Great article in Fortune: “The Future of Reading”

Fortune
Magazine has done an insightful and well researched article on how we may be
reading in the future. The big question: How will it affect what we read, and
how we buy it . . .

Not to mention, at what price?

I agree with what they say about our loss of journalistic integrity. I see it in the cutbacks in my favorite news media, and in the professorial cutbacks and class furloughs in journalism schools all over the country.

However, having spent a part of my career in advertising, I find it hard to believe that the ads we see alongside the online articles we read are not effective. According to the article below, traditional print ad spending is dropping. But that's due to drops in readership. Some of these same media outlets also have online entities.

I just don't buy the fact that you have to click onto an ad to see it, read it, admire it, and otherwise take in its message. For centuries other media, both print and broadcast ads — newspapers, magazines, radio, television — got us to react and to buy.

Granted, it would be wonderful if advertisers could have the kind of quantifiable data and analysis that the digital age promised. Frankly I think that's the icing on the cake. What they're discounting is that which may not be quantifiable, but qualifiable.

It's dumb to sell consumers (or for that matter, good ad campaigns) short. If the message is clear, and delivered in a manner that provokes a response — either direct or subliminal — then awareness will be created, perceptions will be enhanced, and products will be bought.

Hopefully, many many books will be among them.

—Josie




BestSLHW Josie's Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Bigger Books

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Boswell Books

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From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's

0:00 /4:31Extra! Extra! One newspaper prospers!

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Future_of_reading.top

The future of reading

http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/09/technology/tablet_ebooks_media.fortune/index.htm


By Josh Quittner / February 11, 2010:
11:05 AM ET

(Fortune
Magazine) — A few months ago the most amazing thing happened: Unbidden,
unpressured, and all by herself (armed only with my wife's credit card), my
12-year-old daughter subscribed to a magazine.


While
Clem has long harbored a fantasy of one day being the editor of the French
version of Vogue (inexplicably, she
is a life-long Francophile), it still surprised and thrilled me when Vogue started showing up in the mail.


Magazines,
books, newspapers — all that printed stuff is supposed to be dying.
Advertising pages, which have been steadily declining, dropped 26% in 2009
alone. But here, surely, was some evidence that publishing might have a chance.
If an adolescent who otherwise spends every waking hour on a laptop still
craves the printed word, then maybe, just maybe, there's a little new growth
left in old media.


This
tender, green, old-media sprout began to bloom in a curious way, however. Each
month Clem was excited when Vogue
arrived. She'd rip into the issue and scamper up the stairs to her chambre à coucher, with enough enthusiasm
to do Anna Wintour proud. But after digesting each issue, Clem would reappear
with it hours later — only now a zillion Post-its jutted from its pages,
stegosaurus-like.


Over
time, one by one, those stegosauri began to stack up, spines out, in her closet.
One day I decided to take a peek at the dinosaur graveyard to see what my
daughter was tagging so furiously. It turned out that she was trying to
annotate each issue, sorting the material by outfits, accessories, footwear,
and other categories for later reference. I noticed that the more issues she
tagged, the more frustrated she became. This was a lot of work. So why was she
doing it?


"Don't
you get it?" my wife observed. "She's trying to turn the magazine
into a computer."


Et voilà!
Of course she was.


The
more I thought about it, the more I decided there was good news for the
evolution of the publishing industry here — and better news. The good news is
that 12-year-olds, just like their parents and their parents before them going
all the way back to the publication of the first magazine in 1731 (the year
Charles Darwin's grandfather was born), still enjoy the medium. But they want
it delivered in an exponentially more useful way.


Raised
to expect instant, sortable, searchable, savable, portable access to all the
information in the world, these digital natives — tomorrow's magazine
subscribers, God and Steve Jobs willing — could well become the generation
that saves the publishing industry.


Gallery:
10 sages read the future of print


The
better news is that with the arrival of Apple's forthcoming iPad
and other tablet computers
— touch sensitive, full color, easy to watch
video on, network-connected to virtual newsstands and stores — the publishing
industry might once again have a remunerative way of giving it to them.


In
fact, for the past year I've been pushing the theory that the Age of Tablets
will give print media one last bite at the apple — and publishing companies
that are able to make the transition could one day thrive again. I'm so
convinced that it will happen that I've been working with other folks here at
Time Inc. (Fortune's publisher) to create prototypes of digital magazines that
will soon be delivered to tablets and smartphones. So consider this my
apologia.


