I Want To Throw Out My Wine Magazines

Ipadmagazine Amazon reports today that over the past three months it sold more "Kindle" e-books than it has hardcover books. Undoubtedly this announcement will make its way into future accounts of the transformation of publishing and reading. And undoubtedly wine books will, like books on every other subject, eventually be purchased primarily as electronic documents, rather than printed, tree-killing, ink-stained artifacts. But what interests me more is how long it will take for wine magazines to jump on the electronic bandwagon, where they belong.

While I've looked at the new Apple iPad and salivated over it's sleek potential for improving my life, I find that I'm only half way toward embracing the notion of abandoning bookshelves for electronic folders and a personal digital library. I like to gaze at the spines of the my collection of past reads. Not only do they make for attractive decor, but they remind me, and any guest in my home who cares to look, exactly down which path my intellectual pursuits have taken me.

Magazines and newsletters just don't serve the same purpose. In fact, I'm 100% ready to abandon printed magazines and ready to stop seeing them strewn across my office and living room and bathroom and bedroom and hallway and kitchen counter. And I'm sure Kathy is happy with this prospect. I'm happy to abandon print for digital when it comes to wine magazines, journals and newsletters. 

But I wonder when the the wine publishing industry will be ready.

So in case publishers of wine magazines and newsletters and journals are wondering, here's what I want:

1. I want a simple way to use an iPad to browse the highlights of current issues. In other words, I'll settle for easily seeing the covers of the latest issues of wine magazines to determine if I want to buy that issue for my flight to Portland to attend IPNC.

2. I want the option of buying a digital subscription to wine magazines and newsletters that will automatically appear on my iPad when new issues are  released along with receiving an email alerting me that my new issue is available.

3. I want the option to browse the magazine exactly as it appears in print (if still published in print) as well as the option to search the magazine or jump straight to the article I'm interested in.

4. I want the option to search for wine reviews that have appeared in the current and past issues I've purchased without having to go out onto the Internet to retrieve them.

5. I want the option to click on an author's name in any given issue and get a list of all articles they've written in past issues I've purchased without having to connect to the Internet.

6. I want interactive maps hosted on the iPad that allow me to further explore regions that are written about in articles.

7. I want to be able to listen to the articles read to me (as an option) if I'm not in the mood to read.

8. I want to be able to increase the size of the pictures in each issue to examine them more closely.

9. I want the option to easily write and send a letter to the editor or to the writer of the article as well as place comments on the article and read others comments (yes, I'm willing to use the Internet for this—and will more airlines please offer free Internet access—Please!!)

10. I want to be able to share articles with up to 5 people (email addresses).

I don't think I want much but I don't know when my modest requests will be granted either. The transition to digital publishing in the manner I request can't be cheap. But I guarantee the money will have to be spent by publishers at some point if they expect to survive. The news of Amazon's success with digital publishing of books suggests that smart publishers of magazines are already considering how to transition to grant my request.

11 Responses

  1. Joe Czerwinski - July 20, 2010

    I like your wish list. So how much would you be willing to pay for all of these features? How much do you think most wine magazine readers would be willing to pay? Can we get five-year subscriptions from all of our current subscribers paid in advance so we can afford to do it?
    Have you checked out our Zinio digital subscription? http://www.zinio.com/browse/publications/index.jsp?productId=500244557&sch=true
    Not perfect, but it does answer a couple of your wishes. I get an e-mail alert every month when the new one comes out and the issue can be downloaded so that it can be read without being connected to the ‘Net. It displays the magazine as published, but includes searching and clickable links.
    Finally, on the business side, there is a whole discussion to be had about whether traditional advertisers are ready to support digital media to the same extent that they currently support print. Digital advertising is growing, but I don’t think it would surprise anyone to find out that print advertising still accounts for most of our revenue.
    Joe Czerwinski
    Senior Editor/Tasting Director
    Wine Enthusiast

  2. Tom Wark - July 20, 2010

    As a single issue, I’d happily pay your newsstand price. As a subscription, I’ probably pay a decent premium over the WE current yearly subscription price to have all the benefits I mention.
    I’m familiar with Zinio. But I don’t want to read magazines on my computer. Zinio delivers to the iPad i’m pretty sure, doesn’t it?
    I’ll end up getting an iPad eventually when they incorporate a few more features, like email and a camera. I’m hoping that by that time I’ll be able to have my much too large of magazine subscriptions arrive on my new toy.
    As for ads, I think it’s a pretty basic principle: give advertisers the demographically desired eyeballs and they’ll give you ads. What’s critical is that the industry create a standard that allows these ads to be seen without skipping over them in a digital format.

  3. Andy Perdue - July 20, 2010

    Tom, I think one of the points missing is that there should be no need to purchase anything. This might come across as heresy to my industry (I’m a 25-year veteran in the newspaper biz in addition to being editor of wine magazine), but the fact is this: Few publications actually charge for content (Consumer Reports a notable exception). Rather, we tend to charge for delivery and, perhaps, to offset printing costs.
    Instead, our model has always been advertising based. So with the reduction of production costs in a paperless world, we should no longer charge for delivery because that cost has been foisted onto the consumer in the form of reading devices and Internet connectivity fees.
    What we require is an audience of like needs and interests (be they geographical or topical). Once we have an audience, we can sell advertising. Fortunately for established print products, we have the opportunity to keep our print audience (for the most part) and still have time (plenty, in my estimation) to build a like readership digitally.
    Bottom line, I would be fool to not provide you with nearly everything you list above at no cost. I should provide you with a way to freely and easily download my publication and forward to a friend. Frankly, most folks in my industry will take a few more years (if ever) to embrace this philosophy, which gives me a great head start.

