Will technology mean that publishers will struggle to monetise tablet magazines?

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I have been having an interesting chinwag with a few people on Twitter this morning about how publishers can make money from tablet magazines. While there are some clear savings (no paper or distribution costs) there are still some additonal costs like the % paid via iTunes to Apple. I don’t know exactly what these figures for VAT and iTunes are, but according to people who know more about publishing costs than me they are around 40% of magazine costs, the same as paper, printing and distribution for paper products.

However, even if publishers can keep costs down they face a much bigger problem and that’s technology. The most important thing about print publishing was its high barrier to entry. If you wanted to produce a magazine in the 90s you needed plenty to money to pay printers and paper merchants, and that’s before you even approached a distributor who could make or break your mag by getting it into the stores.

In the early days of online content the barriers to entry were still high, it was just that brands didn’t want to advertise online. Ironically by the time brands recognised the opportunity of online publishing blogging had arrived and the barrier to entry was gone. Publishers, with their existing high cost business models, simply couldn’t make enough money from online content – not that too many bloggers in the UK have made money either…

Now magazine publishers are pinning their hopes on tablet magazines. They’ll offer the same magazines, with added interactive features, in tablet forms, invariably charging the same price for them. The one big issue they face is that while the barrier for entry for producing a tablet magazine is high at the moment, when the WordPress for tablets arrives, as I am sure it will shortly, people (bloggers, enthusiasts and indie media companies) will produce their own tablet magazines, and they will be delivered more frequently and have more content than those from traditional publishers. They will be free too, funded solely by ad revenue. And as smaller companies do deals with image agencies, as the most successful bloggers have done (see Anorak.co.uk) so they will have the images people are searching for and want to see well before the weekly or monthly tablet mags appear.

The same is true for apps? Pretty soon anyone will be able to produce an editorially driven app, or one that harnesses UGC, and it will be very tricky for publishers to monetise content apps.

The main problem mainstream publishers face is that each time technology creates a new opportunity, they only have short window to monetise that content before the barriers to entry are lowered. This then leads to an explosion of content (which is invariably free) that inevitably drives advertising revenue down.

Ultimately I think that Jeff Jarvis has got it bang on. Publishers are good at creating communities. They should look to focus on these. They should also look again at their business models, reduce costs and get used to the fact that, for now at least, profit margins are going to be a lot lower than they used to be.

The Jarvis article is here http://www.buzzmachine.com/2010/08/04/whither-magazines-2/#

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Why is Plymouth’s Tinside Lido not more popular?

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It is quite possibly the most perfect Art Deco Lido in the country. It is an architectural jewel in a city that was largely destroyed during the war. It affords the swimmer amazing views of the sea and five years ago it had a multi million pound overhaul, yet it appears that Plymouth’s Tinside Lido still isn’t pulling in the punters.

According to a report in http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/news/Tinside-Pool-rack-ruin/article-2507170-d… the pool has only had 10,000 visitors this year, 20,000 short of break even point.

So why is it that Tinside is not rammed each day throughout the summer? Well locals on the website have some interesting views.

It is clear that the poor weather this summer has kept causal bathers away, but others blame limited opening hours (it shuts in the evening), high admission costs and an early season closing – it shuts on September 5th.

It seems even more bizarre when London lidos are reporting excellent figures this year.

It sounds to me that the local council need to be a little bit more imaginative in their marketing. People still have a fear of what they perceive to be cold water, the council needs to counter that mis-conception while pushing the numerous health benefits of swimming outdoors.

I’d be interested to hear from any locals why they don’t use the pool.

Btw if you love Lidos join outr Facebook group here.http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=104294749627897&ref=ts

The rebirth of Uxbridge Lido

… which has now been re-christened Hillingdon Leisure Centre.

This is one of the capital’s most stunning Art Deco Lidos which is
famed for its unique cross-shaped pool. It closed over a decade ago
and was in a right state when I vistited it (sneaked through the
fence) in 2003 (see pic)

It reopened in Spring with the original lido supplemented by a well
equipped leisure centre and an indoor pool and it seems that the
council have done a pretty sound job.

The main outdoor pool itself is not heated so I suspect will only be
open for the summer, which is a shame. I wonder how much more it would
cost to install a solar heater as they have at London Fields Lido.
This would mean the pool could be opened all year round. Nevertheless
I loved my swim at Uxbridge. The council have done a pretty good job
of restoring the lido and kept most of its Art Deco trimmings, though
they have lost the trademark blue stripe on the main buildings.

The only other minor moan I have is that the outdoor showers are cold.
Surely after 20 lengths at 17 degrees C you are entitled to a hot
shower.

More pics here http://ashleynorris.posterous.com/the-rebirth-of-uxbridge-lido

Why I think Pulse, and not Flipboard, is the best iPad app so far

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I have just written a story for Shiny Shiny http://www.shinyshiny.tv/2010/08/flipboard_-_has.html asking if iPad owners are still Flipboard. Although I think Flipboard has some very striking visual features for me it just isn’t useful enough.

