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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged publishing

Talking of Medium, as we were, Matt Locke had a great idea on how Medium could bring a new but familiar business model to the journalism web:

There is another, intriguing possibility – building a business model around publishing episodic series of content. Audiences understand this model – we’ve been brought up on TV seasons for decades. But freed from the schedule, we’re now consuming episodic series in new ways, from bingeing Netflix box sets to subscribing to podcasts and returning to the cinema for the latest episode in our favourite superhero franchise.

What a good idea! Luckily Medium has Bobbie Johnson on board, who between Ghost Boat and Matter has been responsible at least two serialised product that made editorial sense. Matter, in its early days, was very much that. You essentially subscribed to a series of eBooks delivering longform science and tech journalism. It was great, and I missed it when Medium bought and absorbed it. Still, lots of opportunity here, right?

Oh, wait:

Kinda puts lie to the idea that it was mainly people in sales and support that got cut, doesn’t it?

Happily, it looks like Bobbie has something up his sleeve:

Matter didn’t matter to Ev

But what how about Matter itself? It was started as a Kickstarter several years ago, acquired by Medium, and then eventually spun off as its own content studio.

Well, this e-mail arrived during the Trump inauguration:

Medium dead

So, that’s that. Another journalism experiment launched, acquired and killed. Matter RIP. You did reader-support longform right – until you were killed.

John Battelle thinks we actually figured out online publishing a decade ago – and then we screwed it up. How? We handed power to the social networks:

Again, for emphasis: despite all the whizzy bang-y social media we’ve invented these past ten years, I HAVE NOT ONE CLUE WHO IS READING ME ON A REGULAR BASIS, NOR DO I KNOW WHO TO THANK FOR SENDING THEM TO ME.

And in the pre-social media, blogs and websites days, we did. Why does this matter?

This is the single most immutable rule of media, folks. PUBLISHING IS COMMUNITY. And if you don’t know who your community is, you’re screwed.

Kindle Oasis in use

Some sobering news for ebook enthusiasts in the New York Times:

Sales of adult books fell by 10.3 percent in the first three months of 2016, and children’s books dropped by 2.1 percent. E-book sales fell by 21.8 percent, and hardcover sales were down 8.5 percent. The strongest categories were digital audiobooks, which rose by 35.3 percent, and paperback sales, which were up by 6.1 percent.

So, are the print fundamentalists right? Is the magical smell of paper winning, and that insipid upstart, the ebook, banished to the technologies of the past? Which other possible explanation could there be?

But e-book sales have fallen precipitously for months, in part because many publishers have raised their prices after negotiating with Amazon and gaining the ability to set their own prices.

Oh. Publisher greed.

And while some book buyers may have traded e-books for print books, others may be buying cheaper, self-published e-books on Amazon.

Double oh. New, cheaper competition.

Where have we seen this pattern before, exactly?

Apple’s Eddie Cue, speaking to CNN’s Brian Stelter:

“We’ve only created the apps that we think everyone uses every day… We really wanted to create a single app that all customers could go to, to read all their news — no matter what they are interested in, no matter what topics, no matter what publications they want to follow — and get that experience that they’re used to with our products, where it looks beautiful, it’s really easy to read and yet it provides all the content available around the world.”

So, yes, they really do want to be the one single front end to your news-reading experience. And they do highlight the key elements of newspapers missing from the web: discovery and browsing of unexpectedly interesting news stories. News certainly has the potential to deliver that – if it gets better at its algorithmic curation.

News in Tom Foolery

Also of note is the fact that Cue’s definition of “news” might not match ours:

“We thought of things from, you know, even church newsletters to a stamp club… A lot of those organizations today still print and mail, which is even more expensive.”

Niche titles and small organisations which don’t have access to app development resources can get themselves into Apple News – and allow their members or audience to follow – a neat idea I hadn’t considered, and which could drive use of the app.

Here’s the full interview:

[via 9to5Mac]

Gawker claims to have got ahold of Buzzfeed’s books:

Editorial budget

If accurate – it shows the remarkable speed at which the site is growing – and that it’s staying profitable despite the cost surges.

Some interesting analysis from Jean-Louis Gassée, too:

Regarding “real revenue, growing, moderate cash use,” he wrote in an email to Gawker, “the company is, as accountants say, a ‘going concern,’ it has cash to last several years. Perhaps forever, meaning some day, revenue is large enough to provide positive cash flow from operations and, voilà, you have a real, autonomous business.”

Here’s an interesting data point in the discussion of publishing content natively into social media. A magazine that is published on Instagram:

Angie explained to me that Instagram perfectly suited her vision for The Shade Room: image-centric and interactive. For her purposes, Instagram was the equivalent of WordPress. When she started the feed a year ago, her goal was to accumulate 10,000 followers in the first year. She accomplished that in only two weeks.

#VivicaFox joins the cast of #HollywoodDivas !!

A photo posted by The Shade Room (@theshaderoominc) on

And how does she make money?

