Daniel Bower is Head of Publishing at eConversions. He’s also an old buddy of mine. Here, he responds to my post on the Future of Magazines, explaining why he thinks there’s life in the old dog yet, why the new tablet platforms seem to understand the inherent value of the magazine, and why device wars imminent.
“From what I can see, niche magazines have seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years. The success of Monocle and Tyler Brule’s new ‘lifestyle brand’ approach to publishing, the re-launch of Wired in the UK, and the innovative Stack Magazine are just a few of the sector’s recent successes.
In an age when we swap and share news in a matter of seconds, it’s no wonder that newspapers have struggled to keep up… but magazines have never had to deal with this problem. Their value has always been in the longer, essay-style piece; information that can – and probably should – be consumed over a longer period of time. Readers inherently understand this role – magazines sit on coffee tables and in bags, and are saved for moments when the user (too soon?) has more time to appreciate them. Magazine readers also understand the time and effort that has gone into producing them. They are displayed on living room and offices shelves with pride, rather than in the recycling with corn flake boxes.
In short, people understand the value of magazines. Which suggests that they also understand that they’ll have to pay for them. And therein lies the market.
A digital reader for magazines is a natural step, but one that I’m glad is being developed slightly differently to reading the Guardian on your iPhone. To retain the value I’ve discussed, the experience of reading a magazine in a digital format needs to retain the same magic that comes with opening the first issue of a beautifully produced magazine. The architects of the digital readers need to remember this – that it is this desire to touch and feel the thing they’re reading that has benefited magazines in a time when newspaper circulations are down.
It bodes well that both the Sports Illustrated concept and the Mag+ development seem to get this.
So you can tell I’m pretty keen on the idea. But just as Ben Hammersly has predicted problems on the horizon, so do I:
• Format wars are likely. Time will have a version, Adobe will definitely have one, even Apple and Amazon could get in on the action. They’ll be an open source version from the geek crowd. But after a few years, a frontrunner will emerge.
• There will be device wars too, which may not be a problem if we sort the format problem first. But this is very much a chicken and the egg issue: you can’t have the device without the format.
• Distribution will also cause fracas as all the key players look to take a cut from sales.
But these issues are easily solved. And if Mag+ tablets take off, we could be seeing the beginning of a new publishing age in which people are willing to pay for digital content and producers can make content with cheaper tools at their disposal. If nothing else, it’ll be a pretty device to put on your 2012 Christmas list.”
More posts on the media by Benji Lanyado:
• Is Hyperlocal all hype?
• Coming soon: A jornalistic ‘state of nature’
• Why membership is an old media solution to a new media problem