M-Publishing

Some thoughts on M-Publishing

by James Whatley on 1st June 2010

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I was invited to attend today’s M-Publishing event (thank you CamerJam) but alas work commitments have kept me in the office. However, that didn’t stop me throwing together a few thoughts this morning on my way into work… For me, the key question you need to answer is ‘why’?

Forgive me if this seems a bit scatty, it was an early morning brain-dump somewhere under London.

RIBA trending...

Here we go…

You guys might already know my opinions on the the iPad being ‘the death knell of traditional print’ (it’s a load of balls). But I thought I’d lend some thoughts to the under-lying theme to today’s event; where’s the money?

It frustrates me that too often we talk about ‘why or how should publishers introduce mobile/digital/social content etc’, when the one thing that many forget to do is ask the simple question:

WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE?

How do you go about answering this question? Simple. You ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. See question one.

Anything and everything you do in any non-traditional space should be built up to support the answer to question one.

If – for instance – you’re a subscription-only trade publication then your app or mobile website should equally be so. Remember; you’re supposed to be adding value, right? There are obviously very different models for different kinds of publishers. If, in the main, your content is subscription-only then so should the mobile app. In fact, I’d argue that your app should be like Spotify, in that its free to download but you need to log into to access any content.

Unless, of course, your objective is to drive more subs. In which case, build the app to do so. Give people a taster and then drive them to the paid part (and make that bit the EASIEST PART OF THE WHOLE APP).

But what if you want to build ENGAGEMENT and CONVERSATION? Well, surprise surprise, make damn sure that you build the easiest commenting and sharing functionalities in the entire world.

Like I said at the start, as with most (if not all) things, it all comes down to the objective.

This methodology also works for working out if you’re actually doing the right thing in the first place. For example, if your objective is ‘we need to embrace digital/mobile/social because everyone else is.’ - then that’s fundamentally wrong.

Hope that helps.

Ok, so let’s talk micro-payments.

How would that work in a traditional publishing model? Publish partial stories with the option to pay 25p to read the rest of the piece (if you don’t have a full sub).

Take the Guardian’s iPhone app model – a one-off fee for the app, then pay extra for added-value products. That works for them (well, they hope it’ll work in the long run). Look at what they’re doing: supplying their consumers with added value; being able to sub to particular sections of the newspaper and have it tailored to you or maybe even paying a little bit more to be able to take your content offline. All of these ADD VALUE.

Trades – oooof, how’s this for an idea? – trades could offer, as part of the app, a content delivery system that alerts you any and every time your brand or client is written about and/or commented on! Under-cutting PR cuttings fees in the process… stinger.

I wonder who’ll be first.

Rant over.

You can follow today’s M-Publishing chatter using the mspub10 hashtag.

Your comments as ever, are welcome.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll bite.

    And I’ll use the Nokia/Yahoo tie in as the model.

    Further I will use “The Economist”‘s world view of the rising middle classes (more than $2 per day) in the developing world.

    I’ll even maintain my nearly incomprehensible stream-of-consciousness style.

    The answer is that portals a la 1990 are out but a portal tied elegantly and useably to a mobile device so that the whole of the world’s culture, trade and communications infrastructure is accessed through that device NO MATTER WHERE IS UGANDA YOU ARE is a killer offering. No matter how many corn cobs you have to sell at market, you can check whole of Uganda corn cob market prices as you negotiate your sale to the wholesaler – as is now happening – and then get back home and join in an adult education class shared with the elders of your village and other, far off villages.

    For this to work Yahoo’s servers can be anywhere and Nokia’s UI (physical and software) must have an elegant sufficiency to support it. This world wide market will pay good money (The Economist estimates $0.50 discretionary income for this 5.5 billion people in market segment) for all of this stuff. The big question is getting mobile money for Nokia (in real use in India and some of Africa) tied to the Yahoo content deals so that an appropriate portion of the $0.50 per day heads back to content providers (including market information, cash remittance, health and educational providers).

    The people who live in these markets will never own fixed line telecommunications, probably will never read a traditional newspaper and possibly will skip books (reusable school text books and the Bible may be honourable exceptions). They are set to use the mobile device to completely bypass 150 years of post Dickensian popular publishing (his revolutionary magazine was called Household Words and his interminable stories were just one part of each edition).

    My feeling is that this will be the future of popular culture (I think that both Apple and Nokia see it this way – but Apple haven’t got “it” in the same way Nokia has). Where the M-Publishing conference is likely (and this is just a guess) to have headed into the long grass, will be focusing on high margin Western markets (replacement aka the Apple path) rather than low margin, high volume, culturally segmented markets (what I anticipate is the Nokia path).

    Of course I may be confusing myself with pop economics and lazy thinking…

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  • juliancooling

    I'll bite.And I'll use the Nokia/Yahoo tie in as the model.Further I will use “The Economist”'s world view of the rising middle classes (more than $2 per day) in the developing world.I'll even maintain my nearly incomprehensible stream-of-consciousness style.The answer is that portals a la 1990 are out but a portal tied elegantly and useably to a mobile device so that the whole of the world's culture, trade and communications infrastructure is accessed through that device NO MATTER WHERE IS UGANDA YOU ARE is a killer offering. No matter how many corn cobs you have to sell at market, you can check whole of Uganda corn cob market prices as you negotiate your sale to the wholesaler – as is now happening – and then get back home and join in an adult education class shared with the elders of your village and other, far off villages.For this to work Yahoo's servers can be anywhere and Nokia's UI (physical and software) must have an elegant sufficiency to support it. This world wide market will pay good money (The Economist estimates $0.50 discretionary income for this 5.5 billion people in market segment) for all of this stuff. The big question is getting mobile money for Nokia (in real use in India and some of Africa) tied to the Yahoo content deals so that an appropriate portion of the $0.50 per day heads back to content providers (including market information, cash remittance, health and educational providers).The people who live in these markets will never own fixed line telecommunications, probably will never read a traditional newspaper and possibly will skip books (reusable school text books and the Bible may be honourable exceptions). They are set to use the mobile device to completely bypass 150 years of post Dickensian popular publishing (his revolutionary magazine was called Household Words and his interminable stories were just one part of each edition).My feeling is that this will be the future of popular culture (I think that both Apple and Nokia see it this way – but Apple haven't got “it” in the same way Nokia has). Where the M-Publishing conference is likely (and this is just a guess) to have headed into the long grass, will be focusing on high margin Western markets (replacement aka the Apple path) rather than low margin, high volume, culturally segmented markets (what I anticipate is the Nokia path).Of course I may be confusing myself with pop economics and lazy thinking…

  • juliancooling

    I'll bite.

    And I'll use the Nokia/Yahoo tie in as the model.

    Further I will use “The Economist”'s world view of the rising middle classes (more than $2 per day) in the developing world.

    I'll even maintain my nearly incomprehensible stream-of-consciousness style.

    The answer is that portals a la 1990 are out but a portal tied elegantly and useably to a mobile device so that the whole of the world's culture, trade and communications infrastructure is accessed through that device NO MATTER WHERE IS UGANDA YOU ARE is a killer offering. No matter how many corn cobs you have to sell at market, you can check whole of Uganda corn cob market prices as you negotiate your sale to the wholesaler – as is now happening – and then get back home and join in an adult education class shared with the elders of your village and other, far off villages.

    For this to work Yahoo's servers can be anywhere and Nokia's UI (physical and software) must have an elegant sufficiency to support it. This world wide market will pay good money (The Economist estimates $0.50 discretionary income for this 5.5 billion people in market segment) for all of this stuff. The big question is getting mobile money for Nokia (in real use in India and some of Africa) tied to the Yahoo content deals so that an appropriate portion of the $0.50 per day heads back to content providers (including market information, cash remittance, health and educational providers).

    The people who live in these markets will never own fixed line telecommunications, probably will never read a traditional newspaper and possibly will skip books (reusable school text books and the Bible may be honourable exceptions). They are set to use the mobile device to completely bypass 150 years of post Dickensian popular publishing (his revolutionary magazine was called Household Words and his interminable stories were just one part of each edition).

    My feeling is that this will be the future of popular culture (I think that both Apple and Nokia see it this way – but Apple haven't got “it” in the same way Nokia has). Where the M-Publishing conference is likely (and this is just a guess) to have headed into the long grass, will be focusing on high margin Western markets (replacement aka the Apple path) rather than low margin, high volume, culturally segmented markets (what I anticipate is the Nokia path).

    Of course I may be confusing myself with pop economics and lazy thinking…

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  • http://benjam.in Ben Smith

    ‘Pop economics’ – that’s just relating everything to the price of lemonade, no?

  • http://benjam.in Ben Smith

    'Pop economics' – that's just relating everything to the price of lemonade, no?

  • http://benjam.in Ben Smith

    'Pop economics' – that's just relating everything to the price of lemonade, no?

  • Anonymous

    Here I was thinking it was growing an afro, reading material written by experts and barely understanding any of them and then quoting them randomly to support completely misguided conclusions in the popular press…

    The pop part comes from all of the rigorous economics fairies going”pop” every time somebody in the audience claps their hands.

    But seriously folks, I am not a big fan of “the BRIC nations are about to take over the world” – I don’t think they have the economic or political maturity. However, I do believe that the economic clout of the world will be more evenly distributed between individual people and that the infrastructure to support it will be mobile and highly interactive. Further the new consumers will take existing content but will have NONE of the historical understanding of even current distribution models or physical media. However they will understand paying.

  • juliancooling

    Here I was thinking it was growing an afro, reading material written by experts and barely understanding any of them and then quoting them randomly to support completely misguided conclusions in the popular press…The pop part comes from all of the rigorous economics fairies going”pop” every time somebody in the audience claps their hands.But seriously folks, I am not a big fan of “the BRIC nations are about to take over the world” – I don't think they have the economic or political maturity. However, I do believe that the economic clout of the world will be more evenly distributed between individual people and that the infrastructure to support it will be mobile and highly interactive. Further the new consumers will take existing content but will have NONE of the historical understanding of even current distribution models or physical media. However they will understand paying.

  • juliancooling

    Here I was thinking it was growing an afro, reading material written by experts and barely understanding any of them and then quoting them randomly to support completely misguided conclusions in the popular press…

    The pop part comes from all of the rigorous economics fairies going”pop” every time somebody in the audience claps their hands.

    But seriously folks, I am not a big fan of “the BRIC nations are about to take over the world” – I don't think they have the economic or political maturity. However, I do believe that the economic clout of the world will be more evenly distributed between individual people and that the infrastructure to support it will be mobile and highly interactive. Further the new consumers will take existing content but will have NONE of the historical understanding of even current distribution models or physical media. However they will understand paying.

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