This
isn't a case of excessive introspection on the part of a media insider: The
future of publishing is fast becoming topic A in business circles. Financiers
who make trades based on access to reliable information fret about the fate of
outlets like the Wall Street Journal
and the Financial Times. Urban
planners worry about what happens to communities if digital books make
libraries obsolete. Nonmedia billionaires, from Mexico's Carlos Slim to real
estate magnate Sam Zell, have invested their own money in newspapers.


No
one can accuse newspapers and magazines of failing to embrace the web. Shortly
after going to Time to write
full-time about the Internet in 1995, I abandoned print and did a stint on the
web. But I soon realized I couldn't do online the kind of long-form journalism
I wanted to do. The web is for scanning, not deep reading. People typically
spend two minutes or less on a site. Why do you think the killer app is called
a browser?


Worse,
it was hard to make a buck. While in those early days we were optimistic about
online advertising — the click-through rates were through the roof — it
turned out that users were actually clicking on ads by mistake. Call it poor
mouse control.


The
standardization of ad sizes and placements only worsened the problem,
relegating pitches to the periphery of content, where they are easily ignored.
Revenue growth rates quickly began to tank as it became apparent that no one
looks at ads online. (Name one you've seen in the past week.)


That's
why today online ads bring in junk CPMs — about 10% of the revenue per 1,000
views compared with print. The only new media life form that has managed to
live off those junk-ad rates is the blog, a medium that tends to favor breadth
over depth and cheap opinion over expensive, original reporting.


It's
no wonder that traditional publishing companies have been looking beyond the
"freeconomics" of the web to find new ways to turn a buck. (I'm not
even going to touch on broadcast media or movies here, which suffer from the
same problems.)


The
New York Times has said it will be erecting
a "paywall" on its website
next year and has been working with
Apple (AAPL,
Fortune
500
) to create a new (and, we can safely assume, paid) Times app for the tablet.

Rupert
Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, which
he initially wanted to give away online, is now in full-on pay mode. And
Murdoch is so pissed at Google (GOOG,
Fortune
500
) that he's reportedly been trying to get Microsoft's Bing to pay for
the exclusive right to search and index his publishing empire. As for the rest
of the newspaper business: Good luck, fellas!

Book
publishers, having been tortured by Amazon's attempts to cut them out, are now
running into Apple's embrace and will soon be hawking their e-books on the
iPad, which CEO Jobs unveiled in late January.

The
only media company that's in the money these days is Google, whose $23.6
billion in revenue last year dwarfed the entire magazine industry's. While
Google is paying lip service to how much it loves and respects professionally
produced media, its message is essentially: Adapt or die. Well, we've been
trying to, Schmidty.

Now
along come tablets. Apple's iPad was exactly what we all imagined it might be
— a giant, honking iPod Touch that does what we e-ink-stained wretches want it
to do: It browses the web superfast (thanks to Apple's new, homegrown A4 chip),
displays images and video in throbbing color, and runs downloadable apps that
we can sell.

Even
if consumers fail to stampede to the Apple Store, every major computer
manufacturer, from Hewlett- Packard (HPQ,
Fortune
500
) to Dell (DELL,
Fortune
500
) to Asus and a raft of others you've never heard of, is focusing on the
same form factor, which many people believe will replace not only the laptop
but the desktop too. (Just add wireless keyboard.) ABI Research predicts that
some 58 million tablets a year will be shipping by 2015.


Apple's
announcement — the product will be available in late March — already seems to
be helping the book business: Apple has said it will let publishers set the
price of electronic books for the iPad, something Amazon (AMZN,
Fortune
500
) has refused to do for Kindle books. Now Amazon appears to be
reconsidering its pricing policy.


While
old media can find much to cheer about with the arrival of the Tablet Age,
which promises to smooth old media's transition from paper to digital, the
publishing industry still faces considerable obstacles.


As
I zigzagged from the media capital of New York City to the tech wonderland of
Silicon Valley in my role as tablet evangelist, I sought answers to some of the
larger existential questions my bosses and their brethren will need to address.
Here are the fruits of my labor.


Question
1:
Will anyone
be willing to pay for content delivered to a tablet when they can get information
for free on the web?


