The Future of Magazines

To start with a statement. Modern society is perpetuating an insatiable drive for innovation and new features in the digital world. This demand shows no signs of slowing down, but is change always the best course of action? In the magazine market, let us indulge ourselves for a moment in musing about what may come in the next ten years — more video content, better audio capabilities, personalised integrated ads, compatibility with new technology such as VR, etc. It is easy to become excited by these ideas, just for the sheer novelty factor, but in reality, the discussion would benefit from everyone taking a step back and viewing the history of the magazine afresh.

Think of a magazine, any magazine, print or digital; what is the first thing that comes to mind? The front cover, right? Think Vogue. That iconic choice of font, the recurring layout, the photography. The cover is the entryway to your favourite periodical. Once you’re beyond the cover, then you’re reading the content, which is the flesh and blood of any magazine. Without good content a magazine won’t sell subscriptions, that’s a fact. Magazines can import as many gimmicks and new features as they like, but without consistent, high-quality content they will not survive. The point is that there exists a core set of principles which define and constitute a magazine. These principles are timeless and should not, and likely will not be forsaken for new gadgets. For example, we have long had the capability to import videos into digital magazines, but it remains an uncommon practice. Why?

article imageWell, to put it simply, they’re not needed. That is not to say that digital is the enemy. There have been many amazing features added to magazines in recent decades that have only been possible because of the development of new technology. New audio capabilities and text-reading technology have been used to develop tools that assist disabled persons in accessing magazines. This text-reading software also means that archives can be searched by keyword, which in turn allows the indexing of the content, increasing discoverability and usability in one fell swoop. Citing and sharing articles via social media has never been easier, creating a self-sustaining marketing to attract new subscribers. You will have noticed by now that none of those features alter the content of the magazine in any way, they solely facilitate the reading and distribution of the magazine.

Commercially, perhaps the two most important changes have been the digitisation of archived issues and the development of dedicated apps for magazines. Most periodicals now have their own apps and/or digital version. This portability has opened up a brand new market for magazines, as well as allowing longtime subscribers the freedom to read their favourite magazine wherever they are. Working in tandem with this is the increasing desire for old, archived issues which have been gathering dust for years in libraries and private collections. Scanning technology has meant that magazine owners have been able to bring the past into the present. This has hugely increased the value of magazines as academic resources and as unique windows for our cultural history.

To conclude, there is clearly a digital presence for magazines. Yet there are still print loyalists who have not embraced the demand for online resources. Signs indicate that publishers who build their digital archives and make them available to current readers and subscribers are making their magazines into digital survivors. Many magazines will be lost because they have not invested time and money into making the digital archive work now. It is a matter of foresight, publishers should always keep one eye on the future. A reactionary policy is a dangerous game, and even with a reactionary policy, publishers must realise that we are now living in a digital world. By crystallising their archives publishers would be guaranteeing their content is available for future generations, and as previously said, preservation of good content is the paramount aim of digital publishing.

The Importance of Modern Archives

What is the ideal scenario for a librarian when it comes to purchasing an online serial? I think it usually comes down to three major factors; Is the access IP authenticated? Is the access unlimited? Does the subscription include access to the complete archive?

With Exact Editions, librarians can rest assured that we will always meet the first two requirements. However, as much as we always strive to meet the third, occasionally there are barriers which restrict our ability to offer the complete archive. The reasoning varies from case to case, sometimes it is financial, sometimes it is licensing, and sometimes it is exclusivity. Whatever the cause, all is not lost.

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The Modern Archive of TLS includes every issue as it is released

In those cases where we are unable to acquire the complete archive, we still aim to provide what we are now calling the ‘Modern Archive’. This remains a very rich and attractive proposition for libraries, namely because of the fact the archives on the platform are always rolling, and therefore expanding. The best recent example of this is The Times Literary Supplement, which joined the platform only last week. We are in the fortunate position of being the sole institutional provider of the archives from 2012 — Present. As expected we immediately received a storm of interest from universities around the world; the modern archive of TLS is a much-desired resource (especially with the promise of a new issue every week) and will supplement current library holdings.

Library holdings bring me to the next point, the problem of ‘fixed’ archives. This happens when online providers will only secure a deal for certain years of an archive, e.g. 1980–2015. Now this will obviously be a powerful resource with 35 years of content, however, students will be missing out on recent and future issues, which are often very important as they are culturally current. Exact Editions has always leaned away from these ‘landlocked’ archives, instead opting to always offer institutions an archive which is going to grow and bring the latest content.

