Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mobile Breathes New Life into a Dying Industry

Printed media is dying. There I said it.

In case you've missed the news, publishing giant Conde Nast recently announced that Gourmet magazine, which has celebrated cooking and travel in its lavish pages since 1941, will cease publication with the November issue. Also chopped by the falling axe are the parenting magazine Cookie and the wedding publications Elegant Bride and Modern Bride.

We, the people, do still know how to read. It's just that our preferences for the medium over which we consume our printed content has changed. Reading words printed on a piece of paper just isn't as popular as it once was.

We prefer to read our content on computer screens - whether they are desktop computers, smartphones or eReaders.

There is one chance for print publishers to save the future of their industry. That one chance is called "mobile".

I highly recommmend that you download and read the executive summary of a recent study, "Going Mobile: How Publishers Are Preparing for the Burgeoning Digital Market." I am encouraged to see that print publishing execs have recognized that the mobile platform presents a new opportunity for their industry.

Here are some of the survey highlights:
  • More than 80% of newspaper and magazine respondents believe people will rely more heavily on mobile devices as a primary information source in the next three years

  • Nearly 70% of respondents agree that mobile is receiving more attention at their publication this year than last. More than a third believe their publication already has a well-developed plan for attacking and conquering the mobile market

  • 44% of respondents who track mobile's impact on their Web site traffic said the devices increased visits by up to 10% today. Half believe mobile traffic to their Web sites will increase by five to 25% in the next two years

  • Among senior executive respondents, 56 percent said their publication has plans to develop a smartphone application in the next 24 months, in addition to the 17 percent of respondents who already have an app in production.

  • Regardless of mobile’s anticipated rise, survey respondents do not plan to abandon their print publications in favor of a digital-only product in the near term.

  • While 55 percent believe that digital delivery of their publication is important to their strategic future, three-fourths believe that their publication will be available in a print form five years from now.

  • More than half of the survey respondents believe the future business model of mobile content will be supported by both advertising and subscriptions.

  • Nearly a third believe that mobile will have a significant impact on their publication's revenue in just three years.

  • More than half of respondents believe that smartphones (e.g., the iPhone and BlackBerry) will become a vital way to distribute their publication within three years, while nearly 42 percent said the same about e-reader devices.

Here's one reason why I believe that the mobile platform just might be the salvation for print publisher: Android.

Android is the operating system behind a number of popular smartphones. As a mobile device operating system, it's really starting to gain momentum. The recently announced partnership between Verizon and Google matches an open source mobile operating system with the United States' "most reliable and largest wireless voice and data network," (as Verizon claims).

But wait! There's more!! Android is also starting to appear in the hottest new class of computers: netbooks. Ultra-portable computers powered by a mobile operating system introduces a new class of eReaders beyond the overpriced and underpowered dedicated eReaders in the market today.

With smartphone and netbooks, "mobile" takes on a new, much more expanded meaning. All this news is good news for print publishers.


  1. The only problem with reading long-form content (articles, chapters, books) rather than short email or text messages, is the size of the screens. The resolutions can be spectacular, but a 5-point font (or whatever size it is on my smartphone) is still hard on the eyes.

  2. Irina, absolutely agree. I'm amazed that according to the numbers, there are more Kindle apps downloaded for the iPhone than there are Kindles. How can people read such small fonts??