Semantic Capital and Magazine Archives

Luciano Floridi, an Italian Professor at Oxford, is one of the leading philosophers of information. He is also interested in libraries and archives and has recently proposed a valuable use for the concept of “semantic capital” in relation to archives. His explanation was given as a lecture to the National Archives at Kew, and is available from their site.

I propose to summarise and simplify his explanation of “semantic capital” and apply it to the topic of digital magazine archives (very close to our heart at Exact Editions). For our purposes semantic capital is:

  • a stock of content growing and extended through time (a sequence of magazine issues published on paper monthly and held in library stacks would be a perfect example)

Chicago stacks By Ndshankar  Wikimedia commons 

  • the stock of content is held in a stable form where it can be subjected to new readings and new interpretations (a contemporary digital database of a magazine issue by issue, with new issues appearing as they are published, for example)
  • the content should be held in a canonical form so that new readings or interpretations can be compared with previous readings (so it is rather important that the content should be complete and searchable. It would be inconvenient if the digital archive was different in different institutions. Leaving out the advertisements or the illustrations from a magazine archive will not do)

Advertisements in the magazine Dazed are semantic capital

  • finally the semantic capital, is truly “capital” to the extent that this stock of preserved stuff can be used for new and unexpected applications. The capital can appreciate in value or depreciate, through damage or obscurity. It can be hoped that the capital will grow and so creates more cultural value.
  • From our point of view it is this last point that is key. In a digital culture, usable semantic capital needs to be searchable, cite-able, re-uasable, and share-able. Our print culture survives but it is vulnerable and needs to be transformed into reliable digital resources. Magazine archives in fact exist in great profusion, they are usually to be found as bound volumes in the offices of the publisher, or sometimes in boxes ‘off site’. They are also found as print issues held in institutional libraries — but in this form they are almost useless to contemporary students or researchers who increasingly depend on digital access to library resources. The point is that in a digital culture, cultural resources and assets now need to be digital if they are to be truly useful. Cultural capital is simply much more valuable if it is digital. I am not sure that we have yet recognised — magazine publishers especially — how much long term value can be created by moving content to a digital archive. Magazines archived and digitised in an appropriate and intelligent way will become much more valuable than the print-only source, and this is where the third point is also vital. The digital version really should be canonical so that very little will have been lost in the transfer from paper to digital memory. This is a very important and urgent point because the magazines that are digitised and databased whilst they are still published in print form are much more likely to survive and to be used in our growing digital culture.

    Print archives from magazines that have ceased publication or which have morphed into websites or where the ownership and provenance of content is unknown will very likely be lost. Archiving magazines is a way of preserving their value — not only for the long term, but now for the present, for the readers and the libraries who will be able to use and enjoy semantic capital that we have to an extent been ignoring whilst it is held only in paper formats. In a digital culture, semantic capital is of great potential value, for this reason we should be optimistic about the potential for digital culture, but it is also much more fragile so we should be careful not to neglect it. As Floridi points out ‘if semantic capital is not used productively it depreciates’.

Use our Search Technology to get the most out of your Subscription

Did you know that your Exact Editions subscription includes unlimited and free access to unique searching tools both online and in the Apps? Ideal for academic research, the technology allows you to quickly locate topics throughout a magazine’s archive. This can be particularly useful for Universities and Libraries, with each of the various functions specifically designed to help readers get the most out of the available content.

To get started, just sign in using your Exact Editions account details and select the title in which you wish to search. To narrow down a search when using one of the Apps, you can select a ‘stack’ to limit results to a particular decade or year. Also using the App, you can try out the search functions before buying a subscription.

Searching1

To make search results more precise, the technology incorporates three of the primary Boolean search operators (explained below). Click here to learn about Boolean search and here for a  more comprehensive list of Boolean functions.

1. Search for a Single Word or Combination of Words

This is as straight forward as it sounds; simply enter words into the field in the top right hand corner of the screen and click ‘Search’. This provides you with a complete list of results within the selected issue, title or time frame. Entering more than one word will bring up all pages that include each of the entered words, for example all pages that include London AND Concerto AND Orchestra:

Searching2

2. Search Using a Dash to Exclude Words

By placing a dash symbol directly before the second word of a search, your results will show all archive pages that display the first word but not the second. For example, entering Philharmonic -Orchestra will bring up all pages that include the word Philharmonic but not the word Orchestra:

Searching3

3. Either or Both: Search Using a Vertical Bar

Entering vertical bars, or ‘pipe’ symbols, into your search activates the “Either or Both” search function. To do this, place the symbol directly before all entered words. For example, searching for |Philharmonic |Concerto will provide you with all pages that include EITHER Philharmonic or Concerto or BOTH of these words.