Since its start in early 2014, The Shade Room has grown into a lucrative enterprise. Angie told me that advertisers pay several hundred dollars to run ads on her Instagram and Facebook feeds, which might help explain why The Shade Room isn’t the only tabloidy Instagram account to gain popularity in the last year or two.

That’s enough money to employ writers and a brand manager, by the way. I’ve worked for smaller magazines than that…

[via MacStories]

Medium continues to evolve at a fair old clip;

But the most interesting – and possibly telling – move is the arrival of custom domains on the platform:

We’re starting out with a very limited beta for a select few publications. We are delighted to have partnered with New America to bring you context.newamerica.org, with Midcentury Modern at its new home midcenturymodernmag.com, and with Substance at substance.media. Rounding out our list of launch domains is Medium’s very own comics publication thenib.com. You can learn more about these publications here.

Your publishing brand, on Medium

So, now you can run your publication on Medium on your own domain name, so you’re not trapped on the platform forever. That’s an encouraging move.

The problem? It’s a curiously top-down approach. We’re seeing only established publishers given access to these tools first. Now, if Medium continues with its existing patterns of behaviour, this will eventually be available to everyone, but that could be a year away.

This is very different to the models of publishing platforms we’ve seen in the past. They’ve tended to support and celebrate the independent publisher who grew an audience on the platform, and then later see existing brands join the party. Here, the existing brands get first play, and the rest of us wait. In effect, Medium is starting where Twitter has evolved to: as a two tier service, with existing publishers getting a better service than the general mass of the user base.

Some might see that as a good thing – but I can’t help worrying that this is severely restricting Medium’s potential to be a home for innovative publishing experiments.

Another argument for not just owning your content – as you do even if you publish on Medium – but owning the space you publish on, too.

Ben Huh

When Ben Huh founded his company – he bought a bunch of cat photos. Yes, he acquired I Can Has Cheezburger? He created the company, bought the website and closed funding in just 45 days. Since then they’ve launched and experimented endlessly. Their mission statement is to make people laugh for a few moments.

But how do you win the content game in the long term?

The medium is the message

-Marshall McLuhan

For Huh, the format is the message. The format is the kind of content that exists within your device. It’s these formats – pioneered and owned by other companies often – that make things interesting. The reason your phone looks the way it does, is because a bunch of people got together in the 90s to create the widescreen TV format. Formats can have unexpected effects.

In the past, each vertical had its formats: print had books, magazine and newspapers. Those safe silos are gone. Now we have vertical competition – your Kindle isn’t just about reading – it will read to you. That’s audio.

Connections through content

Social media has made it easier for us to send content across the internet. The only way to connect with others online is with content – we are what we expose to others. The creation of beautiful and funny content has been driving media for the last five years.

We spend 112 hours awake a week. We spend 80 hours a week consuming media. How much of your visual space is filled with pixels? There are more and more screens in our lives. The longer we live the more pixels we will encounter.

Every time the content market fragments, as it does when new devices emerge, there’s a new chance for a new company – or a new format – to grab market share. That’s why media is so exciting right now.

Ben Huh too

Old formats do not go away – had a till receipt recently? That’s a scroll. Old formats just end up in niches. New formats are born all the time. The people who created media for old formats are woefully bad at creating it for a new format. Yet, we need more than just gaming skills to make VR work – we need the storytelling skills of old media. How do we bring these together?

We are now entering a world where physical objects can be treated as media, thanks to 3D printing. Cats have evolved from bad ass ferocious animals, to cute, friendly meme vectors. It’s not what you might expect from evolution…

The old stories are over

Old stories had beginnings, middles and ends. Online, we go straight to the punchline. How do we learn to tell these new stories. Creativity is not a blank canvas. Constraints and formats that force you to work within a box drives creativity, because you know the limits. Three window jokes aren’t an internet format – they’re the triptych of religious art. We derive new formats from old.

Cheeseburger wants to own short form humour. They want formats that are simple, that don’t make you work too hard, because we are all what we share.

Vox Media has just secured another funding round:

Vox Media, the company behind high-profile sites including The Verge, SB Nation and Vox, has raised $46.5 million in a round led by General Atlantic. The funding gives Vox a post-money valuation of about $380 million, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Vox publishes good, interesting sites, rethought for the digital age. They’re one of the most interesting journalistic publishers out there right now.

Medium Logo

An e-mail arrives from Medium, outlining the changes to their Collections (collections of articles posted on Medium):

Collections will have now have three types of participants: Owner, editor, and writer.

  • The owner is the person who created the collection and has full editing power, the same as it is right now. The owner can also put any self-published story into their collection.
  • The editor role is also the same as it is right now. Editors can review submissions and accept or reject them from collections, as well as add their own stories to the collection.
  • This is where it gets different: Collections will have “writers.” Collection owners and editors can invite users to write for their collections, as part of their “staff.”

Medium just became a platform for building an online magazine. It makes perfect sense – it’s “article rather than author”-centric model is more akin to traditional publishing models than the blogging model. It’ll be interesting to see what people do with it.

But good luck making any money off it.