Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

03/14/2011

Limiting E-Book Circulation – A Librarians point of View


Harper Collins  has initiated limited access licenses to e-content for library circulation purposes. A new model meant to retain old print and ink attritions renewal profits. Appears publishers are having a hard time giving up an old print profit process that is simply no longer required in the new “E” world…I guess you can’t blame them.

Christopher Platt, director of collections and circulation operations at the New York Public Library, has some trade-offs from the library’s viewpoint that make a lot of sense and should make the adjustment to library ebook circulation much smoother.

Christopher Platt writing in Publishers Weekly:

The Happy Reader Equation: A Librarian on HarperCollins’s E-Book Pricing Model

HarperCollins generated a lot of controversy and debate with its new pricing model for e-books capping usage. In this week’s issue of PW, Connecticut librarian Kate Sheehan weighs in on the issue, and in PW Daily today we offer another piece by NYPL’s Christopher Platt, who takes a slighter different tack.

Recently, Harper Collins announced a new pricing model for e-books that caps usage, after which it would require a library relicense the title again for another set of uses. They further clarified that by mimicking the hardcover-to-paperback replacement purchase model, the price of the title would come down as it ages.

 

It has been a momentous few years for publishers and libraries. The economic downturn hit publishers hard, forcing cost-cutting, downsizing, and a review of business models. During all of this, the rapid advance of e-reading became the bright spot on publishers’ balance sheets, and now they are focusing intensely on ways to provide interesting content, engage new readers, and generate revenue in that arena.
 
Libraries were hit hard too, many of us enduring major fiscal challenges that strained our resources in the face of skyrocketing use. Libraries have downsized, cut back spending and services, and in some cases even closed during a time when their communities needed them the most. For many librarians, the announcement of e-book use limits from a major publisher must have felt like yet another in a long line of punches to the gut. 
HarperCollins is a publisher that has worked hard to build up a great track record supporting libraries, and I know they are a team of dedicated individuals who recognize the value we bring to the table. They, like many of us, are tasked with the difficult job of revising long-held models to stay profitable and relevant. As content and demand have grown in the e-book retail market, publishers have been revising e-book pricing models, and it’s no surprise they are now looking at the library market. I know the other trade houses are watching with great interest, and I applaud HarperCollins for being courageous enough to make the first move. This call for understanding is directed to all trade publishers and my respected library colleagues.
 
Librarians: public libraries are valued institutions. Remember that we are just one portion of the formula that gets titles to readers, and the only step that is not-for-profit:
Author + Publisher + Wholesaler + Library = Happy Reader

 

Read and learn more

Remember, Good People, you can get this wonderful blog right on your Kindle here

Advertisements

03/08/2011

Inside the Numbers of Digital Content…Making It Pay


I’ve always thought (hell, make that knew) that ‘content’ was king…and, therefore, the basic ingredient to any successful writing/reporting venture online OR off.

The trick in the new online, digital paradigm was making it profitable…Therein lies the rub. 

It’s not too often that an insider gives up any real tangible figures or metrics highlighting just how their business is doing…where it started from and how it is becoming successful. 

Surprise!  Henry Blodget (pictured), CEO of financial news and analysis site Business Insider (which was just named a Top 25 Financial Blog by Time.com) has done just that in this article for FOLIO magazine by Matt Kinsman:

At FOLIO:, we’re used to having to cajole publishers to share metrics to back up the case they’re making for their own success. But every now and then someone lays it all out, understanding that solid revenue, net income and EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization) figures go a lot further than phrases like “synergy” and “relationship with our audience.”

Kudos then to Henry Blodget, CEO of financial news and analysis site Business Insider (which was just named a Top 25 Financial Blog by Time.com), who shared the type of proprietary financials that keep most PR heads up at night in a post making the case for the viability of “digital news” as a business. (The admissions come on the heels of Huffington Post’s $315 million sale-or as one talkbacker to Blodget’s post wrote, “The headline on this post should be: Dear AOL, For your consideration, we’re an excellent Web property too!”)

