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No Really, No Need for Thanks

No Really, No Need for Thanks

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Published by T M Copeland
An essay out lining a couple of approaches existing print publishers may want to consider to facilitate migration to digital publishing.
An essay out lining a couple of approaches existing print publishers may want to consider to facilitate migration to digital publishing.

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Published by: T M Copeland on Dec 08, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/11/2014

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Sometimes overlooked in all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the upheaval rippingthrough the publishing industry is the question of what the ultimate, digital deliverysystem will be. After all, for over one thousand years news, poetry, official pronouncements, books, whatever, were published on paper or its cousin, papyrus.Everyone involved, writer, publisher, advertiser, reader, you name it, knew the publication media involved and became very comfortable with it.There is no such consensus regarding what the output device will look like in the digitalage. This lack of stability on a vital subject is constipating the migration from the printedto the digital. Interested parties are trying all kinds of remedies. Rupert is issuing direthreats to Goggle, Microsoft is sucking up to Rupert,
Sports Illustrated 
is formulatingsuggested formats for digital magazines, the
 New York Times
has established a digitalside of the house trying to stumble onto an answer. In short, virtually everybody is tryingsomething to make a seamless segue from a paper product to a digital one. And, they aredoing so without having any idea what the device they will be publishing to looks like,feels like and behaves.Some would consider this a dilemma.This dilemma must be frustrating as well as financially terrifying. It is no wonder there isso much hope, crackling like static electricity across a summer, southern sky, for the presumed, but unannounced, Apple Tablet. It is as if the entire publishing industry isawaiting Steve Jobs to save them from technical obsolesce. And, why should they not?He did much the same for the audio recording industry.Perhaps he will do just that. It may be the Apple Tablet will emerge as the be all and endof the problem. Perhaps it will create the long desired platform upon which anybody inthe publishing industry, newspapers, magazine publishers, book publishers, pamphlet publishers, any and all such, can use to reach their readers.Whether Jobs does it or someone else does it, somebody is going to design a platformthat all publishers can use. The question is, can anybody design a platform that all readerswill use? That is a much trickier question and for publications designed for massdistribution it is a very thorny problem.In the absence of someone developing a portable, internet ready, multi use reader  platform that becomes ubiquitous, or very nearly so, publishers of all sizes will havemuch the same problem as they do now. What does the published surface look like?Without an answer to that it is hard to layout the copy and super difficult to plan for advertising, regardless of how that ad revenue is to be split.If the new consensus platform is ubiquitous, there is no reason why publishers cannot useit to reach a broad cross section of the reading public. If the platform is ubiquitous thereis no reason effective advertising cannot be developed to run with the content of the published product. In fact, if the new platform is state of the art, written publications cannow offer full color, with no real premium for it, and full motion video and audio, if that
 
is what the advertising customer wants. Indeed, there is no limit, other than humanimagination, to the bells, whistles, gimcracks and geehaws that can be embedded in ads,should the advertising customer want that.Further, because the platform is digital and downloadable over the net, print publisherscan now become twenty-four seven operations. There will be rolling deadlines so articlescan be continuously updated as new information is ginned up. Imagine what a circulation builder a good piss fight between the journalist and the object of his/her scorn in anarticle, particularly such a fight carried out over days of charge and counter charge, could be. It would be the publishing equivalent of a conversation on the
 Rush Limbaugh Show
.Even further, while all that is going on, an advertiser's media placement specialist would be monitoring the hits the exchange was generating and might make a special buy.Columnists would no longer write some lacerating bile and then go hide behind the Billof Rights. Columnists, in order to really bring home the bacon for the publisher and, byextension for him or herself, would seek out a feisty victim to defame in hopes ogenerating a long, public mud wrestling debate. Just as a threat to sue has always donewonders for circulation in the print environment, an ongoing piss fight will prove just theticket in a digital world.All that sounds just great! And, it is just a ubiquitous, working, digital platform away.Trouble is, the people making the various platforms, both existing and imagined, are inthe platform business, or, at least, they think they are. If there is ever going to be aubiquitous platform it will have to produced and/or distributed by the publishers or it willnever be everywhere and available to pretty much everyone, as it has to be.The plan now is that lots and lots of people will go out and buy the Apple tablet, or somesuch, and the publishers will then pump the content and ads in. Unfortunately, whatever the tablet/platform ends up costing, it will be too much for wide swaths of the populationand too much for others who can afford it but won't pay out for the device, for one reasonor another, at least not for a long time to come. Compounding this problem is theexpected inconvenience of other platform manufacturers of continuing to competeinsuring an on going hodge podge of platforms to which consumers are financiallycommitted.To really do what the platform needs to do it needs to be very inexpensive, approachingfree, in fact. It seems to me there may be two ways to accomplish this requirement. One, just give it to people who subscribe and/or meet the publisher's/publishers' profile. For  publishers of very high value content that might work. Two, and this makes more sense but is a real logistic and inventory management problem, place the devices, perhaps insomething similar to newspaper boxes, all around, just everywhere, and allow folk to"rent" them on a very temporary basis for very little money. Once in possession of thedevice, for lunch perhaps, the reader is then free to download and read whatever  publications to which he has the rights to do so. Some of these will be subscription publications, some will be ad laced freebies.

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