“Can I check: does it mirror exactly the latest printed content of the TLS, so that guaranteed access to the current issue is provided?” — Interested librarian

This question we received from a potential institutional subscriber illustrates my point exactly. Librarians are always keen to secure content which is at the forefront of its field. When archives are growing organically they are pushing the user and their research with them into the future — not just providing retrospective glimpses of what once was there.

Any comments or suggestions? Please feel free to get in touch via info@exacteditions.com

How to Present Digital Magazines

Part of the joy of reading magazines, as opposed to books and journals, are the inventive cover designs and enthralling double spread images contained within the pages. The physical appeal of magazines, combined with engaging topical content, is perhaps why many readers and institutions are so proud of their large and growing collections of archived issues. But what about those collections which are missing a few issues? Or those archives which have outlived several generations of readers? It can be a laborious process hunting down a print copy of a magazine issue which hasn’t been printed for 30 years.

Luckily for these readers, the aesthetics of the print version can naturally move on to the digital platform, particularly with the technological development of better screens which now elucidate every minuscule detail of the original. Not only that, but archives can now be preserved ad finitum with no risk of decay or misplacement. This means that a wide audience of readers can experience these archives in their entirety, whereas in the past those old issues may have been confined to dust-gathering shelves in library vaults. Because of digital preservation, these archived issues can be given a new lease of life, finding new readers many decades after they were first published. In an academic sense, the availability of archives opens up new windows of opportunity for researchers by facilitating quick, easy and reliable access to previously rare resources.

A key question for digital providers must be — how do we present these resources to the world? One neat approach is to use a Stacking Interface to organise the archive by decade and year. This system encourages the reader to observe the development of the cover design (an essential feature of any successful magazine) through the years. The Stacking Technology also offers users an elegant and intuitive interface for browsing through older issues, especially when combined with an intelligent search feature. For example, a reader may wish to search Geographical for coverage of deforestation in Brazil, but only in 1994, and the Stacking Technology will automatically narrow the search results. This technology transcends devices and is available on Web, iOS and Android platforms. The power this offers to academics goes without saying; fast, efficient research in a friendly format.

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Geographical Archive — Stacking Technology

What does this mean for digital magazine providers? As more and more magazines recognise the value and importance of their archive, it is likely there will be continual drive towards digitisation. Print publishers will be searching for the best way to present their backfile to the world. The Stacking Interface has already found many supporters in both publishing and academic circles as it offers a dynamic combination of utility and style. Stacks are a great way of organising deep and informative archives, and because of the periodical nature of magazines they will only continue to become more impressive.

Exact Editions attends UKSG Meeting

Last week, Exact Editions had the pleasure of attending UKSG’s all-day event entitled ‘Introduction to E-resources Today’. We approached the event with the intention of learning more about the work of librarians so that we could further address the challenges they face and make their lives a little easier where possible.

First Seminar

To start the day, we listened to Mitchell Dunkley’s presentation, ‘Managing Journal Content in the Online World’. This was a well-constructed talk which explained the processes used by De Montfort University to organise their online resources. We were pleased to learn that the university had an e-first strategy where possible, and this depended on numerous factors, such as; cost vs. budget, academic relevancy, content format, accessibility and licensing. Naturally, this was very useful as we could learn what librarians search for when selecting journals.

A few points of the talk were of particular interest to Exact Editions. Firstly, that the university witnesses annual price increases for most journals, despite having a fixed budget, meaning that resources must be sacrificed each year. These cancellations will tend to be decided based on usage, which speaks volumes for the need to integrate resources in library discovery systems. Regarding price increases, the ethos of Exact Editions has always been to provide libraries with excellent resources at a fair price, reflected by the fact that prices have remained largely fixed for the last four years. We consider ourselves forerunners in the provision of sustainable electronic resources intended to facilitate learning rather than squeeze libraries for profit.

Secondly, and related to this, Mitchell emphasised that student experience is at the heart of service delivery. The aim of the library should be the maximise the usage and impact of the information resources available to students. According to Mitchell, ease of access is absolutely paramount in the selection process. Specifically mentioned was the need for seamless access across multiple devices as libraries are experiencing a rise in the variety of devices used by students. This was music to our ears as Exact Editions have invested lots of time and effort into ensuring that content is easily available across all devices. We believe that the more complicated a system is, the less likely students are to use it, so we try to keep it simple.

