Yesterday, the first panel at the 37th FIPP World Magazine Congress, which looked at the economic situation for the magazine market, had acknowledged e-readers as significant, but not as a direct threat and a show of hands from the audience indicated their limited uptake.
In fact, despite gloomy advertising revenue predictions, time was devoted to preserving and celebrating print, and pointing out that magazines did not necessarily face the same catastrophic fate as their newspaper counterparts. Much was made of the ‘feel’ of the printed product by several of the speakers, for instance.
But magazines are investing in digital editions – so what do they look like?
In yesterday’s session entitled ‘Digital Editions: Opportunity or Blind Alley?’ President (Europe and Latin America) of Zinio Global, Joan Solà, emphasised the importance of structural change, ‘a major change, moving from analogue into digital’: “If the publishing industry adopts the right measures to make structural change to industry, it will avoid getting caught in the middle of the ropes,” he said.
We’re moving from a system with a big ‘logistic cost,’ he said. “We all know that paper, printing and distribution has an impact, an environmental impact. In the US 35 million trees have to be cut down each year.”
We ‘move to a new scheme in which content can be delivered in new forms,’ Solà said.
Kevin Madden, publishing director for digital publishing at Dennis Publishing, is not convinced a digital product will replace the role of magazines:
“Ultimately the web is a dipping medium, but I don’t ascribe any loyalty to the sites I visit.”
Publishers should cater for this ‘dipping audience’, whilst also providing a ‘feast’ for those who want it, he said.
Managing director at Menzies Digital, Sarah Clegg outlined her vision for the digital product, in her case, as she has told Journalism.co.uk in the past – includes digital editions of 140 magazine titles, with a look to e-paper developments for the future.
“Slowly the tide is turning,” she began. “In a lot of cases we [the digital product] are still the outcast,” she said. But, she emphasised, ‘the media landscape has changed, and it’s changing at the rights of knots’.
‘How are you tapping into that child of today – who is reading electronic media?’ she asked, using as an example her 13 year old niece, who picks up a range of digital tools on a daily basis.
“We know consumer habits are changing, people are choosing when they want to consume and when they want to consume. Everybody is after their instant fix,” she said.
“These aren’t questions anymore: there’s a market to take advantage of,” she added.
“They present an opportunity, along with economic necessity. We must find a place in the digital publishing model – I don’t think we’ve had our day,” she said.
Clegg wants to see lower prices for the digital product and more cooperation from publishers. She was aggrieved she said, to discover that having negotiated a 25 per cent discount for digital subscriptions, the publisher had offered a 60 per cent reduction on the print edition.
Another annoyance is that on one of their publications, it takes eight clicks to get through to digital edition, she said.
“Publishers should adapt and cater for the consumer – it [the digital edition] is not for everyone but it’s for someone,” she said.
“I think we’re heading towards a golden era for publishing,” she added, optimistically.
Following Clegg, Mark Payton, digital editorial director for Haymarket Consumer Media, described how his company has a contract with Menzies Digital and he’s ‘very keen for it to work.’
Recent digital innovations at Haymarket include:
- The entire Gramophone magazine archive launched online – from 1923 to today.
- Autosport launched a tiny flash page turner, which received ten per cent of the site’s traffic during the weeks that it ran.
“I no longer have colleagues around talking about web 2.0 – it has become the web,” Payton said.