Friday, 16 August 2013

OUGD601 // Dissertation // How digital magazines are better than printed

Digital magazines are better in at least seven ways:
Timely – When the issue is released, it can be viewed and downloaded instantaneously. For news-based magazines especially, this is crucial. It’s even important for those who look forward to reading the latest celebrity gossip as it hits the newsstands.
Portable – When given the choice to bring seven magazines on a 12-hour flight, or an iPad mini, which takes up the least amount of space?
Collectible – Just like tablet users collect apps, they can collect magazines. Magazine apps are increasingly allowing subscribers to clip and save certain articles of the magazine too, which makes it even easier to replace print. And again, apps take up a lot less space than print magazines.
Searchable – Usability of print magazines has never been optimal, sometimes it’s hard even find the index amongst a plethora of ads. Searchable (and tap-able) magazines reduce the barrier to engagement.
Shareable - App publishers are getting savvy about allowing subscribers to share content. In a social media driven world, customers want to share everything with everyone, a feature of print that simply doesn’t exist naturally.
Video enhanced – Thirty years ago, science fiction films predicted that we’d be watching video news clips in our print magazines. That was just silly. Digital magazines with video tutorials, interviews, and even video advertisements make much more sense!
Audio enhanced – Along the same lines, subscribers enjoy listening to sound clips, interviews and advertorials, something not even possible in the print medium.

The fall of printed magazines; digital is on a rise.
Challenging times lie ahead for magazines. The Audit Bureau of Circulations figures published last month made grim reading. Sales of celebrity titles, such as Heat, Hello! and Closer have plummeted, squeezed out by celebrity websites and the Daily Mail's sidebar of shame. Weekly women's consumer titles and Nuts's miserable year-on-year sales figures (-29.7%) merely confirmed the downward spiral. Even NME stalwarts seem to be abandoning their weekly fix (down 16.6%).
But these figures are only a partial reflection of what is really going on. The industry trade body, the Professional Publishers Association, released its first combined digital and print circulation chart alongside the traditional ABC figures and its CEO Barry McIlheney says that for many titles, such as Conde Nast's GQ and Future's technology magazine, T3, a combined figures is a truer reflection of how the industry is faring.
Indeed, some sectors are doing quite nicely and all magazines are built around the twin pillars that have always eluded newspapers – passion and community. The most successful ones are returning to their roots.
Jack Roberts, the founding editor of Bad Idea magazine and founder of Future Human (, a multimedia editorial team focusing on innovation and new ideas, reminded me the other day that the word "magazine" comes from the 16th century Arabic term makzin or makzan, which means storehouse – hence its use in military parlance.
But its etymology is relevant to the magazine industry today. While publishers fixate on modes of distribution (print, online) and fashions in editorial (real life, women and men's lifestyle etc), they might be better off finding new ways to enrich the lives of their readers.
Rethinking the magazine as a unified "storehouse" of value is a nice starting point for brainstorming new ways for magazines to create pleasure and value for their audiences across different media. In the hands of a strong magazine editor, myriad platforms just offer more ways of packing that storehouse with endless goodies.
Some big titles have done just this. Top Gear (down 16.7% in the ABCs) is a brand, its editor a brand manager, its journalists, passionate providers of content across platforms. The print product is to linger over, but the iPad edition and the app, with its galleries and high-definition videos, its exclusive offers and interactivity, is where the magazine's strength now lies.
The fully interactive iPad version, not captured in the ABC figures, is the number one motoring app in the US and UK. Editor Charlie Turner told me readers were migrating to the tablet edition, where they could get an instant fix. "Cars come to life, they can start them up and see beautiful images close up.
"The speed of delivery is vital, but so too is the tone of the magazine, which is very profitable – there are editions in 32 countries. We have to generate content for the right platform and the skillset of our magazine creatives becomes more and more valuable. They have to be great writers in print, tablet and online, which gives them much more freedom. For creatives who are passionate about their subject, it opens doors to many more readers. The potential is huge and very exciting."
The same goes for strong B2B magazines, such as UBM's award-laden Property Week. Its recently-departed editor, Giles Barrie, rarely stopped in his quest to satisfy his readers and it has been transformed from a run-of-the-mill B2B to a multi-platform brand delivering high-quality journalism, analysis and data. Customer publishers are now global content providers for commercial brands – the platform suiting the client. Redwood produces digital content for Barclays but for Mazda, it prints Zoom Zoom, its biggest international magazine with 1.5 million copies distributed in 30 countries.
Cracking design delivered in ink on paper is at the emotional core of Church of London's film magazine Little White Lies. This is true for many other independent magazines, such as the women's lifestyle magazine,Oh Comely, and the fabric magazine Selvedge. But behind such magazines is often a creative or content agency.
The Church of London produces Google's print magazine Think Quarterly alongside content for Honda, Stella Artois, the British Film Institute and Sony PlayStation.
Its co-founders have just launched a new creative agency, Human After All. Its CEO Danny Miller says the team have been "inspired by the arrival of amazing new tools that help people connect with their passions and with each other in ways we could never have imagined".
Digital-only magazines such as Sabotage Times, created by Loaded founder James Brown, allow journalists to indulge their passions and wrestle free from the boardroom. Hard cash comes from providing content for commercial organisations.
If passion, fuelled by knowledge, is the heart of a great magazine, readers will gravitate towards brands that continually strive to deliver. Content really is king, which explains why Shortlist Media's free woman's print magazine stylist can attract traditional advertising.
It doesn't have to compete on the newsstands, so its covers are beautiful and original, its content weighty and witty, aimed at female commuters sated with pap shots and diets and hungry for an intelligent read. It has just launched in Paris.
Another winner is Conde Nast's Easy Living. With a circulation of just over 150,000, its circulation is up 7.5% year on year. Its editor, Deborah Joseph, has added fashion pages, more hard-hitting confessional features and launched a new website, inspired by the visual template of Pinterest – with block sections on culture, fashion, cookery and so on. Brand extensions are on their way.
Magazines have long understood the power of events to enhance their brand. GQ has Man of the Year, Country Living the Country Living Fair and Property Week its conferences, networking events and webinars.
Successful magazines have gone back to their roots, using anything and everything to enhance their readers' lives. Strong brands now resemble the 16th century makzin more than ever before.

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