Thursday, March 13, 2008

Husni Vs. BoSacks - The Whole Experience vs. the Hole Experience

The following terrific exchange is from Samir Husni's Blog. It is clearly part of an ongoing and and very public debate between myself and my good friend Samir. If you ever get the chance to see us do this in action, please do not miss it. It has always been the highlight of any event or trade show we have been invited to attend. I kid you not.

Captain Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.
Casablanca (1942)

The Whole Experience vs. the Hole Experience
Posted by Samir Husni
My friend Bob Sacks discovered a major gap in his e-paper experience. For years he has been predicting the future of mass reaching magazines and books to be on-line or through some usage of an electronic device such as the Sony Reader or Kindle. Well, Bob had the chance to put his predictions to practice and lived to write about it. He summed his e-reader, the Kindle, experience as such:

·The Ebook experience is excellent and enjoyable. It was book like and yet had features that no book has.
·The Enewspaper experience was fair. With a newspaper the expected visuals, photos and charts were non existent and that colored my reading and my expectations.
·The Emagazine was a complete flop.

To say I told you so will be entirely unfair. But, what I have been saying for years is that the new technologies are yet another way to spread the word and to have content delivered to readers and viewers. It is a new way and not a replacement or even a substitute. Each media must present the entire whole experience on its own. No media should be made to be like this or that. If we are working so hard to invent a medium that looks like paper and feels like paper, why bother? We have paper, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Well, folks, click here to read Bob's entire review of the Kindle and enjoy the "hole" in his "whole" experience.

BoSacks Reply to "The Whole Experience vs. the Hole Experience"

The fact that the magazine experience was a dud in the Kindle does not mean that the digital magazine experience cannot be achieved. It can be and it will become a wonderful experience. There are many flaws in this first generation e-paper reader, and all of those flaws are based in the design elements. But first we must acknowledge that the e-paper reading experience was excellent. The fact that Amazon stripped out the design elements from the files supplied does not mean that they can't and won't be included. If that is your only argument, you are very misinformed.

The digital magazine is alive and well. It grew over 115% last year, with at least 15 bona fide suppliers, and is expected to grow exceptionally for years to come. That growth is not based on epaper, but when the next generation of e-paper is available in 2011, the growth will be astronomical. It is fair to ask the question, WHY? There are many reasons - ease of use, connectability, newsworthiness - but perhaps above all is cost. Have you been tracking the cost of making magazines? These crippling costs combined with horrific inefficiencies of distribution will force publishers to offer better quality and more targeted print products at extremely high price points. The only answer for most of the magazine world will be digital editions. No, print is not going to go away. But it will not be the dominant information distribution vehicle. The publisher, the advertiser nor the reader can afford the print only world.
by BoSacks March 13, 2008 at 5:32 pm

My Dear Bob
Here you go again . . . putting words in my mouth, well putting words on my blog is more accurate . . . The debate is not whether digital magazines are well and alive, or whether e-paper will be here or not . . . The debate is about a new form of media which is being born to add to the rest of the media and not to REPLACE them . . . The digital magazine experience like Monkey magazine and other is a completely different experience than reading Maxim in print for example. Different media, different audiences . . . each and every medium, new or old, born or yet to be born, must try to create a complete whole experience and not just a "hole" in the experience . . . Whether print, broadcast, digital or whatever the new technologies will bring, if that medium does not create a complete wholesome experience with its audience it will be doomed . . .
All the best my friend,


My very dear friend Samir:

Write this down. You are correct about digital magazines having the ability to be different than print magazines. It can be very different, as is Monkey, or it can be a simple replica of a printed magazine. Most likely digital magazines will be fully media enriched, to take advantage of the new electronic medium that they ride upon, and to maximize the media possibilities. Your original position of shear enjoyment was that in my report on the Kindle epaper platform it was not a very good magazine experience. No it wasn't. But it will be, and my point in our exchange was that when that does happen correctly it will be as an epaper platform with full digital magazine functionality.

So to sum up this wonderful and informative exchange, you agree that digital magazines are and will be successful. You don't agree that epaper and digital magazines will someday replace the majority of printed magazines.

I'll go you one giant step further, my research with media Ideas ( ) points out that the market for printed periodicals will further decrease by 15% through 2016 in North America and Europe (0.7 probability). And that within twenty five years, only 10% of the paper-based magazine industry will remain (0.6 probability).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Atlantic Assures Fans It Hasn't Sold Its Soul

Atlantic Assures Fans It Hasn't Sold Its Soul
Britney Cover Is Relevant to Venerable Title's New Aims -- a Hoped-for Return to Profitability
By Nat Ives

NEW YORK ( -- Longtime readers of The Atlantic are likely to do double takes when they see Britney Spears on its next cover -- a rarified piece of media real estate more often occupied with subjects such as Pakistan's A.Q. Khan, the biological basis for morality, the human qualities of George Washington or, in 1996, "Why Americans Hate the Media."

Britney Spears will land on the cover of The Atlantic.

At 150 years old, The Atlantic remains an intellectual journal of public affairs and culture. But owner David Bradley also wants it to end a long spell in the red. So in the past year it poached Justin Smith from The Week to become its president; committed to moving its ad-sales team from Washington to New York while integrating digital and offline efforts; abandoned its online pay wall to lure more visitors; placed new emphasis on events including the Aspen Ideas Festival; and commissioned a magazine redesign.

Now the Britney cover story is bound to attract new attention to The Atlantic. The magazine maintains that the issue's editorial is not driven by Mr. Smith's ambitious five-year business plan, the redesign or any of the rest -- but it arrives at a time when The Atlantic's pages and newsstand sales are down, while celebrity titles are still going stronger than any magazine category.

Same perpsective
James Bennet, editor of The Atlantic since March 2006, said the Britney cover flows from the same rich artery as every Atlantic piece, and not just the Marilyn Monroe or Humphrey Bogart stuff from decades back. He also meant cover packages such as the exploration of possible pre-Viking contacts between the Old and New Worlds or the 1999 cover story on new theories of infectious disease.

"We are focusing The Atlantic really on what it does best, I think -- which is bringing its intelligence to bear on really important subjects, the most significant subjects in politics, business and the broader culture -- and making provocative arguments," Mr. Bennet said.

The title has undoubtedly caught new wind lately with high-impact pieces such as last December's "Why Obama Matters" and the March issue's "Marry Him," about settling for "Mr. Good Enough." The Britney feature, for its part, is a serious look into her hangers-on and the businesses that they build on her back; if it happens to help reverse The Atlantic's recent 5.4% decline in newsstand sales, so much the better.

But will core readers and advertisers stay true?

This is the question for magazines on the remake. The answers, especially amid the broader media-world transformation, can be brutal.

Subscriber revolt
Britney is "not anything that would interest me," said Richard Adin, 60, a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., business owner who said he's read The Atlantic for about a decade and holds, as the title confirmed, a subscription through 2016. "If I were looking at it on a newsstand I wouldn't buy it. It's bad enough when Britney takes up space in my New York Times."

Reader's Digest, another venerable brand, recently tested its longtime readers with a new logo, the first back-cover ads in 85 years and a design intended relate to younger readers. Nothing was done casually. "We carefully considered the reaction of our many older readers, because they're valuable to us," said Eva Dillon, president and group publisher. "Once you become accustomed to something, you don't like to see it change."

Rishad Tobaccowala, the ad guru in charge of the Denuo Group, said he trusts The Atlantic to handle pop well. "I believe it's in their core wheelhouse," he said. "But over time it's also consistent with them making their magazine current and compelling with today's trends."

Magazines' covers are still their most public face, however, so Britney's prime Atlantic position will draw notice from several sides. When Howell Raines was executive editor at The New York Times, many reporters resented his push for more pop-culture news, such as the front-page Britney feature "Schoolyard Superstar Aims for a Second Act, as an Adult" in October 2002. Even Vanity Fair, a magazine explicitly fascinated by stars and starlets, caught darts when it put Paris Hilton on the front.

The Economist has made its feeling on Britney covers clear: harrumph. "If she re-emerged as the head of the World Bank, we'd consider it," Editor in Chief John Micklethwait joked last month in a MarketWatch column lauding his magazine's sober judgment.

New goals
The Britney piece easily meets Atlantic editorial standards, said Mr. Smith. But its pop-culture hook happens to be relevant to the magazine's new aims, such as that hoped-for return to profitability or even simple ad-page growth.

Ad pages at The Atlantic have slid in recent years, dropping 1% each in 2007 and 2006 after a 12.6% drop in 2005, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. By comparison, the U.S. edition of The Economist, which competes for some of the same readers and advertisers, posted an 8.5% gain last year, a 1.1% increase in 2006 and a 1.9% slip in 2005.

"We think the brand's relevance has a broader appeal than the current footprint," said Mr. Smith. "You could argue that doing a story on the celebrity economy and the new paparazzi economy is a broadening of the footprint."

Here's hoping Mr. Adin, the Atlantic subscriber, continues to find what he likes -- despite Britney's April beachhead. "If it's one issue, I don't care," said Mr. Adin. "If this is the new direction, they may as well just call themselves one of Rupert Murdoch's tabloids."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

BoSacks Speaks Out: Review of the Kindle

BoSacks Speaks Out: Review of the Kindle
Publishing Executive Magazine
By BoSacks

This is a review of the Kindle Epaper reading device. There are by necessity two parts to this review - the review of the Kindle and the review of the Epaper. If I were reviewing a new state-of-the-art MP3 player, I wouldn't have to describe to you the inherent value and functionality of music, what it is and what it does - you already know. Everybody is familiar with music and it requires no descriptors on my part. Not so with epaper and epaper devices. Both are new to the public and both require understanding and explanation.

I have read three novels, two magazines and one newspaper on the Kindle. (I thought a page-turning series of an original pulp fiction giant was the right choice for reviewing an Epaper device. I chose Edger Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series. Mr. Burroughs was a product of his time and, as such, was clearly a racist and a staunch sexist. But those attributes aside, he could sure tell a fanciful and exciting story.) My reactions to the three publishing types are as follows:

The Ebook experience is excellent and enjoyable. It was book like and yet had features that no book has.
The Enewspaper experience was fair. With a newspaper the expected visuals, photos and charts were non existent and that colored my reading and my expectations.
The Emagazine was a complete flop. All that was delivered was straight text in ebook format. What distinguishes a magazine from other formats, among other attributes, is the design element. The Kindle magazine experience is completely devoid of style and design. This is either an oversight by Amazon or just plain uninformed laziness. I will assume that they received appropriate XML files from the magazine publisher, which should contain all the elements of proper magazine and page construction. Just a little more effort on someone's part and the magazine reading experience would have been better. Now is the time for publishers to start to strategize how they will reconstitute their franchise into a pleasant epaper experience.

Epaper in this device exceeded my expectations. Epaper, just like real paper, does not have under-panel, background lighting. In fact it has no light emission at all. It works on the ambient light or reflective light available in the room you are in just like real paper. The refresh rate or the time it takes to change pages is no longer and perhaps quicker then the time it takes to turn a traditional page. The type was crisp and wonderfully variable. With the ease of two flicks I had a range of font sizes at my command. The substrate background was acceptable, but could be brighter and whiter, more in line with the Sony Ereader.

The bottom line in this review of the Epaper experience is a resounding success, and it will only continue to get better.

The rest of the tale is the actual functionality of the machine called a Kindle. This, too, will improve over time and is not a bad submit for a first edition. But I do have some issues with the design and instrumentality. Unlike some other reviewers, I did not find the Kindle ugly, but neither is it of a completely compelling design like the iPod. The Kindle comes with a quaint querty keyboard that was easy to use and necessary to have for the purchase of titles while on the road. It also comes equipped with a nice pocket book sized 6-inch E-ink display, 256MB of internal memory, which they say and I believe, holds 200 books. It is also equipped with an easy to reach scroll wheel and a standard mini USB port. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack, SD slot for extended external memory, and is connected for downloads via cell towers that transmit data over a network called EV-DO data. I am being specific about the data delivery because in my case I live in a rural area of New York. Here I have spotty cell service, but no EV-DO data, so in order to get my Ebooks delivered via the data network, I had to drive 13 miles to a town with greater population and therefore greater cell service. Once in range, the 5 books I ordered downloaded in seconds.

Another great feature is the inboard dictionary. At any time you can use the scroll wheel to highlight a sentence and the dictionary provides you with information about any complex words on that line. It was both useful and functionally easy. You wouldn't believe it but John Carter of Mars has an even more extensive vocabulary than Bosacks. I kid you not.

I have two major gripes about the Kindle. In the designers' zeal to make it easy to turn pages, they made it too easy. There is little room on either side of the kindle to hold the Ereader comfortably without accidentally changing pages either forward or backward. This made for an annoying experience of continually having to flip back. The other area of needed improvement was the leather cover/carrying case. The Kindle is not secured in the case. It just rests there and slides out much too easily. Call it paranoia if you like, but I was constantly worried that this $400 plastic device was going to drop out of the case and drop on the floor with a crunch from it and a yowl from me.

With all that said. I loved the overall experience of Epaper and this new device. I would bet that the revised version will fix all the mechanical idiosyncrasies, and I will be more than happy to report on that when it becomes available. But right now the Kindle version 1 is sold out, and that bodes well for Amazon and the fledgling Ebook industry.