New address for Beyond Digital Media blog

This blog has moved address to to become part of the new website for – a digital strategy and marketing agency.

We look forward to seeing you over on our new site, at our new blog with new comments!


Chris Bishops


Publishers adapt to a changing market

Here is an interesting piece from quoting several senior magazine publishers from around the world discussing the current market and what they are doing to ride it out.

Publishers include:

Peter Phippen. MD, BBC Worldwide, UK

Aroon Purie. Chairman and editor-in-chief, The India Today Group

Eija Ailasmaa. CEO, Sanoma, The Netherlands

Jonas Bonnier. CEO, Bonnier Group, Sweden

Johnathan Newhouse. CEO, Conde Nast International, UK

Steve Lacy. CEO, Meredith, USA

Click here for the story

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 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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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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Marshall McLuhan still influences with “The medium is the massage”

On a recent trip to Melbourne I visited the State Library of Victoria to have a look at some of the exhibitions, including one called, Mirror of the World: Books & Ideas. As part of this exhibit they had a display of, what the State Librarian determined to be, 15 Books of Influence’ . Books that have changed the course of history or that have changed the way we see ourselves and our culture. Of course, this is a hugely controversial topic and can be debated for hours (so please send me your comments). For me, the most interesting thing about the exhibit was the book chosen to be displayed on the wall above all the other monumental works, one I have heard of, but never read: The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore (graphical designer). No “Massage” is not a typo, anymore, at least. McLuhan was famous for coining the phrase, “the medium is the message”, however, according to a story told by McLuhan’s son, when it came to publishing the book, the proofs came back with the printing error “massage” on the cover and McLuhan, feeling that this was entirely symbolic of his philosophy that the medium led and drove the message, left the title as it appeared.

The Medium is the Massage - Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore

The Medium is the Massage - Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore

McLuhan popularised other phrases like Global Village and said “If it works, it’s obsolete” – at the speed of current technological development, it seems a modern phrase, although said more than thirty years ago: McLuhan died in 1980. Though published in 1967, the commentary in McLuhan’s book about the role the medium plays in formatting the message is fundamental for all players in the new media landscape.

The complete list of books that have influenced the world is:

1) Astronomia Instaurata (De revolutionibus orbium coelestium) – by Nicolaus Copernicus

2) Traitté de la Peinture – by Leonardo Da Vinci

3) Dialogo … Sopra i Due Massimi Sistemi del Mondo – by Galileo Galilei

4) Der Achte Teil der Bücher des Ehrnwirdigen Herrn D. Martini Lutheri – by Martin Luther

5) Opticks or A treatise of the refractions, inflections, and colours of light – by Sir Isaac Newton (Yes, Opticks not Principia – considered just as, if not more, important as the discoveries of gravity and calculus)

6) New experiments and observations on electricity – by Benjamin Franklin (in display but not on Library website)

7) On the origin of species – by Charles Darwin

8) Traité de Radioactivité – by Marie Curie

9) Das Kapital: Kritik der Politischen Oekonomie – by Karl Marx

10) ‘Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitatstheorie’ in Annalen der Physik, vol. 49 Albert Einstein

11) Gesammelte Schriften (Collected Writings)– by Sigmund Freud

12) Le Deuxieme Sexe – by Simone de Beauvior (on display when I was there but replaced by Mary Wollstonecraft on the Library website.)

13) Quotations from Chaiman Mao (The Little Red Book)

14) Why We Can’t Wait – by Martin Luther King, Jr

15) I am prepared to die – by Nelson Mandela

16) The female eunuch – by Germaine Greer

17)  The medium is the massage – by Marshall McLuhan (in display but not on Library website)

When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.
—George Orwell

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