Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Publisher Portal

The publishers who use our system get a number of marketing and promotional services as part of our deal. There are already a dozen different tools to which they have access from individualised private accounts. The services are broadly of three types:

(1) Statistics -- on usage, page by page and link by link for live links. Therefore on a very busy page with a lot of links, the publisher has a wealth of information about what is of interest to the readership. But this information is aggregated. There is no way to track individual readers usage. The privacy of readers is preserved.
(2) Administration -- so the publishers have access to all the subscriber details that we have (most important the email address) and in real time. The publisher is also able to manage her own distribution of digital subscriptions (eg for combined print/digital subscribers, or for voucher copies).
(3) Marketing and promotional -- a set of web services which publishers can use to help in promoting their digital edition from their own web pages. For example our system produces the relatively simple HTML which is needed for a magazine to have a button link on its own home page: code a bit like this

href=http://www.exacteditions.com/shop/5/358"imgborder="1"src="http://www.exacteditions.com/logos/5/358_button.png" />

I have scrambled the code a tad; if its not messed up, Blogger uses the code to put our handy advertisement widget onto this very page:

The advantage of web-service based software is that the system grows incrementally and painlessly. In three years time we will be supporting a much more sophisticated set of publishing and promotional services for our publishers. The publisher's portal today feels a bit like the cock-pit of a Tiger Moth. In 2008 it may feel more like the set of controls for the Space Shuttle. I hope that isnt a dangerous comparison.

Friday, October 27, 2006

When Saturday Comes

Inside story on Abramovich and Mourinho

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Google, Yahoo Show Publishers Some Love

Advertising Age carries a report on this week's American Magazine Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. This encounter suggests mutual interest, but with it a degree of reciprocated suspicion and bemusement. Google and Yahoo are not going to gobble up the magazine industry, of course not, but until the magazine industry can fully embrace the web it will continue to lose attention and market share to the likes of Google and Yahoo. Getting those rich archives onto the web is a part of the answer. Not the complete solution, but a crucial step.

Press Gazette part 2 -- a creative solution

The editor of the UK's trade journal for magazine and newspaper publishing makes a creative proposal.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Prospect Magazine

Prospect Magazine was the publication with which we demo-ed a prototype of the Exact Editions system in the summer of 2005. We were given permission to use the June 05 issue. For this reason the magazine was allocated the number ONE in our system for ordering magazines and also in our ordering of publishers. It joins the Exact Editions shop on Friday with a succint and unique address '1/1':

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Press Gazette

Having recently come into the world of magazine publishing from previous experience of book publishing and software, I am often struck by the relaxed and 'no nonsense' views of most magazine publishers. One of the first magazines with which we have worked has recently announced that it may be for sale. This being the magazine industry the information is posted on the web page and pops up as an article in the current issue.

In some industries the fact that a publication or a portion of the business might be for sale is usually treated as a deep secret, to be spoken about only in hushed tones and under pain of threat from a weird NDA. But there is no need for secrecy, business is business, and if the Press Gazette acquires a new owner, he will inherit and benefit from a raft of digital subscribers who already get their weekly press-news fix with the help of Exact Editions.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Thelondonpaper five days rolling archive

Starting on Monday, we will be running a 5-day thick (thin?) archive of Thelondonpaper which can be accessed from Thelondonpaper web pages. When will everything be archived indefinitely?

Reading Styles

There is no question that our reading styles change when we read stuff through the web rather than on paper. In a similar way listening styles change when we listen to music through an iPod rather than a CD player, or in a live performance.

But what do these changes amount to, what do they signify? In the Exact Editions system there are really three styles of viewing a magazine page:

Full page: best for reading an article
Double page spread: good for pictures and ads
Sixteen page view: mode for skimming or flicking through an issue

The usage statistics from our system, and once a month we get very complete data which is shared (in aggregated form) with the publishers, suggests that about 1 in 10 pages is a 16-page view, 5 in 10 pages is 2-page view, and 4 out of 10 pages is a 1-page view. This may suggest that looking at magazines online is at least as important as reading the articles, and flicking through or skimming them is a minority pursuit. I shall remember this next time I see someone flicking through Grazia in the tube.

Mind you, searching them, with our excellent and quick search system, is even more of a minority pursuit -- about one page in every hundred viewed, triggers a search. Perhaps this search ratio will increase as users get more magazines in their account (multiple subscriptions or longer tailed archives).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Music is good for the Soul

Says Steve Jobs in an interview with Steven Levy for Newsweek.

The iPod is five years old next Monday. Steve Jobs makes an interesting remark about how and why Apple got it right: 'One of the biggest insights we have was that we decided not to try to manage your music library on the iPod, but to manage it in iTunes. Other companies tried to do everything on the device itself and made it so complicated that it was useless.'

