The future of iPad/digital magazines – the six big questions


Here’s a story I wrote for Wall Blog on the future of iPad magazines. For some inexplicable reason it took me ages to write. Odd


Sky cools on UK’s most read magazines. But what does their closure mean for publishing?


Huge news this morning from Sky which has anounced that it is to massively cut its magazine output. The hero brand for customer publishing for many years now is to close Sky Sports Magazine and Sky Movies Magazine, which are each published every two months and have a combined circulation of nearly eight million copies, and reduce the distribution of its flagship Sky Magazine, which has an average circulation of 7.3 million copies, and its frequency from 12 issues per year to four.

The magazines will be replaced by email and reflects the company’s shift from print based promotion throught to digtial products. There is also some speculation that rising paper prices and the increased cost of postage might have forced the company’s hands.

Sky Magazine has been a poster publication for the customer publishing industry for many years now. It was produced by John Brown Publishing but is now put together in house. The Sky Movies mag is however produced externally by Future Publishing.

So where does this leave the customer publishing industry? Well while losing a flagship title is clearly a blow, the industry as a whole has never been stronger. February saw a host of new wins for agencies including some imaginative social media driven projects… You can read more about new projects here It seems that print projects are not dying, but are being used in a more strategic way. In some respects customer publishing agencies will probably be the last companies producing print magazines. They may have to deal with rising print and mail costs but a business model in which many of those costs are met by the brand is obviously a lot more robust than one in which the cost of magazine is met by advertising (on a downward spiral) and consumer purchasers (also struggling in many areas according to the latest ABCs).

So I don’t think that Sky’s decision will have a huge impact on the industry as a whole. The leading supermarket magazines are still posting very healthy figures and many brands still see print as the premium way of engaging with consumers. Sky’s magazines were always more vulnerable given their huge circulation and the fact they offered TV listings which are available in many other places.

There is also the emergence of digital opportunities for customer publishing agencies namely video content, iPad magazines, blogs as well as websites. It is these opportunities which are keeping my agency Sutro very busy indeed.

Better news for publishers – Google One Pass – but good luck charging for digital mags

As a publisher who has dabbled in digital magazines – go check out issue 1 of Pies mag it really is great – – I am cheered by Google’s One Pass system that was announced today.

In some respects I think that it will be very hard for publishers to charge for digital content no matter what format it is in. For me that horse bolted long ago and the future is all about other ways of funding content. However for the publishing industry there has to be a way of at least being able to charge sensibly for magazine content on tablet PCs and One Pass gives them that opportunity.

In many ways the system is a complete riposte to the system unveiled by Apple yesterday – check out Rob’s comparison piece here –… and good for Google in opting for this route.

Magcloud becomes even more useful to indie publishers


Over the past few months I have been using Magcloud, the magazine self-publishing web service from HP, for both commercial and personal projects. We used it to print the first issue of the Who Ate All the Pies magazine (get yours here, and I have also used its turn a Flickr stream into a photo mag for family and friends.

For me Magcloud is a really great option for indie publishers. Overall the Pies experience with the service was good. We created the PDFs and uploaded them and within minutes we had orders for our print magazine and people downloading the iPad version.

I do think printed and tablet magazines offer a good opportunity to small publishers to take their brand away from being web only. It enables them to offer longer stories, create richer designs and generally engage in a different way with their fans. Magcloud is by no means the only option for producing magazines, especially tablet ones, but it has worked well so far.

So I am heartened to hear that the service has been upgraded to. One of its weaknesses was that it could only offer print and iPad versions. Now there are lot of people who won’t pay for a print product and who don’t have an iPad. So now that the company is offering the magazines in a digital, PDF version compatible with just about every electronic device I think it could make Magcloud even more useful.

Magcloud publishers will also have the choice of distributing their digital issues free-of-charge or at a cost. If opting for paid for digital issues, each publisher can set the selling price to whatever he sees fit as long as it is above the minimum requirement of $1.70% of all digital sales will go to the publisher. Alternatively publishers can opt for a print and digital bundle, which offers a paid print order and free digital issue.

As I mentioned earlier there are some interesting alternatives to Magcloud that I am currently exploring, but so far, for the quality of the print job, the ease of use and the fantastic option of print on demand I can heartily reccomend it.

The Guardian predicts a difficult future for paid for magazines


Media Guardian yesterday turned the spotlight on to paid for magazines with a pair of features that underline how difficult magazine publishing in the UK has become.

Firstly John Plunkett looked at some of the more general issues facing the industry – lack of new launches, closure of many titles, difficulty in monetising iPad and digital editions – while Peter Kirwan put Haymarket’s business under the microscope.

If anything it is the latter feature that puts the the industry’s problems into sharp relief. Haymarket, once a bastion of sucessful consumer titles with a thriving B2B sector, is now heavily in debt with (and this is astonishing) Thenhurst Agricultural Ltd, the Haymarket Group subsidiary that owns Lord Heseltine’s 18th century mansion and 55-acre estate in Thenford, Northamptonshire, offered as security to RBS to make them feel a little more comfortable about the £126 million the company owes.

Banks tend to see debt in a very different way now than they did a few years back and with an operating profit of just £15 million that debt is sure to feel like a lead weight around Chair Rupert Heseltine’s shoulders. The shock news about the economy probably won’t help either.

Ultimately Haymarket, and to be fair a lot of its rivals, invested massively between 1995-2008 in expanding into other countries. Now the with the Internet delievering online global media brands (ie largely US based ones) and with core media brands in decline that move doesn’t look quite so savvy.

Haymarket also faces the problem of monetising B2B brands which will be further exacerbated this year by the retraction in the public sector – one-third of Haymarket’s B2B revenues come from this source.

Not all is doom and gloom. According to The Guardian ‘Publishers are nothing if not optimistic. Advertising revenue in the consumer magazine sector was up 5% in 2010 and is forecast to rise another 2% this year.’

I do think though 2011 will see a major shake up in magazine publishing. There will be acquisitions, consolidation and closures. Most of all publishers will look to protect their key brands by investing heavily in digital accompaniments such as apps, iPad mags and websites. It is going to be an interesting ride.