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Industry Insight

BoSacks Speaks Out: Publisher Objections to Apple Subscriptions

This Apple thing is a mess that never needed to happen. Why, oh why, can't publishers play in the same sand box without kicking, screaming and playing king of the pitiful sand castle? Other industries manage to play together, but the intelligentsia, oh no, not us.

By Bob Sacks
Published: February 24, 2011

This Apple thing is a mess that never needed to happen. Why, oh why, can't publishers play in the same sand box without kicking, screaming and playing king of the pitiful sand castle? Other industries manage to play together, but the intelligentsia, oh no, not us.

We have had years to get our digital act together. What is so hard about developing a sensible digital newsstand that we can all live with? There are many models that are near working order, or if not so near, at least workable enough to devise a fair and profitable business model. The Zinio newsstand is a workable model. Perfect no, workable? Of course! And, yes, they charge money, too. But not like the usury rates that Apple is now demanding. But that is another story, and I am on the hunt for easier meat in this rant.

Where the heck is Next Issue Media? Where is publishing's big time, mega-corporation, white knight on a golden charger come to save the day? I'll tell you where it is ... nowhere in sight. Not a glimmer, not a whisper, not even an occasional memo that all will be well, and we will be seeing you all real soon. Nada, nothing, nicht and nein.

What a huge disappointment this is to me. I actually bought into the old hype, hmmmm, about two years ago. Let's think about that for a second. Would that be a full year before the Apple sortie into our businesses? Why, yes, I believe it would be. I'm a humble man, but I could have done it in a year with half the resources now expended. If not me, then two dozen other sensible and reliable men and woman I know in this forlorn industry.

I have said for years that if we as an industry don't figure this out, some else will. Well, guess what? Someone else did. I have come to believe that as an industry we are getting what we truly deserve - our butts kicked - eventual possible irrelevance, due to greed, lack of attention to detail, and - I still can't believe it - hubris in upper management.

 

Discussion

By Adam on Feb 24, 2011

I've thought about this for a while. I've experimented with various news and magazine apps on my iPad. In my opinion and many bloggers, magazine apps are nothing more but slightly glorified PDF readers and when I see 500MB as a download size my mind somehow translates this as being more "Un-Green" than a printed copy.

In my opinion HTML5/web app is the best solution for delivering news and magazines and publishers should think about a business/subscription model along that category.

 

By Michael Jahn on Feb 24, 2011

Like Adam - I do not see this as a file format or content delivery technology problem - these things will continue to evolve, and all documents will be like wikipedia, where they are searchable and have links to all sorts of wonderful relevant content.

And while I am confident that he magazine publishers can do that sort of content creation - what they totally fail to address is the distribution model.

Like the music industry, who failed to create an online cartel to feed to iPod - Apple created the device, the store and there cheese, then offered them crumbs. 34 points to Apple !

Now, we have the same story with print publishers - and it is totally amazing to me that they are somehow surprised. We they living under a rock ?

So, what can be done? Well, for one, like I do with my online bill paying service, the winner typically is first one to create a method for the user to log onto one place and connect to all the places they need to pay.

This is going to have to mean sharing APIs - and business models - not easy, political and disruptive. But unless the publisher want to fork over money to the iTunes store, they need to come up with a method to distribute - like Amazon does.

 

By David L. Zwang on Feb 25, 2011

Can't disagree with any of this.. except that the file format distraction is only delaying the inevitable, a time when the real issue will be real distribution competition. Even in the print world, distribution is a service that is competed for.

Apple will continue to ride this path unless or until they feel enough pain. But in the meantime, they did create the bus, let them collect the fare...

 

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