That is surely right -- library functions must work from the network and belong to the centre. Its a mistake to build the library at the periphery. A good architectural principle, which must apply to magazines, periodicals and books just as much as music.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ecological impacts again

Some evidence from an authoritative source which bears on our recent posting. The Charkin Blog reports the conjectures of an expert on the ecological impact of a typical paperback textbook. David Reay the author of Climate Change Begins at Home estimates that the average textbook uses 3kg of carbon dioxide emissions, or 4.5 KWh of energy. He also focusses on the pointless waste involved in the practice of 'sale or return', which bedevils the book publishing almost as much as the consumer magazine industry. David Reay's comments are taken from an article he has published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement.

It would be interesting to know whether the average magazine has a larger or smaller ecological footprint than the average textbook -- one suspects that the energy costs in manufacture are comparable. I guess, but have no evidence for it, that the returns percentage is higher in consumer magazines than in mainstream book publishing. But from Reay's estimates it would seem that the weight of carbon dioxide emissions is greater than the weight of the product. That is true for the products we buy as well as for the bin-loads that are landfill. It is a sobering thought.

One assumes that the ecological impact from digital magazines/books is much less, but is this reduction a matter of orders of magnitude, or a kink in the upward curve? What should one measure -- the cost of maintaining a database and of accessing it once, once a week for a year, or once a day? What if people tend to use digital resources more than they would the physical equivalents? These comparisons are tricky.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

EBook readers

Roughly every four years the book publishing industry goes through a bout of wide-eyed enthusiasm for portable ebook readers. The periodicity tends to fall in with the World Cup cycle (not the Olympic cycle -- that is when book publishers espouse enthusiasm for printing on demand, or remote jukebox style devices that will print and bind any book for $15), so this year just after the Frankfurt book fair we have another bout of ebook enthusiasm.

Paid Content have blogged a summary of early reactions. The Sony Reader may or may not catch on for the world's great literature, but we can be sure that it will not, in its current form, catch on for magazines. The device is apparently very good at giving a crisp image in black and white, viewable from almost any angle, with sharp text ideal for reading in sunlight or in the bath. That is not enough for magazines. Magazines absolutely require colour. Colour, colour, colour and again colour. For that reason alone the magazine industry will not be disturbed by this wave of publisher enthusiasm for ebook readers. In 2010? Who knows, by then the clever technology may be supporting coloured balls.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Clickable Contents Pages

During the summer we improved our content management service so that web links and email addresses in magazine articles are now generally live and clickable. This was a big improvement in navigation from the magazine (clicking on a link or an email opens a new window and doesnt lose your place in the magazine). At the same time we introduced clickable Contents Pages. So all the magazines that we have imported to the system since August have click-through navigation within the magazine from the contents page. You need to click on the actual page number in the contents list, and you will notice that each live number has a ghost green box to show that it is live. This is the same conventional green outline that is used for emails, urls and international phone numbers. See how it works here:

Music Tech -- contents double-spread


The Baptist Times -- summary contents

As a complement and reminder of the Contents Page function we introduced a small icon which allows the user to access the contents page for each issue from any page in that issue. If you ever get lost in massive magazine, reach for this little icon:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Long Tails and magazines

Chris Anderson is the author of the most discussed business book of the moment. The book is short, it is stimulating and the author waves his theory energetically so that it smacks almost anything you care to think about: The Long Tail.

He is also the editor of Wired magazine and there is a very intriguing interview with him about the implications of his theory for the magazine industry here.

There is much of interest in the interview. This paragraph shows Anderson lassooing a key thought with his flexible tail:

The old model of media is all about freshness while yesterday’s news is fishwrap. The new model of media relevance is determined by the community. It matters less and less what’s on your front page. What matters is what’s struck a chord, and what strikes a chord sees people linking to stories. A study recently showed that half the traffic to Web sites is after 36 hours. The old model of newspapers was that 100 percent of their readership is within first 36 hours and zero after that. The extraordinary interest in things we previously discounted, like archives, is the real lesson of the search and blog traffic era.

That fact has radical implications for the industry. Archives are MUCH more valuable than anybody realises. Much more interesting too! More interesting when they are accessible and valuable when they are interesting.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Advertising and the web

When an industry (advertising in this case) goes through a radical technical change, the participants get confused about the way the new technology is going to work. Funnily enough, Google (more of a 'founding father' than a mere participant) made a significant false step when it launched a program for selling magazine print ads through its web-based advertising sales network. Business Week ran a good story on this with the wonderful headline: Can Google Go Glossy?

The general verdict, one year later, is that this is one of the few Google experiments that had no chance at all of working (I even heard a Googler admit that it WAS a mistake). But its an odd co-incidence that many magazine publishers have been making a similarly confused assumption in the other direction. There is a view abroad that somehow digital magazines might become a good forum for selling and delivering video ads: music clips or short video promotion movies. Many of the big consumer publishers have experimented with what are sometime called Rich Media Format ads -- bundled into the digital magazine download experience. As though magazines were going to morph into the business of the TV and Radio networks. The scenario is as intrinsically implausible as Google's dream that the AdSense network could become a vehicle for selling quarter pages of PC Magazine or Closer real estate. But that all these forms of advertising will become inextricably enmeshed -- about that there can be no doubt. Google has just bought YouTube to general astonishment. That has promising implications for the magazine based advertising sector. Clickable links to the YouTube ad within the Google network -- that will be a fruitful direction to explore.