I am not saying that it isn’t impressive and I do think it could have an interesting future as a platform for bloggers and indie publishers, http://ashleynorris.posterous.com/could-flipboard-become-a-wordpress-for-the-ip but quite frankly it just isn’t useful enough.

Given the choice I would always use a proper Twitter client like Tweet or Tweetdeck to find out what my friends are saying, because as well as reading links (and maybe commenting on them too) I can interact with them and reply, retweet and DM. For me Flipboard is just too much of a sit back experience. Twitter and Facebook are all about getting involved, not just reading.

I also cringe a little when I see people’s tweets sitting in isolation in the magazine format. Flipping past images and stories then seeing someone tweeting about transport-related issues or what they are cooking for tea, seems very odd.

I am however getting addicted to Pulse. It is a paid for RSS reader that delivers stories in a very visual way (it basically grabs a thumbnail and the headline) which is perfectly suited to the iPad. The team behind Pulse also added a very cool feature last week that enables the user to create their own link blog using Posterous. Basically each time you like a story it appears on your blog as well as on a dedicated channel on Pulse.

It is such a shame that Flipboard grabbed so much of the spotlight. It might be superficially very impressive and I bet some killer uses for the app are not far away, but for now Pulse is so much more useful.

Venice’s iconic Lido hotel to close

Boo. One of my favourite places in the whole world is the Lido in
Venice – basically a strip of an island that is about a mile by boat
from the rest of the city. You get a quiet island, a lovely beach and
a brilliant boat trip each time you pop off to Vencie proper. I stayed
here on my honeymoon and had four glorious days spoilt only by the
site of Alan Yentob in his budgie smugglers (he gets to stay in all
the cool places!). We stayed in the Hotel Des Bains, a stunning turn
of the century hotel immortalised by the Dirk Bogarde film Death in
Venice. And I absolutely fell in love with the place.

Anyway according to The Guardian, Des Bains is closing its doors and
becoming luxury apartments. Here’s what they say…

‘The news will upset cinephiles and art lovers the world over, and for
ever change the face of the Venice film festival, which is held
nearby.

Andrea Martini, film critic and professor of cinema theory at Siena
University, who stayed at the hotel for 22 years in a row while
covering the festival, is devastated by the news. “I always got room
422, one of the old rooms, still with parquet and art nouveau
furniture, with a little terrace overlooking the sea. The bedsheets
were in white linen; it was so worn out, you could see through it.”

He is angry at the city for not doing more to preserve it. “I’m in
mourning,” he said. “It may look frivolous at first, but it is
actually a very serious matter. Somebody at the Venice town hall is at
fault for not preserving what is an international and historical
treasure.”

Always wanted to go back there… Very sad.

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Lido users Facebook group

I have started a Facebook group for all UK Lido users, basically because I couldn’t find one. It is a place to share updates on lidos, campaign for reopening of pools and generally witter on about the joys of outdoor swimming.

Please check it out http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=104294749627897&v=wall#!/group.php?gid=104294749627897&v=wall

To get you in the mood here’s a pic of the recently reopened Uxbridge Lido. Wonderful Art Deco buildings – rubbish grey sky

Zinio’s smart Rolling Stone iPad book – one day all music books will be like this

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At last, here’s an example of a publisher offering an iPad book, but actually giving the reader a little bit more than just the ability to flip pages on their shiny Apple gadget.

Zinio, whose software had powered quite a few iPad magazines so far (the nearest thing to them in the UK is the excellent Ceros http://www.ceros.com) has delivered the Rolling Stones 500 greatest songs of all time complete with audio samples. So for each tune you get a 30 second clip and the option of buying the whole song via iTunes.

It is undoubtedly clever, but there already bloggers who think it is a missed opportunity. In the Cult of Mac http://www.cultofmac.com/review-apple-rolling-stone-and-the-unsatisfying-stat… Lonnie Lazar argues quite rightly IMO

‘The missed opportunity here lies in the 30 second samples embedded in the magazine. Couldn’t Apple have used the technology it purchased with the once-promising LaLa to offer whole cuts of each song that could be played all the way through once — for free — as LaLa offered its customers and as other music services such as iLike and Rhapsody offer now?

Is Apple further away from being able to stream iTunes than we think, or was this merely a short-sighted caving to the lure of easy money and the idea that people would just buy the music if the 30 second sample has an iTunes link?’

He also points out that buying the tunes takes the reader away from the app – which is a bit unusual and disruptive.

Nevertheless kudos to Zinio for doing something original. I love the idea of say, Barry Miles book, London Calling, complete with streamed audio of the music he mentions, or the poets he quotes.

I wonder too if the Apple deal (or even better an Amazon one) could work with any publisher. Are there legal/copyright reasons why books can’t give away those 30 second audio snippets? I guess not.

Anyway to get the book (which also works with the iPhone and the touch) go here http://gb.zinio.com/browse/publications/index.jsp?productId=500577177 It’ll cost you £6.36, but you’ll need to download the Zinio app first