1. Volume 2, Number 8 • December 16, 2013
A Report from the Joss Group 2013
Going Digital Conference
By Peter Johnston
On December 4, 2013, the Joss Group brought together a group of publishers, consultants, vendors,
and other interested parties in Philadelphia to discuss the current state of the publishing industry and
the changes wrought in it by digital technology. Looked at from one angle, the conference was largely a
discussion of breaking news: field notes from the ongoing effort—by this newsletter, among others—to
keep track of what has happened since the iPad and widespread tablet and app publishing became a
reality, just shy of four years ago. And, there was a lot of news from this front—all of it interesting and
some of it downright encouraging.
A Look Inside the Mac|Life iPad
The Latest Word
Entitle Launches e-Book Subscription
Adobe Offers .folio File Format For
DCL Announces Agreement with
United States Copyright Office
Follett to Partner with Simon &
Kompas Indonesia Goes Live With
Managing Editor Releases MEI
Portico Version 2.6
NewspaperDirect Re-brands as
2013 Digital Magazine Award
Future plc has debuted an iPad edition of its publication Mac|Life, which has been publishing in multichannel form for several years, albeit with what was basically a static PDF format. The company says the
January 2014 issue is the first in what it calls an interactive format designed for the iPad. This issue is
now for sale on the iTunes Apple Newsstand for $10.99 US$ for a one-year subscription or $5.99 US$ for
a single issue. As we go to press, the publisher is running a free 30-day trial of this publication.
FROM THE PUBLISHER OF THE SEYBOLD REPORT
2. A Report from the Joss Group 2013 Going
By Peter Johnston
On December 4, 2013, the Joss Group brought together a group of publishers,
consultants, vendors, and other interested parties in Philadelphia to discuss the
current state of the publishing industry and the changes wrought in it by digital
technology. Looked at from one angle, the conference was largely a discussion
of breaking news: field notes from the ongoing effort—by this newsletter, among
others—to keep track of what has happened since the iPad and widespread tablet and app publishing became a reality, just shy of four years ago. And, there
was a lot of news from this front—all of it interesting and some of it downright
Bleeding through into the remarks of even the most up-to-date speakers, however, was a set of issues haunting the publishing industry not for three years but
closer to three decades. Indeed, it may turn out the biggest service the boom in
app publishing has done for us is to force a concentrated examination of these
We like to say, for instance, newspaper and magazine advertising has been in
decline for ten years. Newsweek is gone. (and may be coming back, we will see.)
Time Inc. has been spun off, more or less at gunpoint, and instead of maintaining
a Chinese wall between edit and the business side is now openly in the native
advertising business. Gannett and its competitors are folding, shrinking, and otherwise causing to dwindle newspapers all over the country. The book business is
a mess, but one crisis at a time. We will come back to the book business shortly.
When people talk about the decline and struggle of publishing, their usual operating assumption is it all happened because of the Internet. Everything was fine
for a hundred years, the story goes. Then some time toward the end of the last
3. century, the reading public went online, closely followed by what had been the
print advertising community. Content became free, ad space became cheap, and
everything went to hell.
And the story is sort of true and sort of not. In terms of gross sales and profitability, the magazine ad business actually peaked sometime in the late 1980s.
The high-water mark was probably reached in the late summer and early fall of
1987, right before the global stock market crash of October 19—forgotten now
in the wake of more recent and even worse financial news, but famous then as
Black Monday. The crash was followed a fairly severe recession (severe for then;
today it would be a picnic), during which ad pages, like most economic indices,
took a major hit.
Meanwhile, the Internet as we know it was coming into existence. CompuServe
began offering Internet connectivity to its customers in 1989, America OnLine
was founded in 1991, and by 1992 or thereabouts, commerce-driven Web sites
were sprouting like mushrooms after a Spring rain.
Instead of being a tragedy for the publishing industry, the advent of the Internet was a bonanza. The dotcom boom of the 1990s took off, and suddenly
everybody was rich again. Magazine and newspaper advertising flourished. New
companies were being born every day; they needed to let the world know about
themselves, through conventional channels as well as through startup publications such as Wired (1993) and Fast Company (1995), print magazines created
specifically to chronicle the existence of the latest and reputedly greatest of the
new dotcom frontier companies.
The dotcom boom was followed by—no surprise—another bust. Between March
2000 and January 2001, the value of the NASDAQ dropped 78.4%. By October
of 2002, the market was at 21% of its value of two and a half years earlier. Total
magazine ad pages declined 12% from previous year levels.
The New Landscape
And then the 10-year decline began. Ad pages recovered to nearly 90% of their
2000 levels by 2006-2007. In 2008-2009 (thank you, financial industry—nice
work) there was another 25% drop. Magazine ad pages struggled back to nearly
zero (in 2006 terms; forget the old days) in 2010, and when last heard from they
were sinking again.
We bring all this up not to suggest Wall Street is at the root of the publishing
industry’s problems or we should all stop reading the tech news and read Forbes
instead, but to make a point that in our enthusiasm we sometimes overlook.
Publishing does not exist in a vacuum. Publishing and digital technology together do not exist in a vacuum.
Our industry is part of, and subject to the changes of, an enormous cultural,
economic, and cultural ecosystem. There is a lot we do not understand about
this environment (and, as it turns out, the people nominally in charge of it do not
understand it very well themselves), but we need to keep at least one eye on it
while we are going about our business.
The second annual Joss Group Going Digital Conference did an exemplary job of
capturing this tension between the big picture, which we need to understand as
best we can, and the small picture, i.e. the stuff we need to focus on every day
to get our work done. The opening presentation was by John Butler, a veteran
media executive who in his career has led major initiatives at Reed Elsevier, LexisNexis, Time Inc., Ziff Davis, and Forbes.
A lot of Butler’s work has taken place at the intersection of technology, content
handling, and what is known in most industries as customer relationship management. He began by offering a distinction between filler and filter. “Filler,” he
said, “is what we put in to hold the ad pages apart. Filter is what people actually
want and need: somebody to wade through the deluge of information available
and select out what is important.” He illustrated this with a line drawing of a man
sitting in a booth. The sign on the Filler booth reads, “Information: $1.” The sign
on the Filter booth reads “Information you need: $500.”
Proceeding from this underlying principle—the information people need is the
information they will pay you for—Butler walked the audience through three case
histories, projects he was involved with at Lexis/Nexis, Elsevier, and Time Inc. To
summarize (and unfairly oversimplify, but we do not have time and space to do
4. them justice), each of these three initiatives involved combining (and sometimes
replacing) over-complex administrative and technical systems so as to produce
better (and measurable) content data handling and delivery systems.
As a background guide to ways companies might and might not go about this,
Butler quoted some figures from John McKeon’s book Information Masters, a
study based on the close observation of 35 companies over a period of seven
years. Typically, these companies spend 82% of their available budget on technological competencies, 10% on information, and the remaining 8% on everything
else. And then they wonder why nothing ever gets done.
Ideally (says McKeon, and Butler clearly agrees), they should be spending 75% of
their money on people, process, organizational, cultural, and leadership competencies, 15% on information, and 10% on technology.
To illustrate his point about the difference between Filler and Filter, John Butler
used this drawing. Filter, Butler says, is identifying the important information.
Trends to Watch
Noelle Skodzinski, former Editorial Director of the Publishing Group at Philadelphia’s North American Publishing, sees a great deal of opportunity in today’s
publishing marketplace. She founded the consultancy mediaShepherd to help
publishers and other media executives take advantage of those opportunities.
Thus, in her presentation she outlined five current trends in the industry and
what they mean.
Number one on her list was the explosive growth of mobile devices as a commerce and communications channel. Citing a variety of sources, she noted mobile advertising grew 75% in 2013, and mobile is quickly becoming the most
common way to open and read e-mail. She also noted mobile has already surpassed desktops and laptops in terms of time spent with online retailers. She recommends publishers optimize their Web sites for mobile viewing, tailor e-mail
to be read on these smaller devices, and closely monitor their audience’s digital
content consumption habits.
Noelle Skodzinski, former Editorial
Director of the publishing group at
Philadelphia’s North American Publishing, sees a great deal of opportunity in today’s publishing marketplace. She founded mediaShepherd
to help publishers and other media
executives take advantage of those
In her presentation, she outlined five
current trends in the industry and
what they mean:
3. Native Advertising
4. Real-time Bidding for Online Ads
5. Other topics Skodzinski covered included gamification, the drive to make editorial content, ads, etc. more like video games, and also native advertising, which is
essentially advertorial under another name; real-time-bidding, a way of marketing unsold digital ad inventory (and the source of those slightly creepy ads which
follow people from Web site to Web site); and apps, which are growing rapidly
in number and capability.
