of their SMTP (e-mail) logs!
I see the benefits of using a digital edition as an alternate delivery method for subscribers who want to save the environment or who want to receive the latest edition before the USPS can get it to them (rising costs, but slower delivery... makes sense to me!). Publishers also are using digital editions to reach more readers, whether it’s international or to a domestic, non-qualified and perhaps paying subscriber.
Personally, I have tried as hard as I can to embrace digital editions, but I just can’t do it. I’ll take a print edition to read on the train or an airplane, or to my hammock or the beach. Otherwise, a well-formatted Web site that serves up its content appropriately based on my device, Web browser and screen display works just fine for me.
Some of the companies that have withstood the early years of digital editions seem to be pushing the envelope. Whether it’s Texterity’s iPhone portal or the folks at Nxtbook who worked with us in producing the Publishing Business pre-show planner, I’ve always enjoyed my conversations with these folks, but I still need to be sold on a solid business model.
The Publishing Business Conference this year is having a Digital Magazine Symposium. I’ll attend hoping to have someone change my mind.