Monday, June 29, 2009

Twittering Friends and eMail Friends

One of the really great things about Twitter is the way that it enables you to build up real, but virtual, and in some cases one-sided, friendships with people in other countries that you would otherwise never have met. I now have about 30 such Twitter friends (as well as 100+ Twitter acquaintances) whose postings I usually look out for. Here are a few of them, in an East to West order: Virginie Clayssen, I like that her tweets are mostly in French, Ian Davis, whose technical tweets are worth attention, Eoin Purcell, whose taste in sandwiches is probably reliable,, Jose Antonio Furtado, with an unrivalled stream of topical epublishing tweets, @Personanondata, who should probably be forgiven for being a Man U supporter, Fred Wilson, a NYC VC with lots of ideas, @MikeCane whose tweet stream is sometimes too fast and fran/phrenetic for me, Don Linn who has a dry sense of humour and a touch of Damon Runyon in his tweets, KatMeyer who has a Pacific Coast style of tweeting, as does DannySullivan (roller blades) and Kirk Biglione (shades and cocktails), who in typical Californian style, between them know so much more about search engines and DRM than I could ever get to grips with.

Thanks then to my Twittering friends and twitting aquaintances (are there really 124 of them?). I learn a lot from them every day. This is all by way of also thanking an email friend (Alain P) who sent me a link today to a blog post by Bill Hill, all about advertising in newspapers and magazines. I like this line in the blog:

Web technology today doesn't yet support ads you really want to view.

Bill Hill thinks that getting this right -- making ads really glossy and seductively attractive is one of the next big tricks for advertising on the web. I wonder if he thinks that this free and open service from Dazed & Confused is yet doing that? The Exact Editions platform is pretty close to delivering high quality photo-shoot ads such as are found in Dazed & Confused in such a way that you really want to look at the ads. These rich visual ads are of course even more seductive to subscribers who get the full size page. Put this rich visual delivery onto the iPhone and the fact that all the phone numbers in the directory are clickable, is a step which delivers exceptional value to customers and advertisers alike. I dont think magazine and newspaper publishers have yet taken stock of the fact that iPhone digital editions will greatly leverage the value of direct response from the ads themselves. See this direct customer response from printed phone numbers in the Exactly App video. The screen of an iPhone is already crisp and bright enough to deliver a really good view of a glossy ad, the trick which the advertising and publishing industries now need to solve, is how to make those phone numbers as valuable to the advertisers as they are convenient to readers. This is not a big step.

Dazed & Confused in page-flow mode in the Exactly App

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Idler

The Idler joins Exact Editions. This is not the original Idler in which many of Samuel Johnsons Essays were first published but (to quote Wikipedia) " a bi-yearly British magazine exploring alternative ways of working and living, still published today." Reckon that 'still' is a bit cheeky. What does Wikipedia mean? The Idler has just joined Exact Editions. Wake up wikieditors!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Exactly: A Magazine App for the iPhone

Exactly is a free App for the iPhone which can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store here.

If you have an iPhone and are in the magazine business you should download it and check it out with the hundreds of free sample magazine issues that are open to any user of the Exact Editions store.

If you dont have an iPhone this short (c. 5 minute) video will give you a good overview of the power of digital magazines on this platform.

There are three major advances which magazine publishers should focus on:

  1. First, PageFlow (similar to CoverFlow for CD collections) allows users a rapid and compelling way to browse the whole magazine and feel its richness and visual quality. You need to see this segment of the video for this alone.
  2. Second, all the phone numbers, email addresses, web links, and Post Codes (Zip Codes) will be live and clickable and this gives the user/reader many more ways in which to respond to and interact with the magazine and its advertisers. This is a digital magazine which is much more responsive and dynamic than any 'page turning' or 'brochure-ware' version that one may have seen a few years ago. (Small qualification: a few of these links may not work. This will almost certainly be because the page, or the area of the page, on which the 'dumb' phone number appears, was vectorised before the PDF was printed. In this case information is wiped from the file before the Exact Editions database has access to the information).
  3. Finally, this highly interactive digital extension to the magazine really just IS the magazine in a digital format. Because the Exact Editions process is largely automated, it is -- in principle -- rather straightforward and efficient to create a digital version of any magazine. In fact we will do a sample issue that can be trialled through the Exactly App for free (offer open to all mainstream magazines). It also follows that the existing audience will recognise and respond to the magazine in its digital form pretty much as they do in print. There is not a big learning curve for users (there is a small learning step as they figure out how to use the touch screen and the orientation of the device -- but this is the kind of 'playing' that iPhone users like to do with Apps).
This last point is particularly important to magazines because of the crucial importance of branding in the magazine world. Magazine publishers often talk about their digital activities as 'brand extension', but the prospect of being able to simply park your magazine (with all its back issues) on the iPhone platform is really as much a matter of brand consolidation as of brand extension. Publishers have to do this to defend and to extend their presence in the consumer's mind-share.

The key importance of branding and the need for magazines to develop the value of their brands (usually corresponding to the magazine's title: Vogue, The New Yorker, Wired etc are all bigger brands than their owner Conde Nast). Enabling a publisher to put their own branded magazine App directly in the iPhones App store, and for sale in the Apple e-commerce environment will be our next step. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is Google Making the Celera Mistake?

Celera was the company founded by Craig Venter, and funded by Perkin Elmer, which played a large part in sequencing the human genome and was hoping to make a massively profitable business out of selling subscriptions to genome databases. The business plan unravelled within a year or two of the publication of the first human genome. With hindsight, the opponents of Celera were right. Science is making and will make much greater progress with open data sets.

Here are some reaons for thinking that Google will be making the same sort of mistake as Celera if it pursues the business model outlined in its pending settlement with the AAP and the Author's Guild:

  1. The task and the cost of curating the data cannot be separated from the responsibility and the expertise of those who generate it. Celera's hope for massive private value in its private databases was undermined by the preference for publicly funded research to go its own sweet way into the public arena. Does Google really want to manage and control, assume the responsibility for all those who write books and how they can be distributed? Does Google and the Books Right Registry really think that Authors want their activities to be regulated in this fashion?
  2. Genomic databases are extraordinarily valuable, it does not follow that you can sell them as big ticket items. Is there a massive market out there for closed subscription databases to millions of books sold to institutions? Celera did make some sales of its promised proprietary databases, but it was never believable that there was available funding to support a market for billions of dollars per annum on genomic databases. Those chimerical numbers were needed to support the astronomical market cap Celera briefly touched. Google may not have such sky expectations of its digital library subscription revenues, but I wonder how well the expectations that it does have, match with the funding currently available to the public library system and educational institutions?
  3. PE was very good at building automated sequencing systems and selling them to researchers. Very, very good. It turned out to be not nearly so good at building a business to manage, curate and exploit genome databases that would be licensed to scientists and researchers. Such different activities do not mix, and your customers are likely to suspect a conflict of interest, and this is one reason why Celera was spun-out from Perkin Elmer. Google is very good, six times "very good" at managing search-sensitive advertising and large scale intentional databases drawn from web use. Are Google's customers going to be happy working with a system in which their reading attention, and referential record is always being calibrated and used to influence their buying pattern and subscription budget?
  4. Hubris. Almost certainly in the case of Perkin Elmer, but they did have the sense to pull back. With Google it is hard to say..... hubris and ambition are sometimes confused, or mistaken, the one for the other.
There are plenty of differences between these two situations. Nor am I suggesting that all literary copyrights should be put into the public domain (nor indeed should all genomic data be treated as public). Differences and contrasts abound, but Eric Schmidt should put Sulston and Ferry's book The Common Thread on his summer reading list.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Magazines on the iPhone with Exactly app

Good to see magazine publishers alerting their subscribers to the use of their publications on the iPhone and iTouch.  In this week's Athletics Weekly the column below appeared. Nice!

Publishers working with Exact Editions can now offer their subscribers their content on-the-move, anytime, anywhere. Very cool! And with the new 3GS iPhone announced yesterday download speeds are going to be even quicker.

If you have access to iTunes you can download the Exactly app for free.