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Industry Insight

On the MPA, Technology and Magazines

By Bob Sacks
Published: June 25, 2012

After a full day at the MPA Technology event on Thursday the 21st of June in the Time Inc building I somehow I thought this article would be an appropriate foundation for thought. The topics covered at the MPA meeting were broad and covered a lot of ground for a packed house of publishers, discussing their roll in an increasingly complicated digital future. It becomes increasingly and obviously clear that digital has infused itself into the very DNA of any publishing franchise be it large or small. So much of what we do now revolves around the collection of valuable data. Whose data? Why, the readers' data, of course. If the reader is anywhere near an Internet connection, we want to know as much as is possible about the "target" - no, I mean the reader.

There were all sorts of meaningful conversations throughout the day. I, of course, have a few favorite moments. "Understanding a Culture of Technological Innovation" was a conversation between magazine editor Jon Gertner, who was interviewed I thought with grace and comfortable style by Jessi Hempel, Senior Writer at Fortune Magazine. The conversation mostly revolved around the culture of technological innovation at Bell Labs in times past. I will admit that my enjoyment might have been a generational thing, because when I was growing up the 1950s and 1960s Bell Labs did all the cool stuff that that was going on in pre-digital America. Or, at least so it seemed to me. It was a "think" tank that employed 10,000 thinkers. At its peak, Bell Laboratories was the premier facility of its type, developing all sorts of amazing technologies such as radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, the UNIX operating system, the C programming language and tons of other accomplishments including the garnering of seven Nobel Prizes. The conversation about the innovation process was fascinating and nostalgic to this reporter.

The two other outstanding performances of the day from my perspective was a panel discussing the "4 Things to Know About HTML 5." I might have been biased by the fact that out of the four men on the panel, I had two friends and accomplices on the stage - the moderator, Don Peschke, who is the President/Founder, August Home Publishing and Frank Livaudais, Chief Technology Officer, CDS Global.

Don is one of the most ingenious publishers out there today. His company under his direction is ahead of any publishing curve you can mention, and he fully understands multiple revenue streams as well or better than any other person in this field that I am aware of. Yes, he is that good. And Frank Livaudais, working for CDS Global, understands how the damn modules move, if you know what I mean. Frank and I have had dinner several times, and each time he patiently tolerates my technological interrogation while I seek to uncover the next "big digital thing" that will affect us all.

The topic of HTML5 was well handled by the entire panel, and I am sure the room of publishers left with a greater understanding of the power and importance of this mark-up internet language. HTML5 is basically still under construction as far as standards go. But as a work in progress these professionals described it's importance in no uncertain terms.

Lastly, the session titled "How Technology Improves the Digital Newsstand" was brilliantly moderated by a self-proclaimed, yet I saw no evidence of it, jetlagged Jeanniey Mullen, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Zinio, LLC, and it was maybe the best part of a very productive day. The topics and information ranged from new developments in digital newsstands to more efficient uses and paths to reach out to new magazine audiences. I thought all the speakers were excellent and well versed. I didn't know Charles Mast, who is President of the Mast Circulation Group, but I did know my friend Chris Wilkes, who is Vice President of the App Lab at Hearst Magazines. Rounding out the performance was Matt Bean, Vice President, Digital Product Development, Rodale, Inc.

These guys know their "stuff." And if it is true, as I have forecast in this newsletter, that a very major portion of magazine revenue (60% by 2020) will be digital, we all need to take heed and listen to their take on how we work the data and the information basis of our future.

 

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