The stats: Business Insider generated $4.8 million in revenue in 2010 (up from $39,495 a couple years ago), mostly from advertising. The company was profitable in 2010 (making $2,127), but Blodget warns it will dip back into the red over the next few quarters, due to aggressive investment, spurred in part by New York State’s capital tax. “Making $2,127 feels about 2,127 times as good as losing money,” he writes. “And it makes us confident that, if we keep working hard, and we keep getting better, we’ll be able to build a successful business and a truly great product someday.”

The Costs Of Making Online Content a Real Business

While we’re definitely in the “aggregation”-oops, sorry, I meant “curation” age-many online startups are investing in staff and resources in creating original content (which is more than can be said for many of their peers coming from traditional media).

Blodget [pictured] acknowledges the knocks against HuffPo’s content (paying a few big name writers while plucking content from low-or-unpaid bloggers, generating SEO-bait) but he also says that with HuffPo expected to grow another $20 million to $50 million in revenue that it “will likely hire a lot more New York Times staffers to go with the ones it has already got. In other words, HuffPo will keep getting better.” (HuffPo did just snap up political writer Jon Ward from News Corp’s The Daily).

Blodgett doesn’t reveal what he’s paying to generate content, but says “We didn’t make that profit because we’re a sweatshop, by the way.” He claims a 25-person newsroom, (which is larger than many magazines which are generating far more than $4 million and splitting four or five people-if they’re lucky–across print AND digital).

He writes

“Our newsroom salaries for full-time employees, for example (which include bonuses and benefits) are now higher than at many companies in the traditional news industry. Because the digital news business is quite different from the traditional news business, we often promote from within, and we’ve had the huge pleasure of watching folks who joined us as interns grow up to take leadership positions. True, we can’t yet toss around the $300,000-$500,000 a year per brand-name columnist that Huffington Post and Daily Beast are now reportedly tossing around. But, in future years, if we keep doing what we think we can do, we should be able to pay our top people a lot more than we do today.”

Read and learn more

 

03/03/2010

Is Apple iPad Too Late to Save Print Publishing ?

Filed under: digital content pricing,future of printed word,InfoWorld — gator1965 @ 4:29 pm

Another take on whether the printed word is dead or alive OR has one foot in the grave. I have previously expressed my opinion that the printed word will never die out completely…it just will not be the only game in town anymore.

Others feel that people have already gotten used to the faster, mostly free, but poorer quality online content. I still foresee the economics of both a higher-quality, for-pay online content and good printed word formats that many people, including younger people, prefer and will continue to prefer in many venues. Both digital and printed word can exist together. The existence of one does not have to mean the demise of the other…Publishers just have to find the business models wherein each work the best. This will become clearer in the future, I’m sure.

Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld, has this view:
‘The ship for most publications may have already sailed — because people are too used to getting subpar content for free.

It seems Condé Nast is embracing the Apple iPad as its one and true savior. Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, GQ, Glamour, and Wired are all getting gussied up for Apple’s WonderPad, according to the New York Times. Hey if you’re gonna do it, might as well start with the best.

I say, more power to them. If anyone can create a digital marketplace for a dying industry that has consumed much of my working life, it’s the Conde Nasties. But I fear the ship for most publications may have already sailed. It may simply be too late — because people are too used to getting subpar content for free.

(Now I’m going to take off my geek hat and put on my editorial chapeau. Please talk amongst yourselves while I slip into something even grungier.)

Here’s the nasty little secret most publishers would rather you not know: Their online versions aren’t nearly as good as their print versions. The reasons are pretty obvious.

The premium rates publications charge(d) for print advertising subsidized a great many things — like teams of researchers, fact checkers, copy editors, and multiple line editors — that online ad models simply don’t support. So the very first thing that goes when a publication moves online is quality control. When faced with producing lesser-quality content or no content at all, that’s an easy call to make.

