Just some more thoughts on the iPad and one of the ways that the industry I’m in is a little on the doomed side, unless they come up with some genius plan.
Historically UK Computing and Video Games magazines have had a two pronged attack with their media – I’m talking before the advent of any real web presence. So you had the main magazine with the bulk of the content, the editorial if you will. Backing it up, at least from the perspectives of tutorials and game demos, was the covermount – starting off with an old floppy disk, moving onto tape and then back to disk before ending up on CDs and ultimately DVDs. Sometime over the last twenty years or so, probably as a result of the amount of storage afforded by DVDs, the covermount became more and more irrelevant – free demos and other bits that were easily downloaded from the web making the covermount less and less of a draw for those who purchased magazines.
With the advent of the iPad (and other personal e-readers like it) the covermount is in serious danger of being lost altogether. After all, if the delivery of the content is done digitally then there’s no way to deliver a physical covermount alongside it. But if the covermounts are largely irrelevant then why worry about it? Well, it depends what you do with the covermounts.
The covermounts were designed to reinforce the content in the magazines, provide resources and provide a hook for potential purchasers to decide to buy the magazine at news stand. However, they’ve come to focus most heavily on the last point – attempting to pull readers in with the lure of some fancy software. In an attempt to keep up with this desire, the quality of the software started to slide to the point where it’s not much better than the software that comes pre-installed on many new PCs today; the exact same software that people do their best to get rid of the moment they turn their computers on for the first time.
The reason for the covermount is all but gone – except that is hasn’t. You see, what the covermount needs is a burst of originality – here I’m talking more about the Computing magazines rather than the Gaming magazines – and by originality I mean original content rather than necessarily a new approach entirely. After all, there’s usually a burst of tutorials in the magazine – and having had experience of writing tutorials, I know that there’s usually a lot more that can be written than is actually written. So why not release some of that extra content on the covermount and make it appealing to readers? Or at the very least go back through the mountain of editorial that you’re sitting on and re-purpose it; it doesn’t cost the earth to be able to update a tutorial or review to cover the latest version of software. The value of that updated information far outstrips the cost of creating it, and makes the covermount more appealing to the readers. After all, they can’t get that content from anywhere else – they trust the magazine writers, and are interested in what they’ve got to say.
In any case, with eReaders there’s no way to provide a physical covermount, so why not simple expand the magazine itself. You’re no longer limited by the practicalities of printing pages, but more the amount of data that you can provide in one delivery. Of course, there’s another constraint on the amount of space that you consume on the user’s device but that would more than likely be controlled by the user themselves as opposed to the content owner.
With all this content, what do you do? Well – first of all you provide a push service for the main content of the magazine, after all that’s the bulk of the reason for buying in the first place. On top of that you then provide an on-demand service giving access to the wealth of content that you already own. Combined with a rich source of meta-data – tags and such like – it wouldn’t be difficult to provide a push service based on reading behaviour or areas of defined interest, if there are any privacy concerns about tracking content consumption.
It wouldn’t work without some kind of subscription model, but the key benefit would lie in the content; the user is getting content that they’re interested in which makes it more appealing to them. The larger the library of media, the easier it becomes as the well to draw from is even deeper to draw from.
The value-add of a covermount digitally? Well, it’s in the extras that you provide as part of the service…