Some thoughts on M-Publishing

by James Whatley on 1st June 2010

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:


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.

Previous post:

Next post: