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Industry Insight

BoSacks Speaks Out: On Fee-Based e-Edition Newspapers

Here are two stories about the continued rise and acceptance of digital editions:

By Bob Sacks
Published: August 6, 2009

Here are two stories about the continued rise and acceptance of digital editions: USA Today Launches Fee-Based e-Edition and Zinio Sees a Boost from Online Magazines. It is important for us to acknowledge and see trends as they materialize. I am skeptical about an e-newspaper like USA Today charging for the e-edition, but I read the New York Times as a digital product and I willingly pay for the privilege.

Why is a good question? The answer is because I want the local ads and as well as the stories. And I want the ads exactly as they were printed. The local ads to me are just as important as the journalism. OK, maybe not just as important, but you know what I mean. I will say that even though I pay for the e-newspaper, I believe that I am in the minority on this one. USA Today might get some readers to pay as I do, but I don't think they will get enough subscribers to make their digital edition a viable paid platform. There is and will be too much free news elsewhere and everywhere.

Still the e-reader platform is going to get better and better and eventually will be accepted by the majority of readers.

Will there be plenty of room for profit in print? Absolutely. Printers will make tons of money and so will plenty of publishers. But my point is that the majority of readers and the bulk of the advertising will be digital. It is inevitable.



By Les Csonge on Aug 07, 2009

You are 100% right on a number of points Bo -

Printers will (and are/can) make a lot of money from Digital Editions.

Why /how ?

Well pretty simple when you look at like this -

What do printers currently have ?

a) Clients (and relationships)
b) PDF files of their clients publications

They currently invest (huge amounts) in machines, buy ink and paper and deliver printed editions to customers (and often also distribute for their clients).

So, simply run those same PDF's through a "Digital Edition Making Machine" (software)and
supply the digital edition as well as the print to the client - result Extra Profit + Added Value - client retained - simple.
(you can even set up "Hot Folder" automated production direct output from quark./indesign PDF)

With the recent advent of SAAS (Software as a Service) applications such as Scribd and YUDU it is now very easy to set up as a digital edition provider (less than $500 investment in some cases)

With Print companies like AWO, QUAD and others already doing this, I believe one day all printers will add digital edition provision to their list of services - it is inevitable.

As for "free" or "paid" editions for publishers, why not both ?

Give free access to basic content (drives traffic) and charge for premium content - like video interviews, flash product demonstrations etc - the "money" is in the advertising - but advertisers want volume reach and trackable click through results - hybrid editions where part of the content is protected so only paying subscribers can view enables both subscription revenue AND advertising revenue (via the free content pages).

And yes I totally agree, digital edition platforms are getting better, very sophisticated in fact, you can now directly feed youtube videos (and others) into pages, run Google Analytics on editions and host of advanced features on/in them, one day you might even be bale to stream ad's in to ;-)

Just as Publishers "adapt and change" so must Printers (we all know the consequences of not doing that).


By Michael J on Aug 07, 2009

On the other hand, what explains the growth in print on demand books. I think lulu.com is doing fine. In Germany Pediapress is selling on demand versions of wikipedia in print. Oce and Lightning Source keep growing and growing.

To Les's point about printers getting into digital book distribution, I must disagree. Aside from a relationship builder with present customers, the business is built on massive scale and small margins. The PDFs and more to the point the data streams that are the books are owned by the publisher. I have to believe that printers will be caught in the middle, forced to work at very, very low margins that won't justify the necessary investment.

If on the other hand, printers stay focused on printing the content gather on the web, that's a business that is already core to the hard earned expertise they have. Printing more efficiently, a large scale, within tight deadlines in a high stakes game.

I think advertising itself is changing to something more akin to enabling commerce. The days of buying eyeballs and pushing messages at a target audience are quickly drawing to a close.


By Jim P on Aug 10, 2009

I've yet to see a print company's digital edition that is nothing more than a "me too" product.

The big four are the innovators in the DE field, and are still the best choice for publishers.

It's amazing that printers are so far behind the curve regarding DE's. Now they want to become players in an arena they initially ignored.


By Bill Manfull on Aug 12, 2009

I think the DE will be a part of the prepress process prior to print. Another output in addition to the printer PDF. Revenue goes to the firm creating printer files. The legacy work will remain a conversion opportunity for others. It remains to be seen if printers can get into the distribution channel. This requires a solution that is integrated into traditional distribution channels.

For newspapers, digital editions are a necessary product to consumer's demand for content. The pay vs. free will be a work in progress but it starts with creating value for your content (BTW, I see local advertising as content too). Someone has to pay to create quality content. If advertisers cannot subsidize then subscriptions will have to take over. Again, quality content has value to a client. A problem not being discussed is replacement of inserts. A transition from print to DE means circulation drops and that impact insert revenue. How does one deliver 25 inserts via email without allowing customers to opt-out?


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