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Digital Media – Pet peeve

Whether it's the desire to do something positive about global warming or simply to drive down costs in a business model that is already failing, the transition of newspapers, magazines etc. from paper to digital is a good thing.

If the transition is such as good thing, why oh why are the publishers making it so clumsy for me to use? Every last one seems compelled to implement their own format – most requiring that I download yet-another-reader.

Am I doomed to replace the untidy piles of publications waiting to be read with an untidy and unmanageable collection of software of every computer I own? No I tell you!!!! I won't!!!!

I can already see some of the emails and comments to this post in my mind – "Stu, you know that this is simply because there isn't a single digital publication standard…", "Every publisher has their own idea about how to improve the reader's experience…" – baloney to all these! We don't need a new standard and don't try and improve my reading experience – I like the one I have with paper – it works, its fast – just give me the same thing in a digital format.

A simple PDF of the publication would be a HUGE step forward – I already have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on every computer I use and PDF documents aren't bloated with some well intended ideas to "improve my experience".

So in the meantime, I say no to Times Reader, Network World's efforts to get me to switch their shrunken magazine from paper to digital and NO to Amazon's Kindle.

I would never have believed it… I can be a Luddite too!


John Dix

Since you cite Network World, I thought I’d give you our take.

A simple PDF of the publication falls short, in our view, because it would have the same problem as all of the other attempts to deliver magazines digitally. If it is simply a repurposed print product, the user experience stinks. You have to zoom in to read a story, then zoom back out to advance to the jump page, then zoom back in, then backtrack to where you were, etc.

We try to improve on that by tearing the publication apart and delivering it in a more sensible manner that is easy to consume. The PDF scales to fit your browser, the stories are linked from the cover and the TOC, but most importantly, the stories are ordered sequentially so it is easy to work your way front to back.

The PDF is delivered weekly in background mode by a small client that subscribers download. Some people don’t like the idea of installing the client, which is understandable, but we take this approach to because of our high standards for circulation auditing.

Publications like ours have what is called controlled circulation. We have a fixed circulation of 175,000 qualified readers and we deliver the publication to them free in exchange for detailed information about their IT purchase plans. Obviously we turn around and use that information to prove to advertisers that we have a very select audience they need to reach. Our circulation base is audited by a third party to ensure we aren't selling a bill of goods.

Some publishers create electronic editions and then send out email notifications telling subscribers it is ready for download, and claim the email notification constitutes publication delivery and, hence, counts to the controlled circulation base. We have long maintained that that is bogus, because having an electronic publication on your PC is a lot different than having a notification about its existence. With our approach, the edition exists in your world just as our print publication would, greatly increasing the likelihood of you actually reading/scanning it, which is important for the advertisers that are paying the freight for all of this.

Since this approach benefits the advertiser it ultimately benefits you because, without the advertising to cover our $6 million editorial budget, organizations like ours won't be around to provide you with objective industry analysis.

That said, we may ultimately have to consider other ways of getting the PDF into the hands of people that want it but who don’t want to install the client. It will depend in the main, I guess, on how much resistance we encounter.

Interested in your feedback.

John Dix
Editor in Chief
Network World

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Intense Brit, lived in Silicon Valley since 1984. Avid pilot, like digital photography, ham radio and a bunch of other stuff. Official Geek.

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