Searching4

Using a Combination of Boolean Search Functions

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, you can narrow down your search even further by combining the three functions explained above. For example, combine the Standard Search with the Dash & Vertical Bar functions:

London |Philharmonic |Concerto -Orchestra

Pages MUST include London, EITHER Philharmonic or Concerto or BOTH, EXCLUDES Orchestra

Searching5

Search Using Quotation Marks

Just like searching on Google, you can also use the technology to track down a specific term or phrase mentioned anywhere in the archive by placing the words in the correct order between quotation marks. This function is perfect for finding topic-specific terms instantly:

Searching6

Use the App to Save your Searches as Bookmarks

Finally, once you have completed your search and found what you are looking for, you can save the results as bookmarks for future reference. To save individual pages, simply click on the Actions button in the top left hand corner of the screen, followed by the Bookmarks Icon. This will bring up a new window entitled ‘Add Bookmark’, giving you the possibility to assign it a name and save it. Once this is done, your new Bookmark will appear under the Bookmarks tab for speedy access:

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To save all search results as Bookmarks, select the option “Bookmark All” which appears at the top of the Search Results window. This will automatically create a new folder within the Bookmarks tab containing your search results:

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The “Bookmark All” function is particularly useful when, as shown above, a very large number of results is returned. By using this function, you can easily check through and refer back to previous research without having to repeat the process.

Why not take a look at the extensive archives offered by some of our publishing partners? Click on the banners below to visit our Institutional Shop:

1121 back issues:

GramLogo

411 back issues:

LitLogo

389 back issues: 

ResurgeLogo

To learn more about getting the most out of an archive or database when carrying out research, we suggest consulting this informative piece on Searching Article Databases

If you have any questions about searching in an archive, or if you have any feedback about the functions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by sending an email to support@exacteditions.com.

Happy searching!

March 2015

Osprey Publishing’s new Digital Magazine

Osprey are one of British publishings steady success stories. They are a middle-sized publisher with a world-wide reputation for publishing illustrated military history books. Osprey has spread its wings and now does other things, but it is the military history books for which they are most famous. They also steadily win awards for innovation and digital publishing initiatives.

In the early days of the iOS app store, Exact Editions worked with Osprey to bring a handful of their titles to iTunes as apps, with all the illustrations, maps and diagrams in place. It was a small experiment with half a dozen titles, which did well and were remarkably trouble free in the sense that they kept on selling, steadily. Then Apple changed their rules and decreed that digital books could only be published in the iBooks store.

Osprey have now come up with an interesting magazine concept which will showcase their illustrated titles in a new way. The World War II Military History Magazine is initially available only in iTunes and will bring its subscribers a battle, campaign or weapon from the war, each month. The very first issue features the Battle of the Bulge.

Battle for the Twin Villages

Battle for the Twin Villages

Publishers used to issue big books in serial form, before they were released in volume form. This was done with fiction, notably Dickens in the 19th century. More recently, throughout the 20th century, reference publishers would often publish major reference works in part-work form, through newsagents before releasing a complete book: a children’s encyclopedia or a do-it-yourself manual.

The contemporary reasons for considering serial publication of book-type material have nothing to do with these 19th century constraints. The Osprey innovation is notable because it may be a responsible and attractive way of aggregating content in a way which creates value for consumers and for the publisher. For it is a striking feature of most our current digital distribution channels that they provide book publishers with zero potential to creatively aggregate content. Apple and Amazon, neither allow publishers to deploy subscription book collections not provide any interesting ways for publishers to group books in the distribution channels. The cynic would suspect that the app-store rules are so tight, and needlessly restrictive in these ways, because these two meta-publishing titans want to maintain close control of the way in which books, and indeed magazines can be sold.

Why might a book publisher wish to establish an aggregated audience for a specific series of book-like products?

  • Selling a subscription service is a way of selling a relatively high-priced offering at relatively low-priced slices. This works for magazines as apps, which are both cheaper than most e-books on a month at a time basis and more costly/valuable than most e-books on an annual basis, and so it should work for a series of book-derived magazine issues
  • Selling a subscription service which customers tend to auto-renew through the iTunes subscription mechanism is a way of building a large audience which can grow, and grow. Strong digital magazines are on a steady escalator to higher subscription numbers.
  • The content aggregation can re-inforce the attractiveness of the subscription offering. When this World War II Military Magazine has 2 years of back issues, it will be a real mine of information from 24 books, and highly attractive to anyone with an interest in that period
  • Apple and Amazon tend to ‘disintermediate’ a publisher from her audience. Publishers have got used to this (big chain booksellers and supermarkets also do it) but establishing an audience that is strongly focussed on the publisher brand because the content is delivered serially, and to a degree exclusively is a way for publishers to reclaim their direct audience and emphasise the quality of their brand.