Second Seminar

Holly Purcell from IOP Publishing gave the second seminar, ‘The Business of E-Resources Publishing’. This was a little less relevant for Exact Editions, however, it offered an interesting insight into the world of scientific publishing. One aspect of the presentation which was of note was IOP’s strategy to provide librarians with bespoke campaigns for internal marketing.

This involves creating promotional material on behalf of the library such as infographics and posters, as well as designing social media posts and HTML email templates for internal circulation. These efforts resulted in more usage, higher renewal rates and positive feedback, and Exact Editions will certainly be looking into offering a similar service.

Third Seminar

After lunch (which was delicious), Anna Sansome from UCL spoke about ‘Managing E-Book Content’. Again, this is not really an area of expertise for Exact Editions, although we do work with a few specialised book publishers to offer complete collections to institutions. However, there was a segment of the seminar dedicated to the reasons for converting print resources to electronic when possible, which also applies to magazines. These included; convenience, time-saving, space-saving, accessibility and search functionality. This led on to a discussion of the best models for purchasing electronic resources, which Anna stated was unlimited access with no limit to concurrent users or number of users per year.

Exact Editions have consistently placed emphasis on search technology, and all archives on the site are fully-searchable by keyword. Our tech team is also developing an exciting new feature which will be with you later in 2018… Regarding the best purchasing model, we have always preferred to offer subscribing institutions unlimited access to resources, the reason being that we want universities to use our resources to their utmost potential.

Fourth Seminar

The fourth, and final, talk of the day was concerning ‘Intermediaries and their Services’ by Richard Bramwell from EBSCO. As a content provider, Exact Editions work closely with several intermediaries in the purchasing process and management of subscriptions on behalf of universities. This was an interesting talk which stressed the challenges currently facing intermediaries, as well as the solutions that are being implemented.

Richard talked about the numerous factors which are squeezing the industry such as; pressure on library budgets, the sustainability of open access publishing and global economic fluctuations. He stated that EBSCO is having to adapt to the library market in order to continue providing excellent service to their 50,000 customers around the world. We agree that it is a fast-paced environment, which is why we strive to stay abreast of technological developments and movements within the industry.

It is important, as a content provider, to understand the role intermediaries play in the library market, as they often have many available services. Exact Editions works closely with several companies to facilitate the purchasing of and discoverability of resources. However, we also understand that we must be independent and flexible, and conduct a lot of business directly with institutions, as well as being constantly on the search for innovative technological solutions to the challenges libraries face. We welcome any suggestions or feedback, to chat with us please email institutions@exacteditions.com

Overall

In whole, the day offered much food for thought for the Exact Editions team. UKSG did a fantastic job of organising the event and encouraging discussion between librarians, intermediaries and publishers, whose professions can sometimes seem very separate despite inhabiting the same eco-system.

Follow UKSG on Twitter: https://twitter.com/UKSG
Follow Exact Editions on Twitter: https://twitter.com/exacteditions

MARC Records are go!

Just a quick update from us! … We are excited to announce that MARC Records are now available for institutional subscribers to download with the click of a button. This comes as part of our ongoing efforts to increase the integration of Exact Editions titles into library systems.

In the past, we received many queries requesting MARC Record data for the titles we support, so it’s great to be able to offer this option to our institutional subscribers. Our tech team have developed a streamlined D.I.Y. process for acquiring MARC Records for your specific subscriptions.

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Download your MARC Records with a click of a button

Downloading the relevant MARC Records for your magazine subscriptions is super simple. Log in to your Exact Editions administrative account, click preferences, then you should be taken to your account page where you’ll see an option to download your MARC Records. After that, the cataloguing world’s your oyster; adding new signposts to your system means more usage and increased discoverability for your subscriptions.

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Example records for Resurgence & Ecologist, Geographical and Opera

We like to see this as another hurdle jumped in the creation of the perfect magazine reading platform — as we continuously strive to make Exact Editions as user-friendly as possible.

Do you have any further suggestions for improving our site?

Please get in touch via institutions@exacteditions.com

A useful guide to MARC Records: https://www.loc.gov/marc/umb/