iPad magazine sales continue dropping

After some initial very positive sales figures for magazines on the iPad, sales continued to drop for US titles as the end of 2010 approaches, according to a post by John Koblin in WWDMedia.

Vanity Fair sold 8,700 digital editions of its November issue, down from its average of about 10,500 for the August, September and October issues. Glamour sold 4,301 digital editions in September, but sales dropped 20 percent in October and then another 20 percent, to 2,775

iPad sales for Wired, which outsold print copies with the iPad edition in its first month, have seriously tailed off. We now have several months of declining sales for the iPad edition. The iPad as ‘print’ saviour now looks less and less likely. Would a better subscription model help? Would less print-centric thinking help? At this point, the sales figures don’t look to justify the premium ad rates some magazines are charging for the iPad.

Dorian Benkoil writing on PBS MediaShift quoted John Loughlin, executive vice president and general manager of Hearst Magazines:

As Loughlin noted, this is an experimental period, when magazines are learning what they can offer and how much they can charge. Some apps will be breakout hits. A combination of web, apps, mobile and print sales may bolster magazines and give them new life and sustained profitability.

But the excitement over apps has some difficult realities to confront until that day is reached.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. There are no silver bullets, no single solution that will save publishing. It’s going to take strategic thinking that focuses on building compelling print and digital products and building a multi-revenue stream business or businesses to support them.

XMediaLab Sounds Digital: Ken Hertz and the music industry

Here’s some live blogging I did on Twitter and ScribbleLive about the XMediaLab Sounds Digital event in London.

First I’ll give you the ‘raw’ feed from Twitter and then ScribbleLive. After that, I’ll briefly cover some of the major themes. If you want to jump directly to my summary and analysis, just go here.

From my updates on Twitter:

Ken Hertz: In a world of overwhelming choice (in content), filters become important #xmedialab << filters, discovery, relevance

Ken Hertz: Piracy didn’t cause problems in the music industry. Connectivity created problems. #xmedialab

@kenhertz says: Pad and iTunes same model as Sony, why didn’t they win, rather than Apple? Apple sells convenience.#xmedialab

@kenhertz: “Music is the best way to sell other shit.”#xmedialab eg ‘Using Dr Dre to sell headphones’

@kenhertz: Music industry never was good at marketing. In 1998, released 32,000 albums, only 250 sold 10,000 or more#xmedialab

@kenhertz: Copyright act was intended to incentivise access to content by enabling middle men. Artists never made any money. #xmedialab

@kenhertz didn’t know title of the UKDigital Economy Bill. He thought it was called the Digital Enforcement Act. #debill#xmedialab

@kenhertz: Record industry never sold music. Sold plastic discs because it was the most convenient way to sell music.#xmedialab

@kenhertz: People with no resources and no money can become important quickly. That’s never happened in the media industry. #xmedialab

@kenhertz: (Music industry) in a world of unlimited shelf space, marketing is everything.#xmedialab

From ScribbleLive:

  • 6:07 AM: kevglobal @kenhertz: Says that Jill Sobule raised $80k for her next record.
  • 6:07 AM: kevglobal jillsnextrecord.com
  • 6:08 AM: kevglobal Jill Sobule created different levels of support.
  • 6:09 AM: kevglobal The highest level of support for Jill Sobule: $10,000 – Weapons-Grade Plutonium Level: You get to come and sing on my CD. Don’t worry if you can’t sing – we can fix that on our end. Also, you can always play the cowbell.
  • 6:10 AM: kevglobal Ken Hertz mentioning over and over how discovery, filters and marketing are the future of music “in a world with unlimited shelf space”. However, it’s also about trust, emotion and connection.
  • 6:11 AM: kevglobal Ken Hertz says that the CD was “essentially bridge technology”. All the limitations made us think that we were charging for delivery of music.
  • 6:11 AM: kevglobal Ken Hertz commenting on the Digital Economy Bill. “Holding ISPs responsible for peer-to-peer file sharing will not result in a reduction of peer-to-peer file sharing.”
  • 6:13 AM: kevglobal “In a future of unlimited memory, unlimited connectivity, the internet creates a big jukebox in the sky.” Ken Hertz. You can’t build your future on a bridge technology.

(Sorry about the odd time stamps. I didn’t set it from where I was at. No, this isn’t happening at 6am.)
The Analysis:

On a number of instances, people have drawn parallels between the music industry and its struggles to adapt to digital and the news industry. The music industry has long been fighting against peer-to-peer file sharing and piracy. (Piracy is a very contentious term, but that’s the term the industry uses. It’s not only contentious as a term but also contentious in terms of the data, see a recent US government report asking questions about the data on piracy and its impact on the music industry.)
In the news industry, we have major figures in the industry calling Google and other aggregators parasites and trying to figure out ways to charge for content in a digital age.
Much of what the music has seen and has tried the news industry is now thinking about. Well, more accurately in the news industry the state of play is this: Thinking about, shouting at each other about, thinking some more about, shouting some more just in case one wasn’t understood during the first round of shouting, threatening in case the shouting wasn’t intimidating enough and then mostly waiting for someone else to try it first.
Ken Hertz showed the problem for the music industry switching from selling CDs for $16 to selling digital downloads for 99 cents. Anyone can see how this would affect revenues for the music industry. He quoted Jeff Zucker who said that the entertainment industry was trading analogue dollars for digital dimes. This is pretty well known territory for this discussion.

However, he took the discussion in a different direction. He pointed out that in 1998 (I believe that this is a US number not a global number), that the music industry released 32,000 albums but only 250 sold more than 10,000 copies. “The music industry was never good at marketing,” he said. Copyright is not about protecting content or paying artists but about incentivising access to content by encouraging middle men, he said. “The artists have never made money,” he said.
The CD was essentially a ‘bridge technology’. It was the most convenient way to deliver music up to that point, much more effective than LPs or tapes, which is why many people replaced their collections with this new format. “The music industry never sold music,” he said, adding, “we sold plastic discs because it was the most convenient way to sell music.”

However, the internet proved even more convenient. Asking a rhetorical question, he wondered why Apple with the iPod and iTunes managed to succeed with digital music instead of Sony, which had natural advantages. He said that Apple understood that it wasn’t selling music but rather convenience.
Fundamentally though, Ken talked about a music world with “unlimited shelf space”. This returns to one of the major themes of 2010. Smart content companies are realising that abundance causes more problems than scarcity. “Piracy didn’t cause problems in the music industry. Connectivity created problems,” he said. It created more choice than anyone could possibly handle, and it created an incredibly convenient distribution mechanism.
However, in a world of overwhelming choice, filters become important. Trust, emotional connection and marketing also become important. The future that he sees is one with unlimited storage and unlimited connectivity. That takes the convenience and choice that we have now and makes it look like scarcity. That’s the future that the music industry (and actually any content) industry needs to prepare for.

Journalists: Belittling digital staff is not acceptable

Patrick Smith, recently of paidcontent.co.uk, has a post about the economics of regional newspapers in the UK and he makes the case (again) that the challenges facing British regional newspapers come down quite simply to economics.

This is not about the quality of journalism – this is about economics: The web is simply more effective for advertisers – Google ads are more effective and have less wastage than an ad in the Oxdown Gazette, no matter how good the editorial quality of the paper is.

In the post, he quotes “Blunt, the pseudonymous author of the Playing the Game: Real Adventures in Journalism blog” who defines a “Web Manager” as:

An expert in cut and paste. Probably a journalist but not necessary.

My issue isn’t with Blunt. Let’s be honest with ourselves, this is a sadly typical comment in the industry regarding digital staff. It’s not even new. I’ve heard comments like this for most of my 16-year career. During this Great Recession, I can understand psychologically and emotionally where they come from: It’s an anxious time for journalists, all journalists, regardless of medium or platform.

The digitally focused staff are working just as hard to preserve professional journalism as those staff still focused on print. I have spent most of my career developing unique digital skills while producing content for broadcast and print. I have often felt that I had to work harder than traditional journalists to prove that I’m not just an ‘expert in cut and paste’. I work very hard to know my beats, work across platforms and produce high quality journalism that meets or exceeds the industry standards of print, broadcast and web journalism. I am not the only digital journalist who puts this sort of effort in. Yet the industry is still rife with the same anti-digital prejudice I witnessed ten years ago.

It’s long past time for senior figures in journalism to publicly state that demeaning digital staff is not acceptable. Here are a few basic facts about digital journalism:

  • I use a computer for much of my work. That doesn’t mean I’m a member of the IT staff.
  • I know about technology. That doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of writing.
  • My primary platform is digital. That doesn’t mean my professional standards are lower.

Prejudice towards digital journalists needs to stop. It sends a message to digital journalists that they are unwanted at a time when their skills are desperately needed by newspapers. Digital staff should not be the convenient whipping women and men for those angry and upset about economic uncertainty in the industry.

There is nothing totemic about print and paper that makes the journalism instantly better or more credible. Quality broadsheets are printed on paper just as sensationalist tabloids are. Let’s measure journalists not by the platform but by their output.