We have no privileged insight into Osprey’s publishing plans, but it will be really interesting if they can find ways in which their periodical venture starts to tell a story in its own distinct style. Through the sequence and order in which the books appear. This first issue already has a ‘taster’ for what I take to be a forthcoming issue on the Battle for Dieppe.

Network Subscriptions and Lufthansa

Daryl Rayner, founder and Managing Director of Exact Editions is convinced that network subscriptions are the real deal for magazine publishers. She has a vision in which major airlines, train companies, hotel chains, and global events (think Cannes Film Festival, Glastonbury and the Frankfurt motor show) all offer their customers collections of beautiful digital magazines, each collection being appropriate and pitched at their audience. At the moment the clearest example of institutions that manage to show collections or magazines/periodicals are universities, and some in-house corporate networks.

The Exact Editions platform is now positioned to open up a new vista for digital magazines with network based subscriptions so  that customers or clients can obtain full but temporary access to a digital magazine app whilst they are in the wifi zone of the institution concerned. The Exactly app which now allows users to enjoy digital magazines on iPad/iPhone via a network subscription opens up this potential. The business model for network subscriptions can adapt to the requirements of the commercial sponsor. Lets take a look at how it might work in three hypothetical cases: Lufthansa, Starbucks and Glastonbury.

Lufthansa is one of the first major airlines to deliver a big push into internet access on board the plane. The FlyNet® Service is a paid extra €19.95 and works over 90% of the Lufthansa routemap

You can enjoy the full communications freedom of the Internet on almost the entire Lufthansa global long-haul network. The sole exceptions are flights over China — the system automatically switches off on entering Chinese airspace and switches on again when leaving it….  Lufthansa web site

Its a pity about the China blip, but Lufthansa is already allowing customers to use their own iPads in flight with broadband connectivity over most of the globe. Other airlines are following. As it happens Lufthansa still buys a lot of print magazines (one of our publishers sells 3000 copies a month to the airline). Most of these printed copies are going into the 300 wide-body jets with a business class. The fuel costs of onboard magazines are not negligible, and if airlines are considering hiring female crew because they are lighter than men, we can be sure that digital magazines start with a big advantage.. A library of digital magazines offers much more choice, with minimal maintenance and no contention between passengers. Ryanair or Easyjet will want to sell these digital magazines and newspapers to their passengers, but Lufthansa and Emirates will give free access to their passengers and they will offer a premium selection in the premium class (perhaps a dozen titles to economy passengers, a choice of 60 for business passengers on a long haul route). The magazine publishers will also like this business, because the best and most exclusive magazines will be paid in good money for their presence, and the promotional opportunity is also good. A digital magazine which can be read for free on board the plane, becomes a potential subscription once the customer has left the airline’s wifi zone. Why will Lufthansa and Emirates wish to give customers access to a limited range of magazines (say 20 or 100), rather than provide unrestricted access to the largest possible library? The simple answer to this question is that a collection of magazines that provides access to ‘everything’ is an illusion. It would also be a customer confusion as there would be far too much dross in a heap of everything. But it is above all an illusion, since the best magazines (Vogue, The Economist, The New York Review of Books) will not join in a collection of everything. So the slightly more complex answer is that for airlines (Lufthansa, Emirates, Air France) brand matters, and each airline will wish to cater to its own audience, by making the appropriate brand selection.

If we think of digital  magazines as providing entertainment spaces for a transient audience its clear that the customer ‘journey’ has a lot to do with the optimal reading matter. Its not just that the brand of the digital magazine needs to gel with the brand of the host provider, we should recognise that the reading style of the magazine may work better in one network niche than in another. The Harvard Business Review and Foreign Policy will work better in Lufthansa business class (deep reading for long haul flights) than in Starbucks or McDonalds, Starbucks may prefer short and crisp reading through The Onion, Private Eye and The Week which will provide prompt entertainment without blocking bar stools for hours  as customers read 15,000 word essays. The promotional potential of magazine distribution via coffee houses may be very high. Starbucks should be able to tell how many customers come into their shops because they have a Country Life subscription on the premises, and they have already discovered the advantages of requiring the customer to get their music or app in-store.

