Google Australia head at FED

I was happy to be at the recent Fouth Estate Domain (FED) networking event for media and technology professionals. Karim Temsamani was ‘on the couch’, as they like to say – because the interviewee of honour sits on a lounge – and was interviewed by Martin Dalgleish. The night was filled with excellent networking opportunities and was coordinated by Sally Mills and Harris Madden from LaVolta and Mike Walsh (who was out of town). Mike usually does the interviews, I believe, however, Dalgleish stood in as guest host to grill the Google boss in his absence.

During the interview Temsamani answered (or avoided) questions about: breaking down the Google balance sheet and P&L into more meaningful numbers; Google’s reaction to new search engines, WolframAlpha and MS Bing; whether Google were going to use their significant cash store for an acquisition spree; why even Google felt the need to lay people off, given their strong performance; and many others.

Here is a link to the inteview with Temsamani.

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Ross Dawson launches Influence Landscape Framework

This week Ross Dawson launched the beta version of his latest thinking for 2009, The Influence Landscape, at a lunch seminar organised by The Insight Exchange. Ross has a summary of the lunch / launch here.

Ross comments that:

We are also preparing our landmark Future of Influence Summit (evolving out of the Future of Media Summit), due 1 September – details very soon!

Gavin Heaton (aka the Servant of Chaos) also has a report on the launch at My Venture Pad.

2008 – The Year in Publishing

Here’s our summary of major stories from the Australian publishing industry for 2009.

JanuaryThe Bulletin, Australia’s longest running magazine, publishes its final issue. Private equity companies take a look at independent publishers. Helen Kingsmill resigns from the Magazine Publishers Association.

February – Pac Mags’ online digital magazine Red Zero folds. Reed Elsevier announce that their B2B publishing arm, Reed Business Information is for sale.

Check out MediaBizNet.com.au for the rest of the story.

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Financial crisis impacts online expansion

The Global Financial Crisis is having an impact on all areas of the economy, especially those in early stages of development like the social media sector. Pownce, I Want Sandy and Stikkit have all announced their demise today, and other businesses are sure to follow.

The Stubborn Mule has summed up the situation well:

The rate of innovation online of late has been extraordinary, but the result is a proliferation of services that is not sustainable. With the Global Financial Crisis progressing outside the financial sector to the broader economy, venture capitalists will be tightening their purse-strings and this will inevitably lead to a period of consolidation in the online landscape.

Read The Mule’s full post here.

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New Yorker Magazine history online for subscribers

I recently wrote about the type of content that will drive readers to subscribe to publications, whether the information is consumed through print or online. Well written, edited and hard to access literary and social commentary, it seems, will always be in demand by a percentage of the market. In Australia, The Monthly is a stand-out publication. In the USA, The New Yorker has been grabbing people’s attention since February 21, 1925.

I have written about digital editions of magazines before, by this I mean publications that appear online as page-turning replicas of their print editions. This format has its place and purpose in an increasingly diverse market. The New Yorker, while having a comprehensive website, has recently had every weekly edition of the magazine digitised since February 21, 1925, and is releasing each future issue in this digital format, as well as continuing to publish sample content on their website.

Subscribers to The New Yorker can now access a digital edition of every issue ever published. This is not only a powerful internal tool but a massive driver for subscriptions, from what I have heard. Yes, we all know using historical content is a valuable way to monetise and drive subscriptions, but the structure of that content is what makes it useful.

The New Yorker, October 26, 1929

The New Yorker, October 26, 1929

What made looking at each issue of The New Yorker magazine valuable for me was context. I could look at the entire magazine, cover-to-cover, and see what was happening in New York in, say, October 1929. Including what advertisements were running at the time.

I remember as a child, newspapers used to reprint products such as The War Papers, the papers that came out during The Second World War, for people to collect. It is this contextual formatting that may still interest people, which can now be achieved, easily and cheaply, though online digitisation using companies such as Realview Technologies, the company that worked with The New Yorker.

Certainly, historical content is something that can be offered to subscribers as an exclusive benefit.

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How will the future of publishing look?

I was thinking more about the future of monetising media content, both through current online products and soon-to-be mobile devices. There’s been a lot of talk in the publishing industry recently about specialist and niche titles being forced to look for subscription revenue as they are finding it harder to compete in the retail market with larger consumer magazine titles.

These specialist magazines are forced off the newsstands by agents modeling themselves after FMCG retailers  that maximise return per square metre and charge for prime retail positions. Chasing subscriptions and subscription revenue seems the obvious route to take.

But consumers are chasing content from many sources, increasingly it is free, backed by advertising. They are developing deep and sophisticated relationships with digital devices that deliver information to their fingertips whenever they want it, B2B and consumer – mobile charges will be the major barrier to consumption. What benefit are consumers gaining from magazines, nowadays? This is the question magazine publishers should ask themselves. Portability? Quality of reading format? The nostalgic feel of paper?

I don’t believe it will be long before electronic paper – truly flexible, full colour, electronic paper as being  trialled by Fujitsu and Philips – deployed in a next-generation Kindle-type device, will turn the business models of the publishing market upside down. A flexible, large-format, mobile device that is web-connected, drives down the value of subscriptions as access to quality content moves towards Free.

If the only reason you are gaining revenue from subscriptions is because of the magazine format, then the lifespan of this revenue source is coming to an end. Charging for high-end, quality content is already being challenged: Business Spectator (free) vs Financial Review (subscription).

What content would I pay for? Important timely business information that I don’t want influenced in any way by advertising. And these types of subscription businesses are continuing to perform strongly in the face of free online information. Some examples are legal, accounting, some financial information.

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Australia Post invests in more subscriptions

I attended a breakfast this morning hosted by Australia Post. They have brought out Alan Weaver from the United Kingdom to talk to magazine publishers about selling more subscriptions, more effectively and, of course, retaining current subscribers.

Australia Post also launched its new quarterly magazine, Subscribe, at the breakfast. Subscribe aims to help the publishing industry “understand the key factors in subscription profitability, including renewals, maximising subscriber value, and online subscription marketing. We will also take a look a close look at modelling and analytical techniques,” says editor Gary M Lane in his Welcome Letter in the first issue. At the breakfast, Weaver presented on subscription excellence to a packed house of magazine subscriptions specialists at Jones Bay Wharf. He then sat on a panel with Alan Sarkissian, executive director, Publishers Australia; Bruna Rodwell, subscriptions consultant and Gary M Lane, editor, Subscribe magazine.

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