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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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 Yes, we all know using historical content is a valuable way to monetise and drive subscriptions, but the structure of that content is what makes it useful.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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Can online advertising survive the GFC?

Two major reports have come out recently delivering positive feedback for the online advertising market.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Frost & Sullivan have forecast that the online advertising industry will see revenues continue to increase as advertisers turn to cost effective strategies as marketing budgets tighten and a media buyers place a rigorous focus on ROI.

Figures from the IAB’s latest Online Advertising Expenditure Report by Pricewaterhouseshow that online advertising had experienced 30% growth, year-on-year, with a total spend of $450 million in the third quarter of this year. Of course, this growth is expected to soften during the fourth quarter as the full impact of the global economic meltdown comes into play.

Of the online advertising categories, Search and Directories advertising experienced the largest growth from the prior quarter, growing at $25.0m or 13.4%. General Display advertising also performed well, growing $11m or 9.6% from the previous quarter. Online Classifieds, however, experienced minimal growth, with an increase of $2.75m or 2.5% from the previous quarter. This must be shaking a few business who are seeing the Classified advertisement that existed online transform into various forms of Search advertising.

Australia’s total online advertising market revenues have been forecasted to increase by 24 per cent year-on-year in 2008, growing from $387 million to $481.4 million, by Frost & Sullivan.

Darryl Nelson, Frost & Sullivan Senior Research Manager, Digital Media, Asia Pacific, said:

The online general advertising market continues to enjoy solid growth and is not only well-placed to weather the current slowdown in overall media budgets but is set to benefit from its increasing cost-effectiveness in tight economic conditions.

Advertisers continue to see the increased lead generation and sales coming from the online channel, but are also now looking online to get more bang for their brand marketing buck. The current tightening of marketing budgets overall strengthens their commitment to their digital strategies.

Download IAB PWC September 08 Online Advertising Report

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Doritos viral campaign that every advertiser should fear

I attended a social media breakfast this morning held by Bullseye digital sevices agency where Ian Farmer presented on his Social Media Action plan.

At the breakfast I caught up with Ian Lyons of PureProfile and The Cool Hunter who sent me the Doritos Banner Takeover viral video from YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, it is an eye-opener for publishers, advertising-network operators, advertisers and everybody else operating online – or thinking about transitioning their media business onto the interweb and using advertising as the revenue source. Yet another issue to consider. As Ian Lyons said, “here’s the video all publishers need to see”.

The only problem for Doritos, with all the viral traction they’re gaining from the immediate interest in this campaign, their website and download doesn’t seem to be up and running yet at onlythegoodstuff.com. Perhaps the video was leaked and escaped Doritos’ advertising camp too early?

Update: I was just doing some research on this campaign and found a reference in the Twitter Search logs from five months ago by @tbrunelle saying “thestuffyoulike.com offers a Doritos plugin that works as a banner blocker. An advertiser removes other advertisers.” Yet again, there is NO plug-in at www.thestuffyoulike.com – there is, however, a live site with print and outdoor ad samples as well as other basic campaign info, including the video. I will continue to investigate, all the way to Sweden, to get an answer on what is happening here. If anyone else knows, please let us in on the mystery with a comment below. Maybe this is part of the elaborate and fictitious Doritos SNACK STRONG Productions that involves an online game, Crash the Super Bowl campaign, UGC and more.

The Swedish agency is Papercut and notes that it has won several awards for the work already in 2008.

Update II: Well, as you can see from the links above, thestuffyoulike.com has been taken down, Onlythegoodstuff.com still doesn’t exist. However, it is most likely because the video was created by a couple of very talented Swedish students, Carl Frederick Jannerfeldt and Tomas Jonsson. I’m unclear how much or little of the work on the Papercut site is student work or client work, but it’s certainly worth having a look at for ideas and inspiration. Check out the lightart campaign for Maglite.

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B&T Magazine launches new fortnightly format

Following on from my previous post about the viral marketing campaign B&T has been running at www.deathofsmalltalk.com.au/smalltalk.asp, the newly formatted, fortnightly magazine has started arriving today at subscribers letterboxes.

At the www.deathofsmalltalk.com.au, address an electronic version of the title is available for those who want to browse the content online.

New format for B&T Magazine - also digitised online

New format for B&T Magazine - also digitised online

Update: As you can see from the dead digital link above, B&T have decided to pulled down the online version of the newly formatted B&T magazine. The online edition was only up to give people a taste of what the new format wold look like.

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The FREE business model, as Chris Anderson explains

Chris Anderson’s discussion of FREE online business models raise many of the same questions that my posts about advertising-driven and subscription-driven media models did after the Future of Media Summit 2008. Read people’s comments on his original post.

This is a key debate taking place worldwide as traditional/print/atom/physical (call it what you like) businesses look to translate their revenue generation model online, as they acknowledge the growing impact of the digital space.

I had a meeting today with a travel agent who has a website. Their site, however, is nothing more than manually controlled brochure ware for events and prices. They didn’t recognise the significance of search engine traffic, the potential for ongoing interaction with clients, or the ability to offer FREE advice and information to new visitors. I could go on. You don’t think about a travel agent being involved in the FREE economy, however, they have built up so much specialised information which they happily pass on to people over the phone, or across the desk on a regular basis that they ARE giving away valuable ‘intellectual property’ without having it clearly packaged-up and branded. This content can easily be ‘wrapped and branded’ as important, FREE product that will assist travelers, particularly in highly-targeted markets. Will this sell travel services? If the information is valuable and engaging, it’s a reflection of the type of service you will provide. And people want to buy valuable and engaging services and products.

Here’s what Chris Anderson has to say about FREE:-

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FREE: the cocktail party version

When you’re writing a book you need to have your elevator pitch down or “What’s the book about?” will become the most dreaded four words you can hear (followed closely by “how’s it going?”).

Obviously the one-sentence version of the answer should be something close to the book’s subtitle. But I haven’t nailed that one down yet, so these days I just say “The economics of zero dollars and zero cents” and hope for the best. Some people glaze over and move on at that point, but for those who stop, intrigued, and ask me to explain, here’s what I say:

We all know free–it’s a trick that marketers use. But free is changing. When you think about it, there are two economies, one of atoms and one of bits. In the atoms economy, which is to say most of the stuff around us, things tend to get more expensive over time. But in the bits economy, which is the online world, things get cheaper. The atoms economy is inflationary, while the bits economy is deflationary.

The 20th Century was primarily an atoms economy. The 21st Century will be equally a bits economy. This book is about the differences between 20th Century free and 21st Century free–free moving from a marketing trick to a new economic model.

Anything free in the atoms economy must be paid for by something else, which is why so much traditional free feels like bait and switch–it’s you paying, one way or another. But free in the bits economy can be really free, with money often taken out of the equation altogether. People are rightly suspicious of free in the atoms economy, and rightly trusting of free in the bits economy. Intuitively, they understand the difference between the two, and why free works so well online.

– For more see: The Long Tail – Wired Blogs.


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