The world event gig? Here, Daryl’s idea is that a set of digital magazines could offer an audience an opportunity to sample and enjoy a set of titles that would be particularly appropriate to the specific event where a large crowd is gathered together with wifi access: Glastonbury, SXSW, the Brazil World Cup, the Cannes Film Festival or the Frankfurt Motor Show. A large and valuable audience spending several days (but not too long) in one spot with a wifi network, needs a selection of elite and appropriate magazines. Obviously auto magazines would feature strongly at Frankfurt, and music titles at Glastonbury, however there is scope for fashion and travel titles with the right resonance, as well, at both events. Being in the showcase of a global event will be a great exposure for the magazines and providing those titles gives the event’s organisers valuable consumer data and promotional leverage. The publishers also get the opportunity to upsell a direct subscription to anyone who has seen the digital edition on a temporary basis.

Exact Editions is hot on the trail of institutions that want to provide syndicated access to quality magazines. We welcome inquiries from organisers of grand events and from transport companies that want to provide travellers with great wifi content. We also want to talk to publishers about the ways in which they can sell digital subscriptions direct and support network access to their magazine apps. Any big brand magazine with a burning conviction that their magazine should be syndicated, not just article by article, but entirely as one super delightful fully illustrated, rich subscription, should email support@exacteditions.com or direct to daryl.rayner@exacteditions.com

Network Subscriptions to Digital Magazines

Exact Editions has a generic app, Exactly, for reading magazine subscriptions. The app is available both for iOS, for Android and for Amazon Kindle Fire and it will work with any subscriptions hosted by Exact Editions. Exactly has had several important uses for us and our customers. It is an app that we can use to provide confidential trials to publishers who may be planning to join the Exact Editions platform. It has also been useful for those small circulation magazines that use the Exact Editions platform but for some reason are unwilling to commit to an iOS branded app, their subscribers can then use Exactly on the iPad to get a reading experience which is essentially the same as they would get with a branded app. The Exactly app, also has one hitherto marginal advantage, it is the best choice for a customer who wants to subscribe to several digital magazines and use her collection as a searchable magazine library. Exactly will happily search complete archives for as many magazines as the customer cares to put in the subscription. So for those customers who buy a clutch of magazines from Exact Editions and want to consult them all on the iPad, the Exactly app is a great ‘aggregator’.

Last week we released a version of Exactly for iOS (7.1.0) which has some important new features. One addition may be very important and seems to be a clear ‘first’. In the words of the Whats New note:

Added support for institutional access — if your institution has a magazine subscription, you can access it from within your registered IP range (from iTunes catalogue page for Exactly)

For libraries and universities this is a big deal. Exact Editions is  the only digital magazine platform that specifically caters for institutional subscriptions for consumer magazines, and until now, our institutional subscribers have only been able to access their magazine resources through the web, their readers have had to use the browser interface which Exact Editions has always supported. Great, but not ideal when universities, colleges and schools are rapidly moving to iPads and tablets. There has to be a strong case for providing access to digital magazine subscriptions through the magazine apps. iPads are gaining rapid acceptance in educational institutions (portability, ease of use, beautiful apps, consistent behaviour) and getting magazine apps, reading apps and creativity solutions to work across campus is a major goal for Apple and educational publishers.

Network-based subscriptions to digital magazine apps, is an improvement in the service Exact Editions can offer to our institutional subscribers. So we will be telling librarians all about it. But the innovation is already in place. The switch has been flipped with Exactly 7.1.0, the Android Exactly is likely to follow suit. Any university or institution that has an IP-authenticated subscription to Exact Editions periodicals is all ready to go (IP-authenticated means the sub is validated by the IP address of the network, not by username/passwords). The magazine subscriptions can be read, browsed and searched through the iPad from the Exactly app. The process is simple. Go on to the campus, download the Exactly app on your iPad (its free and a one step process). Open the app on the iPad. The app will recognise that there is a network subscription available to you, provided that you are within the IP range of the network license. The app will show your subscriptions in the Titles menu, and at once start to sync the latest available issue(s). The app will register the source of your subscription in the Settings menu. For example, here is my access to Gramophone via the World Music Library:

World Music Library subscription to Gramophone

World Music Library subscription to Gramophone

 

A final note. The World Music Library does not yet exist. It is a hypothetical IP-based subscription service to a wonderful collection of music magazines (the periodical collection that every music library wants). In our next blog we will investigate why such IP-based network subscriptions to collections of magazines will be a great thing and not just for educational institutions.