E-readers and Emerging Media.

Rob Haggart of at aphotoeditor.com has posted a listing of his predictions for what is in store for the photography and magazine industries in 2010, his list is based on a piece in Folio Magazine and Rob has included many of the original quotes. A few of the excerpts are quite interesting and serve to illustrate what changes may be in store for those who work in editorial and commercial photography. But there were two in particular from the original piece that got me thinking about how the new forms of media being developed may create radical changes in the magazine and editorial markets.

One hopeful breakthrough: the four color e-reader. It will be really helpful. Some of the big publications will probably get a few hundred thousand digital e-reader subscribers paying anywhere from $10 to $50. This will bring in anywhere from $3 million to $15 million in subscriber revenue. Unfortunately, some of those same magazines have seen their ad revs drop by $100 million. Get the picture.

–Keith Kelly, “Media Ink” columnist, New York Post

From the aesthetics and usability side of things I think that the new four color digital E-readers bound to be on their way in the coming months and years, like the Mag+ tablet, may open up a whole new realm of media for publishers and photographers to work within. Not just as an alternative to the traditional print magazine, but as we move towards a market of specialization it will provide an avenue for small niche and boutique publishers to create rich content that is easier to deliver and manage than the solutions currently available to them. There will naturally be some arguments and stumbling first steps in setting up an effective subscription and content delivery systems for these new media readers, but ultimately they may give rise to a whole new class of aesthetically minded and ultra specialized publications that will finally be able to monetize their content.

Even outside of the realm of the E-readers some  digital publications are starting to get notice. Available on the iPhone for example, is DRAMA magazine, a fashion and style publication that takes the form of a paid application in the iPhone App store. By tapping into the distribution channels made available by Apple and hopefully by the E-readers in the future, publishers will be able to focus on content while still having the opportunity to reach a dense audience provided they market their product correctly. Issues that this form of media will likely encounter include the slow adoption by advertisers of the new format;  the limited customer base for their product until these E-readers become more common; and the problem of a standardized format among competing readers while the technology is in its infancy. The question of a sales model also arises, will a prepaid subscription plan be the dominant model? or will the more open marketplace structure utilized in Apple’s App Store be more appropriate, allowing for easier impulse buys, content browsing, and the inclusion of more casual readers who may be resistant to subscription services. While the format will remain in its infancy for a period I do see it blossoming as it reachers maturity and as the consumer base for reader devices grows. It will be interesting to see where the manufacturers decide to go in terms of pricing the devices, whether a steep up front fee will be involved, or whether they will subsidize sales of the hardware to create a wider market for content driven revenue.

Only one or two magazines for most major vertical markets will survive.

There will be many changes at the top of editorial mastheads with more e-community management skills supplementing traditional journalistic skills for the winners.

Print will become richer, better paper will be used, graphics will improve, quality of content will improve and distribution/circulation numbers will drop.

–Don Pazour, CEO, Access Intelligence

I think this is partially true, while there may indeed be only one or two “big guns” left in any of the above mentioned markets, and they will indeed set the standard in terms of quality, content, and management, I do think that a major factor has been ignored in the above statement. There will be an emerging second class of specialized publications that up until this point have usually been distributed free or with limited success through services like Issuu or through print on demand services.  New distribution channels and media, such as the E-readers mentioned above, creates opportunities for these small publications to monetize and manage their distribution like never before, allowing growth in their market. While these individual titles will hardly cause concern for larger publishers, the sheer variety of titles available will ensure an initially small but growing and stable market of their own. A quality gap will naturally be created between these two realms of publishing though, the smaller digitally based publishers will put out good content as their base readership and advertising allows. And democratic/social feedback will help to drive readership depending on which model these publications are ultimately distributed under. Conversely, the larger magazines will begin to create truly epic publications in terms of production. As Pazour predicts above, there will be an improvement across the board in terms of content, packaging, and production, but these magazines will experience lower and more focused circulation rates. Those magazines that survive will become much more exclusive providers of high-end content in their niches. It will be interesting to see how publishers and advertisers react to this in terms of how advertising rates are affected by these new models in the coming years.

E-readers and Emerging Media.

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