Posts Tagged 'Digital Publication'

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.


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

* 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:
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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.