Whoever Gets Paid for Content Wins

AutoWriters.com does a nice job each month dispensing juicy bits of info to us word junkies. Their February Newslettercontained a brief, but relevant jib-jab at the suitability of magazine content on portable devices. Herewith the exchange between Nina Link from the Association of Magazine Media, and Mike McCue, CEO of magazine app designer Flipboard…

LINK: We are at the advent of possibly the greatest creative revolution in the history of magazines…And magazine edit teams – writers, editors, videographers, photographers and graphic designers – are already creating tablet-friendly content that showcases the enduring qualities of magazine media: curated stories, long-form journalism, a strong sense of community, and award-winning photography and design.

McCUE: Online journalism is contaminated by the web factor. Articles are being condensed to narrow columns of text across 5, 6, 7 pages, and ads that are really distracting for the reader. …Journalism is being pushed into a space where I don’t think it should ever go. Where it is trying to support the monetization model of the web by driving page views. It means a drop-off in long-form journalism because it is harder to monetize.” Given the stretched-out articles, the time needed to download them and the distracting ads, McCue says, “it’s not a pleasant experience to ‘curl up’ with a good web site.”

Nonetheless, the Car and Driver iPad app is up and running with all those graphic, video and interactive features that Ms. Link waxes about but David Link warned about in last month’s Newsletter. AWCom does not know if the two are related but they should talk. He says all the presumed savings in going digital will be consumed by bandwidth costs while consumers are being conditioned to getting all the digital bells and whistles for free. Well, almost. The Car and Driverapp is a free download from the Itunes APP Store on IPad and each issue is $2.99 through In App Purchase.

Magazine folks like magazines and there’s no stopping their confirmation bias. And techies want us to go over the horizon perhaps before our time. I won’t say the truth is somewhere in the middle (hey, I’m no fence straddler), but it really comes down to paying for content. The very nature of magazine editorial is, for the most part, timely and newsworthy and that’s where the web has print beat hands down. And web-based news is pretty much a freebie in our current e-world. Consumers like free stuff and only a small percentage will pay a premium for what they perceive to be higher quality information or data they critically depend on (i.e. stock tips). I truly hold that all this has less to do with format than content.

The coming battle will be waged over which organizations can really deliver outstanding news and information that consumers will pay for online. It’s not about converting print to a portable device, it’s about writing for the reader.

Related story: Apple’s magazine app.

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  1. I read somewhere that you are a former DEC employee. Way back when Digital published “Writing for the Reader” or something to that effect!

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