We have been thinking about organizing/hosting a round-table discussion with some of the digitally aware magazine publishers that we know in the London-based magazine industry.
If we are to host such an event it is clear that this should not be a sales pitch for Exact Editions. A round-table discussion needs to focus on the broader context that confronts the industry as it gradually (perhaps too gradually) moves into a digital framework. If a ’round-table’ discussion is not to be a sales pitch, it is important that we identify the broad issues and the strategic matters that should be at the focus of board-level discussions in the magazine industry. These seem to be some of the key issues:
* are digital magazines very different from the magazines that we know? Should they be very different?
* are consumer magazine publishers being too slow to adopt business models which work with the iPad and with a new generation of readers who are primarily digital?
* should print subscribers be offered digital versions as a part of their print subscription?
* is the print audience morphing into a digital audience? Or will we be running with 2 quite different audiences (as seems to have been the case with the web visitors and print readers for many magazines in the last few years)?
* has the iPad radically changed the user’s expectation of a digital magazine?
* is the iPad really important, a game-changer, or a flash in the pan?
* beyond the iPad, where will we see the next new digital device which will present a big distribution opportunity for the magazine industry?
* are apps replacing the role of the web site for magazines? Or are web sites and apps complementary?
* how do you make money from apps?
* what is the role of multi-media or interactive elements in a digital magazine?
* can consumer magazines re-establish themselves with strong subscription revenues from digital editions and apps?
* what part of the revenue from digital magazines will come from advertisers?
* how are digital magazines going to adapt to the requirements and opportunities of the social web (Facebook, Twitter etc)?
Mulling over these, as it seems to me, key issues, I am struck by the thought that the challenges that face the industry now are very different from those that we were discussing two or three years ago. The iPad is part of the explanation (which means that it really is a game-changer). But I think there is another important difference. Magazine publishing is now entering a more confident, and a more hopeful phase. Publishers, designers and editors are becoming much more optimistic and positive about the prospects for digital magazines. There is less gloom and doom, and a renewed belief in experimentation and innovation. These are good signs for the industry.