The vanishing point for print moves closer…

There’s an interesting piece from Robert Andrews on (HT Gerd Leonhard) rounding up some predictions from the newspaper industry themselves on when they’ll be winding up their print runs…

…the ‘sunset of print’ as Madi Solomon of the FT referred to it as:

Solomon says the FT is committing to “less print” and says the FT sees a five-year trajectory for having exited print in substantial part. “They’re not saying that, by five years, they’ll completely stop it, but they do see that the sunset is going to be in about five years.”



Now, five years probably seems like a long time… after all, five years ago there was no Youtube.

But now that the newspaper industry in particular is in the mindset that they will stop print (perhaps they’ve moved through the Kubler-Ross model… denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), I wonder if it will be even quicker…

…after all, if it’s losing you money, you know you’re going to stop, and you’re developing alternatives, the logical thing to do is switch over as quickly as possible.

Which goes back to the Vanishing Point for media I talked about a while back.  Whilst we may expect the ‘vanishing point’ of media vehicles to be a little while after the returns from things like advertising (blue line) have dropped below the costs (red line)…



…the real vanishing point comes a lot sooner… as soon as costs exceed income, and there is a viable alternative model to jump to (which is what makes the iPad so attractive for newspaper publishers), then newspapers don’t make economic sense, so production stops…



…even though there will still be advertisers who would have spent money with those newspapers.

I guess it all means it’s not just newspapers that need to be experimenting with new ideas… existing advertisers need to be willing to help find new and better ways of connecting with people through these news organisations. 

Which needs less ‘prove to me that this will definitely work’ and more ‘let’s give this a go and see what we can do…’.


The iPad; it's TV, only more so

Now, you’ll remember my previous post on the iPad, TV and the like, yes? 

Well, our superclever research team here at PHD (Clare, Chris & Carrie) have been working on a project to gauge the impact that this generation of devices (i-pad-tablet-slate things).

Here’s Clare to take you through what they’ve found so far…



Following on from this, I thought we’d add the view from the research couch. 

We recently did some work with people – not early adopters, not geeks, just ordinary people who like gadgets that make like easier, or more enjoyable – about how they use mobile devices (netbooks, smartphones etc) in our qualitative facility, The Living Room. 

The ulterior motive was to get them thinking about mobile media use and then get them to consider how they might feel about and potentially use iPads in the future.

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The results were fascinating.  We found massive enthusiasm appetite for mobile TV.  While few had watched much TV on their iPhones to date, when asked to try it out for a couple of weeks they came back full of enthusiasm and thought the iPad’s combination of screen size and simplicity of use would offer an even better way to watch mobile TV and video content.  <o:p></o:p>

The possibilities for combining viewing with interactions through social networks also appealed to some, with the chance to watch and discuss things together while apart, or pass on recommendations all from the same device you’re watching on.

They also thought it could easily be an option to replace second and third household TV sets, and could even replace some main set viewing especially where people have limited multichannel access, which suggests potential for a “pay as you go” option for mobile tv.



Basically, they saw an opportunity for telly, only more so.  And better.  And easier to share.  Whats not to like?

Mind you, the success of TV on iPad will rely on Apple and other service providers marketing their mobile TV apps clearly and effectively as awareness of existing services for smart phones and computers was still pretty low (we had to show our groups some of the possibilities to get their views).


iPad video review; it's the future of television

I got my mitts on an iPad for the first time yesterday, thanks to David at The Guardian.

We worked with them and Canon on the Guardian Eyewitness app (now the SECOND MOST POPULAR free app for the iPad… FTW).

So we were understandably VERY eager to see the fruits of our labours.

(Apple, ‘fruits’?  See, it’s a pun, geddit?  Oh, never mind…)

Anyway, I took the opportunity to create a little video run through of some of the ‘media’ properties on it, just to get a first feel for what ‘worked’ on the iPad:

So, that was yesterday.  My thoughts today?

All in all, whilst newspapers and magazines (and of course comics) can do some wonderful creative things with the iPad, having used it you realise what a great in between step between ‘lean back’ and ‘sit forward’ it is…

…which is perfect for just watching TV on.

Ben Malbon points out that the posters they’ve put up are like a giant user manual… “this is how you use it”. 



Looks like a great way to watch content, yet still have access to everything the web offers at the flick of a finger.

And sure, as a device it has the potential to do untold amount of wonderful things, depending on the apps developed for it.  And it may revolutionise many markets (news, games, work, healthcare…)

Yet given the amount of ‘watching’ people still do (television, films etc), and the quality and flexibility of the iPad for fulfilling that need, I believe that for mainstream take up it’s the viewing capabilities that will be key. 



