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TH(ink) NOTE actionable research and analysis for the magazine industry

The Definition of a Print and Digital Magazine

September 06, 2007

There are many digital initiatives today in the magazine world: from repurposing printed material and posting online blogs to mobile phone messages and broadcasting original audio and video content. Though these attempts have varying degrees of success engaging consumers/readers they do not represent the essence of the magazine today and what it will continue to be in a digital format.

By David Renard

with Nick Hampshire and Bob Sacks

A magazine is a very distinct unit which has the following six key properties regardless of the delivery medium used: •

• • •

Metered: a magazine is divided into defined "pages" of content that are presented together; in print this is not only bound sheets of paper but also, as has become more prevalent with the stylepress, pamphlets, lithographs or other objects; on-line these “pages” can follow a more traditional model (used by www.monkeymag.co.uk) or one of new models which includes the intuitive horizontal scrolling model (developed by www.firstride.com); Edited: the editor selects the articles and images, and on-line the videos and sounds, that fill each “page” as opposed to supplying a stream of aggregated data (news, articles, images, video) that is selected automatically by virtual intelligent agents; Designed: the included content is arranged and formated to enhance the reading and visual experience; Date-stamped: an issue is published on a specific date which becomes the indelible time stamp of the publication; Permanent: in a magazine all the content for an issue is set by its release date; even though the edited content for an issue can be more than what each reader is presented with, to allow for varying levels of customization, once it is created, it is set and can no longer be changed or corrupted apart for minor revisions; Periodic: a magazine is created to have subsequent issues and it may have more than 52 a year or, in the end, only be published once.

To remain relevant as they move online, magazines will need to retain the above critical components while embracing the interconnected multimedia possibilities of the digital world. In both print and bytes, they will continue to differentiate themselves through their metering, or “pagination”, which provides a certain tempo that promotes discovery: the reader is presented with a manageable set of new articles, images and,increasingly videos and sound. Though the experience of reading a digital magazine (like those offered by vendors that include Zinio, Nxtbook, and Texterity) is mostly un-fulfilling today due to inherent limitations of carrying and reading on today's screens (e.g. computer, TV, mobile phone), these are true digital periodicals that retain the six key properties. Yet, they differ significantly from their printed cousins not only because of format and the type of content used, but also

mediaIDEAS Future Outcome Key: Promising - event and timeframe likely, outcome has a 60% probability Probable

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event

very

likely

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timeframe likely, outcome has a 70% probability Expected - event and timeframe very likely, outcome has a better than 80% probability

Definitions: Magazine: Metered, edited, and designed content that is intended to be periodically delivered to the reader in a format that is date-stamped and permanent. Stylepress: Unconventional, high-end boutique magazines that differ from traditional periodicals through their physicality, design, content, and focus on discreet communities.

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TH(ink) NOTE actionable research and analysis for the magazine industry

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because of the possibilities of allowing for minor revisions (e.g. version 1.01), news tickers that are fed by RSS feeds, and detailed user/usage tracking, bane of the current physical magazine distribution network. As the right medium (e.g. e-paper, Apple’s iPhone) and software (e.g. multi-touch) develops to accommodate both new functional (e.g. connection to the Internet, video) and user/reader (e.g. flexibility, sharpness, portability) requirements, digital magazines will thrive and embody the core of the industry.

By David Renard

with Nick Hampshire and Bob Sacks

Over the next 15 years, the digital magazine will grow to become 30% of the magazine market (0.7 probability). Within 25 years they will represent more than 75% of the market for periodicals (0.8 probability). Today's investments in websites webzines, blogs, audio and video streaming are undoubtedly important but these are not what a printed magazine will evolve into in the digital realm. They lack varying degrees of date-stamping and permanence, and a defined set of edited and designed “pages” (see the Magazine Comparison Scale). They are only content elements and distribution vehicles for the publisher's/magazine's brand. Similarly, content aggregation is a very useful functionality to provide customers, but it departs from the present and future business of publishing magazines. For magazines to compete on the basis of supplying the latest news would mean entering the major battles brewing between on-line news aggregators (e.g. Yahoo News, Google News), news services (e.g. Associated Press, Reuters) and newspapers. A fight that most magazines, culturally, are not prepared for. All these products can and, in many cases, will generate important sources of advertising and/or user income but they are not what magazines will become.

Magazine Comparison Scale: Metered

Periodic

Edited

Permanent

Designed

Date-Stamped

Call to Action In this rapidly evolving market for magazines, publishers must know how their content is being packaged and sold. keeping the integrity of the magazine on-line will help to protect it from the great leveling force of the internet and limit its involvement in the battles that will increasingly be played out in the realm of news and its distribution. They must formulate a strategy for both their printed and digital magazines, which, combined, will remain a significant part of their business, as well as for all their other digital initiatives. Understanding that, though the medium will change and a a number of hybrid solutions will appear, the six critical components (metered, edited, designed, date-stamped, permanent, and periodic) of a magazine will not. And, having a very well defined roadmap today towards multi-platform magazine publishing and content distribution, which are distinct sets of products, is critical for publishers wishing to help define the future of the industry.

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The Definition of a Print and Digital Magazine