Here,
let me quote my longtime sparring partner, Marc Andreessen, who happens to be
the father of the modern web, its greatest advocate, and one of the smartest
cookies in the jar. For years he's been (joylessly) predicting old media's
demise unless it figures out new business models. The tablet is a false
messiah, he argues.


"The
problem is that the successful tablet is also going to have a really good web
browser on it," he tells Fortune.

"So am I going to pay $5 for
something I download through the App Store when I could go on the web — using
the exact same device — to get it for free? Um, the answer to that is
no."


It's
an old argument. We heard the same thing about the music industry, back in the
days when the "music sharing" site Napster allowed people to
"swap" MP3s for free. I myself may have even sinned one or two times.


But
now? I pay $15 a month for a music subscription that lets me listen to
virtually anything, as often as I want. Why do I pay for it when I can still
get music for free from a dozen pirate sites? I'm lazy. My time is valuable.
And the price seems fair. Steve Jobs proved with that first iPod that people
would willingly pay for music when you made it easier to buy than to steal —
especially when the media is linked via a store to a cool, fetishistic device.


A
great device is actually the key here: When you've invested in a tablet (or an
iPhone or a Droid or a Kindle, etc.) and love it, you want to increase its
functionality — with media. That's why nearly half of the 75 million iPhone
and iTouch users download one paid app a month, by the way, when they could get
the same kind of stuff for free elsewhere.


Question
2:
But aren't
tablets just a better way to browse the web?

Almost
certainly, in a few years more people will be browsing the web via a tablet
than on laptops and desktops. Jobs pitched the iPad as a better way to access
the web, in fact. But with the tablet, there ought to be room for great,
downloaded apps that are usable offline too. Again, Andreessen takes issue.


In
fact, he says, there's a real danger if media companies waste precious time
trying to put the genie back in the bottle: "I think that's going to be
three to four years that are going to be really critical in terms of making the
jump to new models. And in this kind of transition, a three- to four-year delay
is really dangerous."


In
fact, he advises, apps aside, don't even put your websites behind paywalls
because you'll be losing your audience and "gutting your advertising
revenue and leaving your market wide open for a competitor." The
competitor, in this case, is a blogger who will simply read your stuff and
repost it in truncated form à la the Huffington Post and so many others.


It's
a persuasive argument. People definitely want to browse. And using your
headline, along with a few key bits of content, is fair use and legal. But many
also crave deep reading experiences. Man does not live by blog alone! It would
be like surviving entirely on cupcakes.


Downloadable
textbooks will be among the first paid-content to cross the chasm to the
tablet. A whole generation of readers will cut its teeth on that experience,
and, it stands to reason, they will grow up both browsing for quick hits and
surface understanding while buying the deeper reading experiences.


Question
3:
Reading?
Reading is dead.

Nearly
a decade ago Kevin Kelly, a co-founder of Wired
and a great future-of-business thinker, was so sure that reading was dead that
he, er, pitched a book on the subject. (He never sold that one.) Still, I think
of that these days when I see my daughter Clem communicating with her friends
via video messages on Facebook.


So
I called Kelly recently and was happy to hear that he has revised his opinion
and now thinks reading will prevail — in a wholly different form. It will, he
told me, "become embedded into screens that are full of moving images …
like subtitles in a movie, where you're reading and watching at the same
time."


The
point is, Kelly says, media are changing. As they get mashed up with other
media, newer forms are born.

"Right now digital magazines are in the same
phase that cinema was when it started out just recording plays. They weren't
really movies." Reading will evolve. It's our job to make sure, however,
that magazines adapt along with it.

Isn't
the idea of a magazine irrelevant in the atomized, buy-the-single-not-the-album
world? If that were so, we'd expect to see fewer people reading magazines. But
according to the Magazine Publishers Association, 174.5 million people paid to
subscribe to magazines in 1970; that number has steadily and consistently risen
over the years, to 324.8 million as of 2008. (Paid circulation, another measure
of magazines' health, has seen modest declines recently.)


Okay,
I know how the sausage gets made in this business — you can get almost any
magazine in America for around 50¢ a copy when you subscribe, vs. a newsstand
price that is typically 10 times higher. Publishers, eager to fatten their rate
bases — which ad pricing is based on — have been known to add other
incentives ("a free radio alarm clock!") as well. But even
discounting those shenanigans, it's pretty clear that people still derive value
from curated, packaged collections of content delivered to them.