People LOVE watching TV, as we all know.  This represents a different, flexible, personal way to do that, wherever you want.  TV has a mass appeal that opens up the interest in the device to a wider audience than would be interested in more early-adopter tech (the iPhone, for instance).

Which means there’s probably an interesting behavioural economics thing going on here too

People will justify spending £500 or so when they compare it not just to the price of netbooks, laptops etc… but to the price of flash flatscreen TVs.

For instance, would you buy a TV for the kitchen when you could buy a stand for an iPad and sit it in the corner when you’re there?  Especially if you can download whichever recipe you want on it too.



Which all means that whilst people will be watching as much, if not more, television content in the future, the way in which they are watching it is even more flexible and on demand…

…whatever, whenever, wherever.

Which has interesting, challenging repercussions for business or marketing models based upon the traditional linear TV watching with ad breaks every 20 minutes… but more on that another day…

What do you think?  Is the iPad the future of TV?


Steve Jobs; saving the industry, one hero at a time…


Thanks, Foxtrot… ending the day with a suitably geeky joke 🙂

If you don’t get it, it’s about that fact that…

…oh come on, where’ve you been, the iPad doesn’t support Adobe Flash.

Seriously.  Keep up…

Mind you, I don’t know if the iPad is going to be in the magazine/newspaper/comic saving business so much.  Some things we’ve been looking into recently suggests that what Apple have created is actually a brilliant way to watch TV content & play games anywhere…

…why read cotton, when you can watch silk?


Eight tales from The Story

On Friday I found myself gathered around the camp-fire that was The Story with a few hundred other folk who love a good yarn, an engaging raconteur, or a twist in the tale…

…it was a “celebration of everything that is wonderful, inspiring and awesome about stories, in whatever medium possible“, curated wonderfully by Matt

…and was held at the Conway Hall, a building with a pretty interesting story itself.



Now, unlike previous things here and there where liveblogging is a pretty neat way of capturing stuff for ‘future inspiration’, I didn’t think The Story would work like that for me.

And, it turned out, I was right; it was a ‘lean forward & lift the sash window in your forehead’ affair for me. 

Yet with the help of the excellent Story Newspaper (by Newspaper Club), Rebecca’s fullsome/awesome recap, and a flick back through the twitter stream of #thestory, I’ve pieced together eight things I learned…

…or now believe…

…or remembered I believed already…

…or just liked from the day…



1. Sci-Fi stories tell us what’s possible… and probable

Opening up the day, journalist/author/blogger/bespectacled Canadian Cory Doctorow read us his short story ‘The Story so far… and beyond‘, a tale of the future (the death & life of…) books and stories. 

For me, it achieved what great science fiction should; no matter how far the story goes, it’s rooted in something entirely plausible & believable.  I’m currently reading his novel Makers too (which Faris sent me after my social production thingy), which pulls the same trick of expertly extrapolating a future from things currently happening in technology.



I’ve talked about Sci-fi before, of course, but in the context of ‘Story’, I think there’s two interesting things that happen in technology because of science-fiction

Firstly, both writers and engineers start in the same place (what HAS happened, and IS currently possible with technology). 

But the writer is then free to speculate about the future without being held back by the real world constraints the engineer faces.  They’re both heading in similar directions, but it takes the engineer longer to get there…

Secondly, it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy…

…the engineers of the future, just by dint of who they are (geeks) what they like (geek stuff) and so on, grow up reading the science-fiction of the present.  They get ideas and inspiration of the path to travel from the writers… and so naturally follow that path. 

Hence lots of sci-fi prophesies ‘coming true’, and products like the Star Trek inspired style of flip mobile phones appear…

…from the Wikipedia entry for mobile phone inventor Martin Cooper:

“Cooper later revealed that watching Captain Kirk using his communicator on the television show Star Trek inspired him to develop the handheld mobile phone”



2. Television’s stories are getting much deeper

We had the pleasure of seeing Dr Aleks Krotoski’s mash-up telling the story of ‘the making of’ The Virtual Revolution

…if you’d watched any of the series (which most of the room had, of course), it was a great insight into what went in (or didn’t) to the final linear TV show.



It’s a great example of the depth to which stories on television can potentially go to now… way beyond just red button, or a microsite or the like. 

It’s fairly easy to create in-depth, personal, sociable stories from the making of the show, all put together using the same tools and technology that you or I may use everyday (flickr, twitter etc).

For those who’re interested in the subject matter, offering this level of depth behind shows is becoming increasingly more important.