  4. Joe Czerwinski - July 20, 2010

    I’m not an early adopter myself, but Zinio does claim to deliver to the I-Pad.

  5. Joe Czerwinski - July 20, 2010

    And the I-phone app (compatible with the I-pad) will give you all the reviews. No, they’re not integrated…yet. But between Zinio and the App, you get a fair amount of functionality.

  6. Thomas Pellechia - July 21, 2010

    I wouldn’t count on Internet access on airplanes to remain free, but if it does, it will be the only thing (next to the trip itself) that comes with the price of a ticket.
    Oh, and I agree with Andy’s take. But I do have a question for him: if the model online also functions on advertising, the way the print model does, when do you think online mags will start paying writers on a par with print–or, as in some cases, at all? I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll be alive when that happens?

  7. Joe Czerwinski - July 21, 2010

    I think pay for digital content providers will eventually reach par with print writers–print rates will come down and digital rates will go up as more and more publishers realize that content is not platform specific.
    That said, having the money to pay writers depends on publishers developing a large enough digital audience and convincing advertisers to pay the equivalent rates for digital media they do for print. I don’t think most publishers/advertisers are there yet.

  8. Phil - July 21, 2010

    Most of your points are fairly easily done, and some outlets already do some of them. We allow you to buy single issues online (and single articles), I think it’s pretty easily browsable, you can download a PDF which shows the article as it appeared in the magazine, and you can make images larger by clicking on them in the gallery. This does require an Internet connection, although if you download a PDF, you don’t need the Internet to read it. Now you might run into some trouble on your Ipad because Apple hates Flash, and our top menu is in Flash. Of course some of your non-Internet things would require a connection to the Internet at some point to download the material. Some places already do the comments on articles bit, namely larger print outlets.
    To me, only number 7 is a non-starter, although 6 sounds like a money and time pit. Sorry, but we don’t have the time to record someone reading the entire magazine, edit together the recording, and post this online. Not to mention that some of this stuff would be awful to listen to, think of the minutes upon minutes of tasting notes or DOC regulations. We put stuff in tables for a reason.
    As for number 10, it’s an interesting thought, since it shouldn’t hurt the value of a subscription too much, bit expensive to implement (at least for us). We do already offer the ability to share any article with anyone via e-mail, but of course that doesn’t help you read the subscriber-only articles.
    As for if everyone should run to the online-only door, we’ve had an online-only subscription option available since the beginning of this year. Some people use it, particularly people overseas who can save a lot of $, but it’s not terribly popular. I’ve had two people “upgrade” to a regular print subscription once they realize they won’t be getting a physical copy of the magazine. Sante just went online-only, of course they’re free, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens to their advertising base (they do exactly as you recommend, you can’t skip the ads any more easily than you could if you had the print version; you can, of course, more easily ignore the e-mail announcing a new issue).
    Finally, on cost. Our biggest cost, by far, is the content in our issues. We pay our writers and use almost exclusively freelancers. So going online doesn’t automatically save us buckets of money. In the future, hopefully, it would save us more, because we’d have to print more issues due to having more subscribers, but the content cost isn’t going anywhere.
    We could go the route of Sante and try to make it all up with ads, but our personal opinion is that being that reliant on one stream of income is dangerous. Ad placements are going down, not up, across the board. Every place is different, but in most cases you’re talking about very large amounts of money from subscriptions that would have to entirely replaced by ads. In my opinion, a large part of the reason newspapers and magazines are in such dire straits is that they did not charge for their content and thought they would just make it all up with ads. Once you’ve made your content free online, good luck trying to get people to pay for a physical version.
    Anyway, my point, like Joe’s, is that a lot of what you want is out there, not necessarily all in one place, but if you’re going to start replacing your print magazines you probably can do so with most of them.

  9. Steve Heimoff - July 21, 2010

    I agree with Joe. Advertisers have shown not the slightest inclination to pay more than a few cents on the dollar for what they pay for print ads. Tom, compare one of your little ads to a one-eighth page ad in Spectator. Do you honestly believe that no matter how many eyeballs you ever get you’ll be able to charge thousands of dollars? Pandora’s box has been opened, and one of the things that flew out was cheap online ad rates.

  10. Tom Wark - July 21, 2010

    Yep, I believe that advertisers will pay 1000s of dollars for 1000s of eyeballs. Advertising is a pretty simple business, if a little hard to measure in effectiveness: For an ad to have any effectiveness you need to have people see it. If this blog garnered 400,000 unique viewers daily I’d retire, just write this blog and garner an income far greater than I currently do.

  11. James McCann - July 21, 2010

    There is no reason to have someone read and record each issue in order for Tom to be able to listen. Kindle already has text to speech, and the technology is improving all the time.

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