Category Archives: Magazines
Several magazines have folded because of not being able to withstand the pressure from advertisers. Is all the money online? Are web-only magazines the way forward?
Application developers, journalists and editors discuss how apps can help resuscitate online magazines and the challenges they face.
Asymco, a Helsinki-based industry analysis advisory firm, have predicted that the income generated from online application sales will overtake the income generated from digital music sales within three years.
The February 2011 ABC figures revealed that just four out of the top-12 magazines publishing houses have registered a profit on year-on-year sales.
Alex Watson, Head of App Development at Dennis Publishing (one of the four companies to register a profit), admits that it’s a very exciting time for applications. ‘Their importance has taken people by surprise. You’re at a point where it has become a multi-billion dollar industry within three years so there’s a significant consumer interest in them.’
Apps vs websites
But Jack Parsons, editor of Listed Magazine Bournemouth, doesn’t feel that apps do much more than a website. ‘I feel apps are just an extension of the internet. It’s just an extension of what the net did already. They’re exciting and fun but it doesn’t have the content more than the net, it just means it’s in your back-pocket.’
So how can apps differentiate themselves from content on the website? Watson describes a successful example Dennis Publishing have used:
Media lecturer, former editor and journalist, Chris Wheal, says, ‘If you want to read several publications and have to have all those apps, then its just quicker going online. You can sit with your computer open and get an RSS feed from each and do it much quicker. Apps aren’t there to be readers but to engage the audience.’
Former FT.com news editor, Liisa Rohumaa believes that apps are there to benefit websites. ‘The best apps will do things differently from the website. They are, after all, there to compliment a website and not replace it.’
Good app vs bad app
Depending on the level of intricacy and scale of designing and production involved, it can take anything from a few weeks to a few months (games) to produce an app. Watson says that since the app industry is relatively new (three years), there’s no standard way of doing things and it’s more a case of learning through research and development.
As an app developer, Watson says the challenge is not to get carried away with the amount you can do. ‘Users like to see you using animation, gps, accelerometer, etc. Multimedia, too, is extremely important but you don’t want to put flashy stuff in there just for being flashy. It has to help the user do what he needs to do. It’s difficult to strike a balance between usability, being attractive and pulling the user in.’
He says that apps are definitely not a fad as they are already so popular even though not everyone owns a smartphone. From the looks of things, Asymco totally agrees with him.
Editors and journalists talk about how the magazine industry can survive despite fall in sales and publications migrating online.
Every February the Audit Bureau of Circulation releases the circulation data for magazines and magazine publishers in the UK over the July to December period. A glance at the data for February 2011 consumer magazines shows that the year-on-year percentage of sales by publishing houses has been falling drastically.
Only four out of the 12 publishing houses have registered a year-on-year percentage increase in sales, the highest being 0.7% (BSkyB and Dennis Publishing)
The reality is that, like newspapers, magazines sales, too, have dipped massively in the last few years. Computer Weekly and Accountancy Age join the list of magazines that have migrated to online-only magazines in the recent past.
Chris Wheal was the former sub-editor of Computer Weekly. He says that people misunderstand what the product is in a magazine:
Migration happening, but slowly
According to Wheal, ‘The biggest effect the internet has had on this is that it helps the advertiser reach a larger audience for the same amount.’
Gareth Weekes was the former news editor of Accountancy Age and spoke about how it relied entirely on its revenue for client advertising. He points out that today you can walk into any big company and get a customer loyalty magazine for free. But he reckons that for some publications the allure of multimedia works better to entice viewers online as opposed to the physical copy.
Clare Hopping, editor of Know Your Mobile, an online website owned by Dennis Publishing, agrees with Weekes, saying, ‘With digital, you can do micro-sites and resource centers. It can be produced instantly, so you can get there a lot faster than you can with print.’
But she doesn’t believe that online titles have an advantage over their physical counterparts, mainly because people still get attracted to glossy magazines, especially on journeys where internet access is a problem.
‘People want something to hold. You can’t access websites on a train or when there’s bad signal. Five years ago everyone was talking about how print will die out and how websites will take over but we haven’t seen that at all or as much as everyone’s been saying we’re going to,’ says Hopping.
Online blogger, journalist and author, Paul Bradshaw, says, ‘Though the audience and advertising for magazines is going online, readership has not been affected drastically because magazines are a more luxurious, higher-end product.’
Finding a Niche
Wheal agrees that magazines still hold an advantage, which they need to use wisely. He says that magazines can still survive, provided they carve a niche for themselves in the market.
He uses the success of The Economist as an example to prove that magazines can survive both physically and digitally so as long as you ‘have a strong brand and a niche audience that have a good excuse to invest time and money in your product.’
Before he became a best-selling author, Andy McDermott, worked as an editor for DVD review. He reiterates the importance of standing out from a crowd: ‘Games and entertainment magazines will suffer because that’s exactly what you can find online. If you’re too general you stand the risk of losing out too quickly.’
Wheal’s solution is for magazines to clearly separate their online and print audience. He says that only the analyses, features and big discussions should be saved for the print magazine.
Though it clearly seems that magazines hold an advantage with their glossy formats and alluring headlines, they need to reinvent themselves and find a niche they can specialize in. Otherwise browsing speeds and 3G may eventually catch up with them.