To take just one example, the move to electronic books, each of these businesses
has reacted differently. Professional and scholarly publishing, Lichtenberg says, is
now virtually all electronic. With trade books, the degree of e-book adoption varies by publishing company. University presses are “lost in the woods of legacy;”
the ineffectiveness of what they are doing is matched only by their unwillingness
to do anything else.
The Burning Platform of Change
Then there is the educational market, which a few years ago everybody thought
would be all electronic by now. It turns out college students like paper textbooks.
(They can resell them, for one thing, something the industry’s futurologists somehow neglected to take into consideration.) Surprisingly enough, K-12 students,
aka digital natives, also seem to like paper textbooks. Look at the kids standing
in line for a school bus; most of them have a backpack full of heavy books—and
a tablet, which they use when they want to take a break from studying.
Jim Lichtenberg, President of Lightspeed LLC and a member of the board of the
Book Industry Study Group (BISG), offered a look at the state of the book publishing industry. He began with a slide of a burning offshore oil rig and the question, “Has the industry reached the ‘burning platform’ of disruptive change?” A
major problem with generalizing about book publishing, Lichtenberg noted, is
it is not a single industry. Rather, it is several industries, whose difference is disguised by a common form factor, i.e., the book.
None of which helps provide a clear answer to Lichtenberg’s question. (Nor, to
his credit, did he offer one himself.) The problem here seems to be not with the
book industry so much as with the supporting culture. (See macro v. micro discussion above.) The public itself seems to be ambivalent. Lichtenberg cited two
findings from a recent BISG survey of consumer attitudes toward e-book reading. “Consumers are very interested in ‘bundling’ print and digital versions of a
book . . . 48% of respondents [will] pay more for bundles.”
If this data ia not confusing enough, try this: “While the numbers are relatively
small, there is an increase in the number of people who buy print and digital versions of a book interchangeably, and a slow decline in the number of people who
exclusively buy e-books.”
Jim Lichtenberg, President of Lightspeed LLC and a member of the board of
the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), began his presentation with a slide of a
burning offshore oil rig coupled with a question (see above).
That kind of ambiguity seems to be largely absent in medical publishing, where
apps and interactive content are becoming the norm. Chantal Kolber, Director of
Digital Advertising Strategy for Wolters Kluwer Health, Medical Research, which
publishes more than 250 titles, explained her company’s decision to treat the
print and digital versions of its magazines as a unit, both in terms of circulation
and ad sales. A subscriber gets both. And, an advertiser buys both—and pays
more than when print was the only option.
6. way to drive the audience to that piece of content, something which cannot be
done with print.” (See the slide below for a summary of her recommendations.)
This emphasis on measuring and testing was echoed by Bonnie Gruber, who
also works closely with medical publishers. “In the old paradigm,” she said, “the
Editors-in-Chief of the various publications would essentially dictate content.
They would decide what the readers needed and give it to them. Now we can
measure what content people are paying attention to and how they are using it.
This ability enables us to look to a much wider circle of people to develop what
is in the publications.”
Art and Craft
If people are going to do change the way they develop and measure what they
publish, they are going to have to change the way they get paid for it. Keeping
track of what publishers are selling,and what audiences they are delivering, has,
in the United States, long been the bailiwick of the Audit Bureau of Circulations
which—to keep up with the times—recently changed its name to the Alliance for
Audited Media (AAM).
Keynote Speaker Chantal Kolber, Director of Digital Advertising Strategy for
Wolters Kluwer Health, Medical Research, told the 2013 Going Digital attendees
about how the company has profited from its multi-channel publishing efforts.
Wolters Kluwer laid the groundwork for this approach by encouraging both authors and advertisers to embed additional content (video in particular) in the
material they have published. The strategy, says Kolber, is working, aided by a
sales message focused on engagement, as measured by the ability to track reader interaction in a digital publication. For 2013 the division is enjoying a substantial increase in ad sales revenue. “I do not see why anybody would not embrace
the possibilities of digital,” she said.
