From The Bookseller:
I’d like to start this month’s editor’s musings with a personal rising-from-the-ashes anecdote.
One of the other jobs I juggle alongside my role at FutureBook involves being Digital Editor for PHOENIX, a six-year-old fashion and culture magazine. At the core of PHOENIX is a bi-annual print magazine: 200-odd pages of long-form journalism on high quality paper with really nice smelling ink.
It’s essentially a mini book.
Ever since PHOENIX began, we’ve continually questioned what – if any – sort of digital presence the mag should have. How could we use digital to enhance, but not replicate, our physical hero product? How could we use digital to pull in new readers, whilst ensuring they converted to print sales? How could we create digital content of the same quality we’re known for in print – but with a tiny team on an even smaller budget?
Yep – essentially the same questions that preoccupy the big-book trade.
Two years ago, we thought we’d come up with the answer. We launched PHOENIX’s monthly counterpart, The Manual: a digital-only, custom-created magazine cradled within a bespoke app. It was interactive. It was beautiful. It was timely.
It was a huge mistake.
Why? It seemed like such a brilliant idea at the time. But we soon came to realise that, while apps are great for functional services such as Uber or banks, they’re pretty useless when it comes to publishing.
From a reader’s point of view, downloading an app is a surprisingly big barrier to entry. Not only do you have to wait a few seconds to install the app and another few seconds every time you want to download each new issue, you have to reproduce the whole process every time you want to read on a different device. And, if you want to launch an external link, its’a clumsy process that takes you outside the app – and out of your closed story-garden into a wilderness of distractions.
From a publisher’s point of view, producing and distributing content via an app is a total pain – from creating complex InDesign files to working with frustrating external shopfronts such as the Apple Store. And it’s useless for SEO.
. . . .
Last week, Simon Rowberry wrote us a very popular – and polarising – piece called ‘Is the e-book a dead format?’ In it, he explained the growing interest around Portable Web Publications (PWP), “a self-described vision for the future of digital publishing based on a fully native representation of documents within the Open Web Platform.” His cautionary note – ” how will books cope in the complex attention economy of web browsing?” – is worth listening to.
Link to the rest at The Bookseller