The Future of Search and the Future of Magazines

John Battelle and Danny Sullivan have been sponsored by Thomson Reuters to write some pieces on the future of search. They are two of the shrewdest commentators on internet search so the essays will be worth reading. John Battelle has an exceptional feel for the overall commercial space in which search operates. Danny Sullivan has a terrier-like persistence which means that when he has really researched a topic, you are unlikely to find a better or a more judicious summary of it anywhere else. These guys are definitely worth reading…..

John Battelle’s first piece works over some ideas that he has been poking around for some time. Searching on the go, with interaction between the web and the environment in which you move. His is an example of geo-vino-price-sensitive searching for the best deal on a bottle of Stag’s Leap Cabernet as he hurries through the aisles of a supermarket pointing his phone/camera at the labels on the wines he passes (this all seems a bit furtive to me and I wonder whether John really does the shopping in his household?). My own geo preference is for a similarly priced bottle of Castello di Ama and I am not going to nickel and dime the enoteca over the last €1.50; but de gustibus non est disputandum.

John Battelle also blogs yesterday about the future of magazines (zero/niente/nil future, sooner rather than later, is my summary of his view). He is far too gloomy about that. This kind of woe/weltshmerz tends to hit magazine people who have really migrated to the web (John was a founding editor of Wired which is not to be confused with our wonderful music magazine The Wire); they tend to lose sight of the potential for magazines to be reborn digitally on the web and for subscribers to enjoy them. Some magazines have more or less given up editorially in the face of the web (has this happened to Newsweek or Time?)– whilst others, such as the Economist and the Scientific American just keep on getting better.

In one respect the post-Battelle retail future is bright for magazines:- digital ordering and digital delivery is a breeze. Magazines and books is one of the few product categories that have well organised UPCs (universal product codes, ISSNs and ISBNs) and they can easily become digital, so the magazine publishers will be doing OK when bookstore and newstand browsers realize that they can point their iPhone at the UPC on the back of the book/mag and order a digital subscription rather than lug the pile home. ‘Sale or return’ is going to be a real disaster when this starts happening and the kiosk owner is going to have a struggle. Furthermore with a decent digital magazine you get access to the archive (the vintage numbers). You can’t do that with a bottle of Stag’s Leap: you can’t track back through the vintages or order digital delivery (yet).

Come to think of it, if you could do one you could do the other. I quite fancy the idea of subscribing to a digital wine with archived and digitally ‘remastered’ vintages…….

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