This look at the medical publishing landscape was fleshed out by presentations
from Andrea Gaymon, Vice President, Special Services, Slack Incorporated, and
Bonnie Gruber, a Partner in Delta Think. Gaymon’s clients are medical publishers,
associations, and digital agencies, for whom she designs custom projects. Key
to her approach, she says, is metrics: measure, adjust when something does not
work, and establish benchmarks. “One of the beauties of digital publishing is, if
something is not reaching its target, send out another promotion. Find another
7. Eric John, AAM’s Vice President, Digital Services, explained how his organization
is keeping track of this rapidly changing landscape. He noted AAM now tracks
receipt (content delivered as promised) and use (level of reader engagement) using metrics similar to those described by the medical publishing representatives.
He recommends publishers build a set of metrics and a reporting foundation,
organize what they do around the data, and make sure there is an audit trail.
Multi-channel publishing may be a new world, but it is not one without rules.
As a nice counterpoint to the emphasis on data and strategy discussions, veteran
designer Dan Marcolina demonstrated some of the newer work his firm is doing
with the new digital publishing tools. Marcolina, a Photoshop pioneer who has
availed himself of every artistic possibility software offered, said he was thinking
of retiring before app publishing came along. Judging from the terrific examples
of his recent projects he showed the conference, with the new technology he has
found a new lease on artistic life.
At left, Eric John and a portion of one of the slides he presented during his presentation on how digital advertising is changing and how the AAM is changing
along with the times. At top, Dan Marcolina is shown during his presentation in
which he demonstrated some of his digital publishing projects (Photo Credit:
Kendall Whitehouse, Wharton Interactive, for all the photographs for this article.)
Ellen Hurwitch, Director of Operations, the Americas, at RedTie, also talked about
how publishers and others in the graphic arts can change the way they do their
work. Her presentation included several case studies of how printers are providing their customers with print and multi-channel publishing services. In this new
world of multi-channel publishing, she explained, print can be a vital, and profitable part of the mix. The best ideas for mixing print with digital for customers,
she pointed out, as well, come from paying attention to the customer’s needs
and not being afraid to change a business model to fit new trends and needs.
And, at least judging from this December day in Philadelphia, it looks like the
publishing industry may be about to find its own new lease on life. Publishing
has always been a mixture of imagination, science, and plain old hard-nosed
business sense. The landscape and the tools have changed, but the publishers
flourishing today appear to be a lot like the ones who were flourishing 30 years
ago, that is, people with a large dose of all three of those qualities. We can hardly
wait to see what the 2014 conference is like. DPR
8. A Look Inside the Mac|Life iPad Edition
Future plc has debuted an iPad edition of its publication Mac|Life, which has been
publishing in multi-channel form for several years, albeit with what was basically
a static PDF format. The company says the January 2014 issue is the first in what
it calls an interactive format designed for the iPad. This issue is now for sale on
the iTunes Apple Newsstand for $10.99 US$ for a one-year subscription or $5.99
US$ for a single issue. As we go to press, the publisher is running a free 30-day
trial of this publication.
We decided to take the January issue for a spin to see what Future plc has done
with the title with the move away from a static PDF and into the realms of digital
publishing. For the most part, we liked what we saw, but we would hesitate to
call the new publishing approach interactive since we did not find any features in
the issue which enable the reader to interact with the content. For example, while
the issue contains slide shows and animation, there are no self-scoring quizzes
or other reader involvement devices. In this particular issue, we did not see any
video windows, but we expect the publisher has in mind to add video clips to
Content and Navigation
The content of the iPad edition appears to mirror the content of the print and
static PDF versions which the publisher is still using for publishing content on the
Kindle, Nook, Google Play, and Zinio. The magazine’s content revolves around
the standard format for consumer technology magazines such as features, reviews, gadget showcases, and the like. For the most part, the content, including
the ads, is presented in static format and as it would be in a print edition. However, the presentation is clear and straightforward, and the text is easy to read.
No white letters on a colored background in this magazine!
We were happy to see the publishers have included a help page (shown at right)
to instruct readers how to navigate the iPad edition. This page is one of the best
of this type we have seen. Plenty of information is presented, enough to allow the
reader to understand how to navigate through all the types of article in the issue,
but the information is arranged so it is easy to understand at-a-glance.