Rich Media Format ads -- dead in the water. Clickable links in the magazine to anywhere and everywhere ...... that has to be the way to go.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


The Deputy Editor of The Baptist Times writes about religious newspapers and the internet in yesterday's MediaGuardian, mentioning their use of Exact Editions to deliver weekly issues.

Monday, October 09, 2006


K9 is the twentieth title to join our service. This monthly magazine appeals successfully and simultaneously to the British love of dogs and of puns.

If you need to know more about dogs with royal pedigree, the sample issue has a fascinating survey.

I now know something more about King Canute, that he had a concern for the rights of small animals, than the single fact (fable?) taught to every British schoolchild about him sitting on his throne in an effort to repell the tide.

20 magazines, but if you subscribe to all the publications you would have access to 328 issues.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ecological Impact

One of the most popular magazines in our service is The Ecologist.

There are several reasons for its popularity: the publishers have been active to promote the service both from their web pages and in print; the free trial issue includes a very popular article on breast feeding -- this brings lots of traffic: the price is attractive (20% off the list price); there is a large international audience, etc. But clearly an important factor running for this magazine is that the digital edition has a very light (small?) ecological footprint. For many of the core readership that must be an important factor leading to the decision to purchase the digital edition. Also the publishers and writers on the magazine are equally passionate and activist in regard to ecological issues, so they are right behind the concept of digital magazines and reduced environmental impact.

But this all raises the question -- how ecologically damaging is the magazine industry? It is certainly a matter that concerns industry heavyweights. For example the PPA has an Environment Committe which looks into these matters.

Targets are being set and there are certainly wasteful practices in the industry: eg the use of CD and other types of 'covermount', and the widespread use of sale or return. One publisher of a specialist magazine title told me that he expects to get up to 50% of his news stand distributed copies as 'returns'. Technology can help with this. Wasteful physical sampling will be reduced by the use of digital sampling and an increased drive to get subscriptions through web-based promotion. But there is a lot to be said for the print product. The paper edition has a permanent place, so we hope that environmental awareness defines 'best practice' and leaves space for the quality of print.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Felix Dennis

The Independent has a fascinating interview with Felix Dennis.

The magazine industry has its fair share of eccentrics and larger-than-life characters. Mr Dennis is one of the largest and liveliest. One would not want to bet against him (though he admits in the interview to some hilarious and disastrous mistakes). One of his claims caught our eye:

"This is going to be a huge thing for us, the most money we've ever spent on a website," he (Felix) says. "You just can't take The Week as it is and put it on the web. I am looking to create an environment that the people who love The Week will go to at least two or three times a week. If Dennis Publishing fails at this then we are all going to have to go and shoot ourselves, because these are our best boys and girls working on the best product and this should be a knockout."

The Week is a great magazine and a very successful magazine. If you really could put it on the web exactly as it is it would be a great magazine on the web. Chances are it would be a very successful magazine on the web. Very slowly but surely magazine (and newspaper) publishers are finding that putting the issue onto the web is a good idea. Two three or four years ago it WAS a bad idea and it could not really be done. If Felix Dennis's brilliant team can do something else which complements The Week on the web all credit to them. If they are building a service which complements the print publication it would be a good idea to have the print issues up there with their creative output. The fact is, putting The Week on the web as a fully searchable, easily readable, citeable and clickable publication can be done as easily as falling off a log. Dennis doesnt need a brilliant team to do that.

Memo to self -- make an appointment with Mr Dennis.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Thelondonpaper has now gone live through our platform to provide online access to the current issue of London's latest daily paper.

We look forward to finding out more about the usefulness of providing access to a free newspaper; now available on the web as well as in the tube and handed out on the street.

The newspaper can be browsed, read and searched if you click on the link here

Each day the new issue will be posted as the print copies come on to the streets. Here is the thumbnail of the October 2 front cover in case you missed it.


Our latest title is Shattered -- which carries the subtitle 'breaking the glass ceiling'. It joined our 'shop' today. The magazine is the brain child of a transatlantic team based in New York and London and is recently launched. They are now on their second issue. So this our latest but also our newest title (The Spectator -- founded nearly 300 years ago -- is our oldest).

The launch and trial issue available in our shop has a fascinating article on ambitious plans for one of London's best galleries, The Whitechapel.

The Whitechapel Art Gallery If you dont already know it, you should plan a visit on your next trip to London. The development plan discussed in the article will expand the art gallery by taking over the former library next door. The Whitechapel team will be working with Rachel Whiteread as an advisor to their plans -- and knowing the work of Rachel Whiteread one wonders what this might lead to? An embalmed model of the old library in the new art gallery perhaps? It might look like this.