Magazines 24/7, The E-Reading Revolution: It’s All About Adaptability, Hugging It Out

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We had the pleasure of attending the MPA and ASME’s Magazines 24/7 discussion on “The e-Reading Revolution.” Mike attended the luncheon and networking portion of today’s series of events, which included the Digital Ellies awards presentation. (Although we were sad to have missed it, maybe it was for the best, at least if this tweet from Ed2010 is anything to go by.)

While there’s no way we could adequately condense every salient point brought up during the nearly 4 hours of talks and presentations, we’ll discuss some of the highlights. Click through for more:


This morning’s speakers were introduced by MPA president and CEO Nina Link and were led by Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research. The takeaway from Rotman Epps’ research and projections was that there is no such thing a single, “killer” device, and this won’t change through the course of 2010. So those who are prematurely worshiping at the iAltar may possibly want to rethink their inclinations. Additionally, in a survey conducted among thousands of consumers, “durability” in e-reading devices far outnumbered other desired components people want from their devices, including color, flexibility, wireless connectivity and video components. Furthermore, Rotman Epps made a point of sharing that, for digital content to make sense to consumers, it mustn’t be looked at as a transition from websites or print media, but as an expansion of these.

Others, however, tended to disagree. Digital magazines, they argued, are going to be something entirely different from online content or their print counterparts, with their own, exclusive editorial content, communication capabilities, interactive ads, slideshows, images, video, and more. In fact, the segment we found most inspiring, and one that showed us most clearly what to expect in terms of standards for digital magazines, was Bonnier’s look into how they are envisioning their future digital content. Sara Ohrvall, senior vice president of research and development for The Bonnier Group, discussed how the group was currently focusing primarily on applications for the iPad, imagining a product that would allow the user to interact with both images and text and “flow” from one page to another seamlessly. “Flow,” Ohrvall explained, “is the new flip.” She also emphasized the need to have digital magazines be the result of a true collaboration between digital and editorial teams that would allow magazines to do “what we do best” on another platform – curate information and images in a way that is well-designed and informative. To drive this very point home, GQ deputy editor Michael Hainey and Condé Nast Digital’s editorial director Jamie Pallot quite literally “hugged it out” at the end of their presentation of GQ‘s iPhone app. It was, it must be said, truly a rad bromance.

Richard Levine, vice president of editorial operations for Condé Nast, reaffirmed the difference between digital magazines and websites, noting that lots of Flash and sensory-overload was best left to sites as they are “quick stops” for readers in comparison to digital magazines, which you are more inclined to read for a longer period of time, unless, of course, your e-reading device happens to weight roughly 14 pounds.

Another topic that kept popping up across the different panels were whether readers would be willing to pay for this content and, if so, whether they were more inclined to purchase digital magazines one issue at a time, or pay a one-time, annual subscription. More than one editor expressed delight that readers have thusfar proven not only happy to pay for digital content, but also, as GQ‘s Hainey noted, were inclined to purchase back issues of magazines through and for their smartphones or, as The Atlantic‘s deputy managing editor Maria Steshinsky observed, pay to access short stories from the publication’s revamped online archives at $3.99 a pop.

Another point of disagreement this morning was whether magazines should seek to create one application that would adjust across platforms like tablets or smartphones — regardless of screen size — or whether applications should be developed specifically for certain devices, taking screen size, screen resolution, color, and other such factors into account.

What remained consistent is the knowledge that, either way, a lot of experimentation is still needed, but that — for now, at any rate — digital content will not replace magazines and will instead act as either a supplement or a completely different, innovative new source for content and reader interactivity.

Now if only we could get someone working on getting all this onto flexible e-paper for easy portability. Please? This and a hover car are pretty much all we’re looking forward to at this point.