9. We like how the publisher set up the navigation within the iPad app. For example, as shown in the
two images at top left, the publisher uses a single page as an introduction to a product round-up
article, in this case the round-up is a collection of word processing apps. This page shows an icon
for each app, and the app icon represents the type of user for a particular app. In our screen capture of this page, we have circled the Researcher icon. The reader can jump to the Researcher app
review by tapping on the icon. The publisher re-uses the Researcher icon on the app review page,
thus linking the start and jump page for the reader. To make returning to the start page easier, the
publisher has included, at the bottom right of the review page, a Back “button.”
Similarly, the publisher includes a list of the tip categories found in the feature and cover article
about using Mavericks. For our screen capture shown at top right we captured the first page of the
feature. Note the color difference between the word “Intro” and the rest of the words at left, which
gives the reader a subtle clue at to where they are in the article.
At left we have included screen captures of two of the ads in the issue. Each ad is a static image and
is presented as it would be in a print or PDF edition.
10. There was one type of article in the issue which we thought was particularly well done from a digital publishing design perspective because the navigation and layout
take full advantage of the format made possible by publishing on the iPad: the Create articles, which are brief how-to articles at the end of the book. We took several
screen captures of one of these articles (about how to rename batches of files) to help illustrate what we like about the what the material is presented. Certainly, this
method of presenting information could be duplicated using static images presented in sequence in a PDF or print version of the content, but we found being able to
step through the material by tapping on a step circle (the active circle is shown in yellow) makes it easier to comprehend the entire process. And, having the number
of steps in each procedure shown on each page gives readers valuable information. By presenting the number of steps and access to every step within each step,
the publisher gives the reader a valuable clue as to how long and how involved the process is to learn as well as an easy way to return to a particular step to review
the material presented in the step.
11. The Latest Word
Entitle Launches e-Book Subscription Service
Entitle, formerly named eReatah, has announced the launch of an e-book subscription service which allows members to read two books a month for $14.99,
three books a month for $21.99 and four books a month for $27.99. The company
says members will own and have permanent access to any books they download
regardless of their subscription status with Entitle and can read their books on as
many as six devices. Members can read books on the newly-launched Entitle ereading app for iPad, iPhone and Android devices.
Adobe Offers .folio File Format For Free
Adobe has announced it will offer its .folio file format, which is used with all magazines created with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, under a free license beginning
in January 2014. The company says, in the press release announcing the news,
publishing the technical specification for the .folio format for digital magazines
under a free license will make it possible for publishers to produce their own .folio
DCL Announces Agreement with United States Copyright Office
Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL), has announced the company has entered into
a cooperative agreement with the Library of Congress (LOC) to act as an agent for
deposit of e-Serials on behalf of publishers to fulfill mandatory deposit demands
and deposits in support of copyright registration at the United States Copyright
Office and Library of Congress.
range from pre-school picture books to chapter books for early readers to higherlevel fiction and nonfiction for young adults.
Kompas Indonesia Goes Live With Miles 33
Miles 33 has announced Kompas, Indonesia's largest daily newspaper (daily circulation of 530,000), has gone live with a 400-seat multi-channel news publishing system: the GN4 editorial content management system. The system integrates
Kompas' Kentico GNWeb content management system for its print edition Web
site publishing as well as VirtualNewspaper's mobile application.
Managing Editor Releases MEI Portico Version 2.6
Managing Editor has released MEI Portico version 2.6. An update to Managing Editor Inc.'s customizable storefront solution for digital publishers, according to the
press release detailing the announcement Portico 2.6 delivers new automations for
content management and offers scheduling of content as well as interactive templates for creating customizable storefronts made for apps built with the Adobe
DPS Enterprise Edition.
NewspaperDirect Re-brands as PressReader
NewspaperDirect has changed the company name to PressReader and has also
launched PressReader.com, a Web site the company says is designed to address
the changing state of the media industry.
This agreement follows a Request for Information about Normalized Electronic Serial Content issued by LOC in April 2012, and subsequent public notice of invitation
for third parties to act as agents for deposit. DCL is the first agent to be selected for
this initiative. This five-year agreement with DCL is part of the LOC's expanding efforts to acquire digital content and meet the growing demand for e-publications.
Follett to Partner with Simon & Schuster
Follett has announced a partnership with Simon & Schuster to make more than
450 PreK-12 titles available in e-book form on Titlewave, Follett's collection development, search and ordering tool. Simon & Schuster titles offered by Follett will