Thursday, March 24, 2011
Thursday, March 31, 4:30 – 7

Chang School Information Night, Ryerson University, Toronto
Come downtown to chat with instructors about the offerings this spring in Ryerson’s continuing studies program, including Magazine and Web Publishing. I’ll be there along with some of my colleagues to share information about the program and the courses on offer. Creating Website Editorial is on in May and June. If you’ve already taken a class in Magazine Publishing, you can register online now.

Thursday, April 14, 8:30 – 4:30 (Toronto)

Tuesday, April 19, 8:30 – 4:30 (Vancouver)

The Business of Digital
Magazines Canada is putting on this full-day event aimed at helping the industry create and monetize digital products and services. Speakers include Kim Machado on digital revenue, Kim Pittaway on social media and Brady Murphy (in Toronto) and Steve Maich (in Vancouver) on mobile. I’ll be at the Toronto event – if you’re there, make sure to say hi.

Tuesday, April 26, 6:30 – 8:15

Google for Journalists
If you’ve never been to Google’s Toronto HQ, this is a great chance to do so. The event is presented by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and promises tips on getting the most from the web, including tips on search and other tools available from Google.

Thursday, May 5, 12 – 1:30

Be a Task Master
The Canadian Society of Magazine Editors presents its first luncheon event of 2011 with the goal of helping us all get super organized. Event details are still being finalized but make sure to save the date

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I’m not going to repeat the excellent analyses of the new NYT paywall already written by John Gruber and Khoi Vinh. Do click over and read them, though. This is about why I, personally, refuse to participate. Please feel free to agree/disagree/contribute in the comments.

1. Digital costs more than print (which includes digital)
A single thing should cost less than a single thing plus another thing, right? When you go shopping, you don’t pay less for the shirt and the pants than if you just bought the shirt. And remember, these are virtual pants – no one had to ship them anywhere. The lack of logic here astounds me, and reminds me of an argument that I unfortunately can’t recall the source of (maybe Mr. Magazine or Rex Hammock? Tell me if you know): why get high and mighty about the “value” of content now when we’ve been shilling it for cheap (and continue to do so) in the form of subscriptions for years?

The cheapest digital subscription works out to $3.75 a week. If I get the New York Times delivered to, um, zip code 90210 on weekdays, it’s $3.70 a week – and includes unlimited digital.

2. It’s too confusing
$15 for the website and smartphone app. $20 for the website and tablet app. $35 for all three. And these prices are for four-week periods, not for a month.
Don’t want the smartphone app? Well, you have to pay for it anyways. Use multiple computers (as most of us do)? The plan seems to offer access from unlimited devices (which begs the question, why not share a subscription with your friends?). Oh, and all that money? It doesn’t include the Crosswords app. And you can have access to 100 (but no more!) articles from the archives every four weeks. (Plus, hint? You don’t need the tablet app. Just read the website in Safari.)

3. The ads are still there
And I would expect them to be on the website. But on the smartphone app? I love the New York Times iPhone app – I use it a lot, especially as you can easily download articles to read them offline, such as on the subway or a plane – and I’ve long wished to be able to pay to get rid of the ad, as it takes up valuable reading space on such a small screen. (Plus, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything other than a house ad anyways. The iPhone ad is hardly helping with revenue problems.)

4. It’s too expensive

I want to support the New York Times – I really do. And I know it’s priced at the level of a weekly latte, and that the US dollar is even a bargain right now. But [cue deep movie narrator voice] in a world where most online content is free, and print content isn’t very expensive either – and with all the problems mentioned above – I don’t want to pay out of principle.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one. There are too many ways to get around the paywall, for starters. And too many paywall-free alternatives to read. Honestly? I don’t think this is going to last.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
From a piece on Mashable about new recommendation features at the New York Times:

"In the future, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the front-page content of divided into three sections: one for stories recommended by human editors, another with stories recommended by one’s social network and a third that delivers stories chosen by the site’s internal recommendations engine."

Tuesday, March 08, 2011
I had the pleasure this weekend of playing with National Geographic’s iPad app 50 Greatest Photographs (link goes to iTunes). Like the title suggests, the magazine team chose its 50 favourite photos and built an app around the concept, including behind-the-scenes stories and videos and a reader-driven “Your Shot” daily photo update. It’s engaging, on-brand and uses the platform well – exactly what a magazine iPad app should be. Granted, my first thought upon viewing it was to think wistfully of their budget and resources. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from what they’ve done. Here are a few things we can take away from this app success story.

1. Think beyond the page

The iPad platform isn’t just for digital editions. What can you do that moves beyond a replica of the magazine toward an interactive brand experience?

2. Focus
Don’t try to do everything in one app. It’s okay to focus on a single product that will serve readers well without being overly complex. It’s better to do one thing well than a lot of things badly.

3. The best things in life aren’t free

National Geographic’s app is high quality – and the magazine, as far as I know, has never been one to underprice itself. And they’re charging $4.99 for this app, which also contains a couple of ads from Canon. The lesson? If you think your app is high value, don’t be afraid to charge for it.

4. Use your archives
Remember that classic NG shot from 1984 of the Afghan refugee girl staring into the camera? It’s in here – after all, how could they leave it out? Just because it’s almost 30 years old doesn’t mean the story won’t still resonate with readers, especially younger readers who may not have seen it the first time around.

5. Do what you do best
Every magazine has a core competency that sets it apart, even if it’s not all it does. National Geographic has taken its strength in photography and run with it online in multiple ways. What does your magazine do well that could be extended to the iPad?

6. Involve your readers

One common complaint about iPad apps is that they’re siloed from the Internet. Not only has National Geographic built sharing capabilities into this app, but it includes a reader photo gallery (which, true to multiplatform publishing, is also used both on the website and in the magazine). Don’t miss any opportunity to let your readers engage with your brand and share content with their friends. Doing so builds a more engaged audience and also a bigger one.

Have you tried this app? What do you think? What other great things are magazines doing on the iPad?

Thursday, March 03, 2011
From tech blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball:

"The idea with Apple’s 70-30 revenue split is that developers and publishers can make it up in volume — that people aren’t just somewhat more willing to pay for content through iTunes than other online content stores, they are far more willing. The idea is that Apple has cracked a nut no one else1 has — they’ve created an ecosystem where hundreds of millions of people are willing to pay for digital content."

Unfortunately he’s missing a few complexities of the issue from the publishers’ perspective, most notably name-gathering (although many analysts are for good reason not sympathetic about its absence in Apple’s model), but it’s a good read and raises some important points.

About Me
Kat Tancock
Kat Tancock is a freelance writer, editor and digital consultant based in Toronto. She has worked on the sites of major brands including Reader's Digest, Best Health, Canadian Living, Homemakers, Elle Canada and Style at Home and teaches the course Creating Website Editorial at Ryerson University.
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