Magazines
are just vertical collections of content that feed our individual interests.
Like blogs. The trick for publishers will be to figure out how to be
compensated for individual articles as well.


Question
4:
How will
tablet-based ads work better than the web?


Three
words: full-screen ads. Expect to see them reemerge in digital magazines and
other publications — even blogs. These ads actually have the potential to
deliver the best of both the old world and the new: They can have as much
impact and be as relevant as the most compelling TV commercials, with the same
analytics as the web.

While
prototyping digital magazines during the past few months, I've seen new kinds
of interactive ads that are cool and arresting — like highly produced
videogames. While I think most publishers will allow you to skip an ad with a
swipe of your fingers, a 10-inch full-color touchscreen gives the advertiser a
rich enough canvas to grab you by the eyeballs and make its case.


In
fact, I suspect ads will work so well on tablets that even if subscription or
pay-per-read models don't work, many publishers will be able to thrive on
advertising revenue alone.


Question
5:
Can
traditional publishing companies reorganize and move fast enough to embrace and
serve new platforms?


"They've
had 15 years to do so since the commercial browser came out," says Jeff
Jarvis, a reconstructed old media guy (he worked for years here at Time Inc.)
who's now a professor and author of the book What Would Google Do?


"They haven't reinvented or reimagined
themselves. The talk we're hearing now is not at all about reinvention and
reimagination — it's again about trying to shoehorn old models of content and
business into this new reality."


Jarvis
is right, of course. Publishing companies haven't reinvented or reimagined
themselves so far. That's because the old way of doing business has been
blindingly successful.


Can
you imagine being the operating chief of a newspaper company in, say, 1995 and
having the bright idea to start giving away classified ads? Had you done it,
you would have immediately gone from being a fiercely profitable business to a
highly unprofitable one. Over the next decade, though, you might have been able
to repel Craigslist, which has, in large part, decimated newspapers' revenue stream
by giving away classified ads. But what kind of a nut would have made that call
in 1995?


No,
the people running these companies weren't stupid. It's just that the
"reimagination" called for in the switch to the everything-is-free
web model was untenable and involved gutting multimillion-dollar operations and
giving up millions more of today's revenue on the chance that something would
happen tomorrow. It was spreadsheet-defying logic that looked like the right
thing to do only in hindsight.


The
biggest mistake they made was in ignoring the people who might have been able
to solve their problems in the late 1990s when things went bad: their best
reporters. Instead they tapped consultants and strategists. Publishers of the
greatest newspapers and magazines should have gone to their very best reporters
and deployed them!


The
best reporters I've met thrive on chaos. When men, women, children, and
livestock are fleeing the scene of some unexpected horror, the best reporters
are the ones running in the opposite direction. They all suffer from certain
personality defects — pursuing truth over money, status, personal safety —
that would have served their industry well here.


But
the consultants didn't do any new reporting. They prescribed old, tired fixes
— cost cutting, outsourcing back-office operations — but failed to address
the core problem: Distribution no longer had value.


I
doubt that we'll see publishers dragging their feet as tablets take hold,
because the potential revenue model is clearer. Publishing companies, however,
will indeed need to do more than simply port their print products to the new
tablet-friendly format. And dragging all that baggage from the old world to the
new will almost certainly slow us down. The whole enterprise is focused on
print because that's still where the money comes from. So in some ways, we
continue to face the Craigslist problem.


"The
model of the magazine as we know it is just outmoded," says Kelly.
"It's doomed if we think of it as the magazine we think of now." Instead,
he says, the publishing industry — books, magazines, newspapers — ought to be
approaching the problem of content creation differently. We should be thinking
about selling attention. "Wherever attention flows, money will
follow," he explains. "What shape that takes doesn't really
matter."


In
other words, in the ever-burgeoning universe of media overload, content
creators are battling for a user's time. If a book is a 20-hour call on one's
attention, a magazine might be better defined as a bid for an hour or so of the
consumer's day. "If we think of magazines as an intermediate form — a
read that can last several hours — it has a tremendous future," Kelly
says. "We've just begun to explore what it can do."


I
hope the tablet buys us enough time to finally figure all this out, because
someday I'd like to visit Clem in her office at French Vogue.

Reporter associates: Beth Kowitt
and Christopher Tkaczyk

 

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