…as an aside… there’s a Virtual Revolution test you can take to see what kind of web animal you are… I’m a web fox it would seem.  It’s fun, give it a whirl…



3. Pushing boundaries & expectations helps hook the audience in…

Jon Spooner and Tim Etchells both took the boundaries of where we were perhaps expecting things to go, and stretched them in weird (the former) or weird & filthy (the latter) ways…



In both cases, the audience sat there simply wondering just what might come next… in storytelling, doing the unexpected is amazingly powerful.

4. Comics rock (in an educational way)

So yes, we all know comics rock anyway… but what occurred when Sydney Padua talked about her comic creation Lovelace & Babbage is the potential for education.

Initially created for Ada Lovelace Day, telling the story of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, the comic has since found a lease of life in becoming the fully-fledged tale of the crime fighting duo…



…but just reading a few pages of the stories is teaching me more in a sticky way than endless Wikipedia or lectures would about the same subject. 

Comics like this should be on the curriculum.  And my mum’s a teacher, so I’ll sort that out then, yeah?

5. Audience participation is all about clapping & chocolate

Russell Davies was an excellent host; genial, funny, generous, and most crucially of all, he knows the power of interaction… especially when it comes to throwing out chocolate treats into the audience (which brought back memories of being at the panto)…



I caught a Kinder Egg, which is why I’m now the proud owner of an ISG (Interplanetary Space Gallivanter)…



6. Some stories stick with us for a long time

Now, Kat Akingbade (co-star of C4’s The Science of Scams) was there talking about how a lot of people tell stories around the occult for quite selfish and nefarious purposes, because the stories resonate with a lot of people in a certain way…

…and the photos she was using to demonstrate this though were a series of the ‘classic’ ghost photos:







…which to be honest I’d forgotten all about, but on seeing them again remembered that as a kid I’d absolutely pored over books like this Usborne one filled with these photos, stories and more…



…which now, thinking about it, is probably where a lot of the inspiration for the Gamages Model Train Club stories I write comes from.  I’m not weird; just conditioned…

So, some stories can stay with you and act as a formative force on your life for a long time it seems. 

Which is maybe why one of the most powerful forces at play in marketing at the moment is nostalgia; reminding people of something in their past is easier than trying to get them to believe something completely new in the present.

7. I’ve utterly wasted my life (compare to Jody McIntyre)

Sam Coniff from Livity didn’t tell his story, but that of Jody McIntyre – who, after going travelling around South America on his own, scaling Machu Picchu solo, and winning acceptance to Oxford, has now decamped to Palestine to campaign and report on everything that’s happening there.

Oh, and did I say that he’s got cerebral palsy, and his parents were told when he was born that he would never walk, and probably never talk? 

When the podcasts are up, I’ll post Sam’s telling of Jody’s amazing tale (so far)… in the meantime, follow Jody here and here



8. All the great storytellers need is the suit of clothes they’re standing in…

Last up, David Hepworth of Development Hell (who produce Word & Mixmag) stands up and tells us the most wondrous, evocative tale of suits, fathers, styles, eras and generations…



David was a brilliant mix of entertainer, sage, comedian, co-conspirator, humble, confident… he just stood on a stage for twenty minutes and took the audience with him on the journey. 

But something he referred to himself helps the rest of us… he’s been telling and retelling the story, working out the moral, the important bits (and no doubt the bits where he gets a good laugh). 

It’s only when we practice telling stories that we get better at telling them.


So there you are, The Story. 

The post is rather a long one, I know… so, if there’s a shorthand version, it’s this:

1. Tell stories that inspire others to do great things

2. Build depth into your stories, so people can dive deeper

3. Use your story to push against the expectations of the audience

4. Educate through entertaining stories

5. Get the audience to participate in the telling of the story

6. Tell stories that resonate with things from the past

7. Tell the stories of others generously

8. The more you retell your story, the better it’ll be…


A sneak peek at a touchscreen magazine

So, if there’s one magazine that was always going to be all over the iPad and other touchscreen tablet devices, it was Wired

Here’s Wired’s Creative Director Scott Dadich, and Adobe’s Jeremy Clark, talking about how they’ve been working on developing the magazine to take advantage of all the things you’ll be able to do…

It looks fantastic, doesn’t it?

Some thoughts occurred as I watched…

…it seems like it’d be pretty labour intensive to go to town on every page of a magazine.  If more labour equals more cost, how does that sit with the notion that digital versions ‘cost significantly less’ than physical?

…it really works for Wired, it’s audience, and of course the subject areas covered.  But you can see how it could work for any magazine; Hello could use something like Microsoft Photosynth to let you ‘walk around Fern Britton’s beautiful home’, and TV listings could have TV trails embedded right in.