Meanwhile, in the print world, you more or less had a fixed amount of copy you had to produce to satisfy your readers each day, week, or month. Online, though, the need for new copy converges on infinity. It’s a hole that can never be filled. Publications are under intense pressure to produce more stories with fewer people, which is why so many of them moved to a blogging model, generating simple stories that can be produced quickly by a single person without a lot of oversight. (And sometimes that can really come back to bite you.)

More often than not, what you read on the Web is the work of a single person. If you’re lucky, a copy editor scanned the post quickly before making it go live — one of dozens he or she might have to edit in a single day.

(For the record: All InfoWorld blog posts are copyedited, which is why so I don’t sound quite as foolish as I otherwise might. Thank you Caroline and Uyen for saving my sorry behind.)

Don’t believe me? The Columbia Review of Journalism surveyed more than 600 print publications with online editions. Slightly more than half of them fact-check online articles in the same manner that they fact-check print articles; the rest use a less-stringent process or none at all. Per Victor Navasky, the big cheese behind CRJ:

“One of the things that it appears to mean is that there’s this trade-off of standards for speed,” Mr. Navasky said of those topics. “The conventional wisdom is that you have to be there first in order to get traffic, and you need traffic in order to sell ads, therefore you do not have time to do conventional copy-editing and fact-checking.”

And there you have it: Internet publishing is a different beast. The problem is that readers haven’t adjusted their expectations accordingly. They still expect the same kind of quality control they got when magazines were fat and happy, even though they’re paying even less for it than they used to — usually nothing at all.

Now having said that, you can still find original, well researched, well-written articles on the Web (on InfoWorld’s site and elsewhere), but the vast majority of online content is none of those things. And as more of it gets machine generated, that will only get worse.

The notion behind putting magazine articles on an iPad is that, assuming people are willing to pay, publications can still afford to produce quality material without taking a financial bath. But the question is, are people willing to pay? Does quality matter? Or have we passed the point of no return, where fast and cheap trumps fast and good, and everything else be damned?’

11/21/2009

Magazines No Longer the ‘Center of the Universe’


Print advertising profits are declining due to all the new upstarts in digital media. Publishers are having to re-think their place in the media food chain and design new business models to move forward and survive.

More on this topic by Jason Fell in November issue of Folio magazine:

Publisher Survival, especially for those supported mainly by print advertising, was the topic of debate, and some contention, during a Folio: Show Virtual panel discussion last month called “Big Ideas and New Opportunities for 2010 and Beyond.”

“The magazine business, particularly if you’re dominated by print advertising, is going to continue to be no-growth to a declining business—probably forever,” said panelist David Nussbaum, CEO of enthusiast magazine and book publisher F+W Media. Other panelists included Mann Media CEO Bernie Mann; Eric Biener, Nielsen Business Media’s vice president of business development; and Daniel McCarthy, chairman and CEO of Network Communications, Inc.

While some print magazines will survive, publishers “can’t bank on them being the driver” of their business, Nussbaum argued. At F+W, magazine publishing depends largely on subscription and newsstand revenues. “Advertising, which we love and we want, will be gravy on top of that,” he said.

Mann, who publishes North Carolina’s Our State, countered that losses in print don’t pertain to the entire industry. “Trust is very important and is hard to find. How many people trust television today? How many people trust their daily newspapers,” he said. “If you can build trust in magazines, you have some long, long legs.”

Growing Competition

With bloggers and other online publishers are continuing to pop up and take market share, traditional magazine publishers in the future won’t hold sole ownership of the markets they serve, the panelists largely agreed. Publishers now should focus more on core products, the panelists said, and on being “active participants” in the markets they serve.

“I don’t think we’re ever going back to the day when we were the center of the universe. We have to recognize that,” Nussbaum said. “We now are part of the overall community. If we can grasp that role then we can begin to get back to levels of profitability.”

The Paid Content Debate

And, of course, what’s a panel discussion today without talk about charging for content online? “Allowing people to parse out the pieces of content they find valuable, and to make nickels on those pieces on an economy of scale is one of the future models we are looking at for our businesses,” Biener said. “I think micropayments are going to play successfully in the future of media business, specifically content.”

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: