Archive for the 'Digital Delivery' Category

Magazines on my iPhone 3G

I’ve had an iPhone for nearly a year now and I’m officially lost without it. I’ve recently downloaded the MLB.com At Bat 2009 application, which streams real time game updates and audio from every major league game. With a potentially talented playoff team in town this year this application will obviously get a lot of use.

Games, Twitterriffic, OpenTable, and iHeartRadio are all on my iPhone too. Some applications stay on my phone longer than others. Not every application is created equal; Turkey Hunt was pretty awful. So last week while I was writing about digital delivery I started to research magazine delivery options for the iPhone. Sure enough several media firms and digital delivery providers have started to take advantage of the printed word on the iPhone.

DRAMA Magazine, which was an absolute worthless read, was the first publication I found. Since DRAMA was released as an iPhone only publication I thought I better take a look. Immediately I discovered I was not the target market. Pitched as a lifestyle magazine, it is filled with ‘artsy’ fashion and theater photos. Photography is clearly the main content driver. The photos are reasonably well sized on the small iPhone screen, however the short snippets of text require the user to zoom in far too much to be legible. In fact I would grade the delivery of text a resounding F and the photo loading speed a C+. For $3.99 I’d recommend saving your money, the DRAMA Magazine website can certainly give you enough of a sample to see this application in action.

Amazon’s Kindle for iPhone application currently doesn’t support magazines, however I was able to download a few sample chapters of current best selling books. Compared to DRAMA Magazine, text on Kindle app for the iPhone is fantastic. However it is still a little too small…or too large. I made it through the first chapter of Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. Which is a book I’m interested in reading. I struggled with finding the right size text on my screen. Either the text was too small so my phone was 6-9 inches from my face, or too large so lines had about 5 words each. The other major down side of this application is the limitation of content discovery. Users must find and purchase materials on Amazon’s website and send it to the iPhone wirelessly. The process works, but it would be much more enjoyable to find/purchase/read magazines and books all within the same application. If you spend enough time away from your desk I would definitely recommend at least trying this free application out.

Texterity for iPhone, offers a web browser delivery system. Utilizing the full browser capability of the iPhone, Texterity is simply a resized version of the online flash paper reader. I found the user interface of Texterity for the iPhone more appealing than the full online reader for the Mac/PC. Flipping pages using a touch screen is simply pleasing when compared to finding the next page button with a mouse. But here again the screen size limits both text and image viewing. Zinio also offers a similar web browser version for the iPhone, of equal value and limitation.

What I would like in an iPhone magazine:

  • iPhone application with subscription based delivery. Send me an update message when the latest issue is available. Allow me to re-read older issues. Charge me once for a 1-year subscription.
  • Build in the strengths of the platform. Great iPhone applications are all interactive. Some applications actually offer real world solutions like booking a table at a restaurant or checking the score of the game. Either way this real world relevancy keeps me coming back. Magazines could be interactive and the results could be directly measured.
  • Special content please. Don’t regurgitate a printed or online magazine via the iPhone. Provide new and exclusive content, both your readers and advertising clients will love you for it. Readers aren’t going to pour over novel length text on the iPhone, its just not built for that. And the iPhone doesn’t reach everyone, so here is an opportunity to build something just for the iPhone demographic.
  • Finally be size aware with your content. So far all the content delivered on the iPhone wasn’t really sized appropriately. Miss on the first try and your application will be lost in oblivion.

Mildly Interactive Digital Publications

Interactivity, as a buzz-word, certainly gets thrown around a lot. Maybe not as much as 10 years ago, but in the publishing industry I think it is starting to make a buzz-word bingo comeback (along with RIA, Sticky and App). I’m also under the impression that pseudo-interactive implementations are receiving full interactivity status just like learning applications and websites did 10 years ago.

Baby Steps, I guess.

Most digital publications are about as interactive as plain paper. By flipping over the page I’m interacting with the paper to see what’s on the other side; really this is just the same as physical manipulation. A few new services (Ceros, zmags) are adding a second medium to each digital page. By overlaying video, or even small flash .swf’s, each digital page has an increased opportunity for engagement. But very little data or knowledge is shared between the digital pub and the user. In a 400 x 400 pixel window there is only so much space to display interactive objects for the users to play with. Currently the best you could hope for is some sort of poll or short submission form.

So what opportunities are here?

Publishers usually don’t want to add too much extra composition/development time to release a digital publication. Increased production costs with limited opportunity for increased advertising sales are hardly attractive. Plus, publishing a digital edition should require every advertiser to pay extra for a second distribution method. This isn’t an easy sell. As I noted in my previous entry, internet users expect free content. Advertisers also expect some free inclusion online or at least minimal cost increases, because the ad is the same ‘just put’r on your site’.

(I’m currently investigating cost structures and should have meaningful data soon.)

This leaves interactive advertising as the sole opportunity for big dollar revenue generation. If simply adding video, a poll, or a flash interactive movie (you hope your client has already developed) can generate big dollars go for it…I’m not so optimistic. The interaction needs to provide measurable outcomes (instant feedback | identifiable sales for the advertiser | assurance of user return for the publisher).

My requirements for interactive publication success:

  • Blazing fast downloads – I don’t want to wait more than I would for a standard web page to display any type of information.
  • Measurable data from user interaction – I want to return ROI figures to my advertisers or even better have my advertisers return ROI figures to me
  • Addictive – I want the experience to hold their attention for more than five minutes so they come back next issue.
  • Socially engaging – Oddly enough people go to the internet to connect with people. Connecting people with similar interests instantly adds dimension and fresh content.
  • Viral – make sure they can share the experience in a way that compounds internet traffic numbers (respectfully).

In my next few entries I’ll cover each of these points in greater detail. For now I’d like to start by creating a collection of so-called interactive digital publications.

1. Wired

2. Horse Link

Please comment with examples and urls of publications claiming full interactive status and we can critique together.

Delicious

Scribd: Sharing PDF’s of your publication

Today I’m revisiting Scribd. I first found this service after reading a note to iPhone owners written by Apple CEO, Steve Jobs.

The document was embedded in blog. So my first experience with a Scribd document was much like the document I’ve embedded (below).

Rundown from the Scribd About Page:
Quick Facts
Stats

* More than 50 million readers every month
* More than 50,000 documents uploaded every day
* More than 5 million iPaper embeds
* 90 different languages

The Pros:
FREE
You really can’t argue with that. Scribd is a fast and free way to share PDFs. If your publication is text centric, is in need of greater readership, and is a free publication a Scribd version is a great place to try out digital delivery.

MAXIMUM SEARCH POTENTIAL
The folks at Scribd have been busy developing more ways to search within the text of your document. With powerful keyword search, indexed by search engines, you can get your publication in front of new readership.

The Cons:

YOU’RE MOST LIKELY TO USE SCRIBD AS AN EMBED
I’ve really never been a fan of embedded applications or widgets. Widgets and embeds use a second level of interface control that always feels disconnected to the surrounding content and context. From a design perspective I feel embeds are analogous to dashboard compasses. They are invaluably useful if your car doesn’t have a compass or GPS navigation. But they wreck the dashboard with sticky adhesive, scream I’m lost, and obstruct the view of the road.

The same cons can be said about integrating embeds on a corporate website: interface design doesn’t match the look and feel, shows users you don’t have the cash or skills to integrate new technology on your site, and any other important message displayed on the page usually gets second billing visually.

TEXT OVER ADVERTISING
Scribd is clearly best used as a vehicle for promoting text heavy documents. For publishers, this limits bottom line potential. While Scribd will take an advertising centric PDF like the embed above, I’ve had a large number of error’d out upload sessions with PDFs chuck full of graphics. So in the example above we’ve created a low resolution PDF and the compression fragments are pretty apparent.

MINIMAL SUPPORT OF IN-DOCUMENT NAVIGATION AND LINKS
It would be fantastic if the designers of Scribd could add advanced navigation based on indices for use inside and outside of a Scribd document. Most of my publications include a pretty heavy index of advertisers. I would love to have document navigation based on my index, until then page flipping, scrolling, and thumbnail navigation certainly does not come close to the experience of physical paper.

LIMITED SUBSCRIPTION OPPORTUNITIES
Scribd isn’t really designed for document purchase or subscription services. The common usage for fee based publication is to use Scribd as preview the content of a for purchase document. You’ll commonly see first chapters and teasers, instead of full product implementation.

My Recommendation:
Try Scribd out for yourself to see how your publication looks and reads in digital form. Use this service as a sandbox. Pencil out the opportunities and weaknesses of digital delivery for your publication before investing in software or service agreement. This ten minute exercise will at least make you smarter.

Answer: where IT professionals first look when trying to solve your computer problems. Question: What is google?

Knowledge, instructions, diagrams, and expert advice are all free if you’re marginally talented at riffling through the internet via google searches. Since the bulk of developers engineering web 2.0 (and beyond) are living the open source lifestyle its natural to speculate that the future of content within web 2.0 (and beyond) will be as openly free as the technology that delivers it. This extremely prevalent mindset has made free content a near human right to all internet users.

As publishers we know free content is never exclusive. So if your print publication’s model for success has historically been driven by exclusive content should you be asking: What is google? I think the answer, so far, is a definite maybe. So lets start examining what is available to publishers today.

My single goal with this blog is to record and critique online technologies that can help us get back in black in a big way. To kick off my blog, I’d like to start with digital delivery. Whether this technology will get generate significant and sustainable revenue for any given publication isn’t immediately obvious. But, lets never say never.

The first technology I’ll examine is Flash Paper/ iPaper. List of service providers (incomplete) includes:

If you have any experience with the aforementioned services, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Post a comment below.