…if magazine publishers put all that effort into producing a ‘magazine’ in this format… are they going to let you break it up and just read (and pay for) the parts you want?  Or are they going to make you buy the whole thing?

Exciting times ahead, methinks.

(HT Paul)


Bonfire Builders – Neil Perkin

I’m delighted that the third in the (frequentish) series of ‘Bonfire Builders‘ is Neil Perkin, of Only Dead Fish fame, with some brilliant, thought provoking stuff on the future of magazine communities…



Let’s start socially… tell us a wee bit about yourself

Well, the most exciting thing going on with me right now is that I’m starting my own thing.

Until very recently I worked at IPC Media heading up several areas of the business including research, insight, planning and commercial strategy.  IPC is a really interesting business in that it has over 80 media brands, mostly born out of magazines, which means it’s an incredibly diverse company.

In the last few years I was at the centre of defining and implementing their digital strategy, which was a brilliant job – but there is so much interesting stuff going on out there that the opportunity to work with new people on new projects was too good to miss.

So I’m going to be doing some consulting on digital content and commercial strategy, overlaid with a healthy dose of social technologies (since I believe that this is now critical to both).  And I’m really excited by the possibility of it all.

Apart from that, I’m a (slow) running, (rubbish) rockclimbing, (dodgy) goatee-wearing, glass-half-full type of bloke.

The social bonfire/advertising fireworks principle works along the lines of ‘not either/or, but both…’  Is there a specific approach for magazines to ‘bonfire building’ with readers?  After all, a lot of them would be eager to participate surely?

Magazines are already strong on community.  Think about it – they’re self-selected, focused around areas of passion, read by similar people.

So there are things that magazines have always done that help to build the community over time – I’m thinking of the visibility they give and the interaction they encourage through some of the editorial product (real-life magazines for example, are all about user generated content), and through events and added services.

The digital realm takes this to another level of-course. The great opportunity that magazine brands have on the web is combining the best of what they have always done (curated content, inspiration, aspiration, passion) with the best of a connected web (interaction, real-time, connection, conversation, collaboration).

Magazine brands can be great facilitators, and so the social web is a huge opportunity. There’s some great stuff happening in this space but in truth, I don’t think we’ve yet seen what’s really possible.

I’m aware that a lot of sales tactics for magazines over the years has focused on the ‘free’ covermount, which I guess is quite ‘fireworky’ in nature.  Do you think more ‘bonfires’ will help build up more consistent and stable sales?

The UK differs from the US in that the majority of magazine sales are newsstand based rather than subscription.  The newsstand is a hugely competitive environment.  Confronted with rows of magazines, readers make their minds up in seconds, so your front cover has to work exceptionally hard.  Given all that, most magazines actually have remarkably consistent and stable sales.



Of-course there’s promotional stuff going on all the time – it’s a highly competitive environment remember – but every magazine will have it’s core base of loyal readers.  But sure, the interaction between the offline product and a magazine brand’s social web presence is an interesting opportunity for them to encourage additional loyalty and new ways of inter-playing offline with on.

We hear a lot about how the trust people have in advertising, and in the media, has been eroded over the years, and now are far more likely to trust other people (even if they’ve not met them).  Do people trust their magazines the way they used to?  And if not, does the collaborative ‘bonfire’ approach help re-engender that trust?

Magazines have always been a hugely trusted medium – I don’t think that has dramatically changed.  But I think what has changed is the expectation people have about being able to access, share and interact with that trusted content whenever and wherever they want, and how they discover that content.

Magazines have strong media brands (you can form a pretty strong picture of a person just by saying they’re an NME reader.  Not sure where that leaves you if you’re ITV 3).

They have long added editorial authority to commercial copy (the ‘advertorial’ approach), but the opportunity that the social web gives to magazine brands is to help provide new solutions through facilitating conversation and collaboration via a trusted brand.

And what of the future?

I think all the stuff going on right now around e-readers and the ipad is really interesting (Mag+ has been by far the best visualisation of its potential), but not for the reason you might think.  Yes, user experience is very important, and it’s really exciting thinking about all the different ways in which people could interact with magazine-type content.

But to repeat one of my most oft-used Henry Jenkins quotes, our focus shouldn’t be on emerging technologies but on emerging cultural practices.  The media owners that will win in this ever-changing environment will be those that truly understand their communities.

And note – I didn’t say ‘audiences’. The biggest opportunity that magazine (and other media) owners have is to be facilitators.  To get in and really mix it up with the people who are interacting with their content.  To connect people.  With other people.  With great content.  And great information.  With entertainment, inspiration, aspiration, stimulation…fun.

But in order to do that they have get over the destination thinking that still dominates within many content owners.  Life isn’t linear anymore.  In fact it never was.