Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What if Ebooks Were the Dominant Platform?

BoSacks Speaks Out: My friend Rex Hammock posted the following on one of his Blogs.
"What if Samir Husni & Bob Sacks Swapped Sides?
This post about trying out a "technology flip test" ( See Below) in which eBook advocates become defenders of paper and vice-versa made me think of the longest-running debate on the magozinosophere. Bob, Samir, give it a shot."

I responded back to Rex somthing like this:

I will take the challenge any time and any place. I love the whole concept of it. What a wonderful debate it could/would be. So long as Samir doesn't cheat. You know what I mean, we accept the challenge, we both do our homework and we both try to win . . . Except if Samir doesn't try to win too hard, I lose the long term real debate by winning the flip test debate. Not that Samir would do anything like that, you understand.
So, Samir, will you take the side that digital will win?
Insanity -- a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.
R. D. Lang

What if Ebooks Were the Dominant Platform?
Posted by Mac Slocum
I recently came across an old blog post from Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee that discusses the utility of the "technology flip test". McAfee writes:

At a conference years back I was sitting on a panel that was asked to talk about future of the book. As the discussion was heating up about the inevitability of the electric media, someone on the panel (I wish it had been me) proposed a flip test. He said "Let's say the world has only e-books, then someone introduces this technology called 'paper.' It's cheap, portable, lasts essentially forever, and requires no batteries. You can't write over it once it's been written on, but you buy more very cheaply. Wouldn't that technology come to dominate the market?" It's fair to say that comment changed the direction of the panel.

The ebook vs paper flip test is intriguing for a number of reasons:

It inverts the offense and defense: Ebook advocates become defenders and paper-book supporters become disruptors. Shaking off the vestiges of a default argument is always a good idea -- think of it as a "debate cleanser."
It amplifies the strengths of each format . . . initially: When I ran through the flip test on my own, I at first honed in on the cost savings of ebooks (no paper, no printing, no shipping) and the sensory aspects of print books. But further review revealed deeper complexities to this debate. And that led me to . . .
It upends assumptions: Print's dominant position in the real world causes me to challenge pro-print arguments, most notably the tactile experience overreaction that often derails discussions. But placing ebooks in the hot seat gave me a new perspective on ebook defenses. For example, if my default reading environment was electronic and networked, would I want (or need) a disconnected outlet? Would I crave solitude and a languid pace? Does the upside of ebook economics supersede the other reading/storytelling experiences I'm looking for, or would I welcome a print alternative the way I now welcome an electronic option?
What's your take on the flip test? Does inverting the argument open the discussion, or is this a diversionary trick that detracts from the issues at hand? Please share your thoughts in the comments area.

(Original idea and McAfee link via Reading 2.0 list.)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Women's fashion mags use premiums as weapons in war for customers

BoSacks Speaks Out: With all the talk last week of Esquire magazine and the "gimmick" of them putting e-ink on the cover for the first time ever by any publishing house. I thought his might be a fitting addendum. I guess it only fair to point out that this is not a domestic newsstand story.

When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: 'Only stand out of my light.' Perhaps some day we shall know how to heighten creativity. Until then, one of the best things we can do for creative men and women is to stand out of their light.
John W. Gardner (1912 - 2002)

Women's fashion mags use premiums as weapons in war for customers
Tomoko Nishida / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Have you noticed that women's fashion magazines have become very thick recently? It's because they come stuffed with various premiums, often brand name goods. They include handbags, hair accessories, fans and beach shoes. The freebies are a marketing strategy used by publishing companies in reaction to women reading fewer and fewer such magazines. But are they really effective in attracting more readers?

Shueisha Inc. added a minibag by an American fashion designer to the July issue of More. The issue sold 560,000 copies, or 10,000 to 20,000 copies more than usual.

The July issue of Sweet, published by Takarajimasha Inc., sold 460,000 copies. It came with a pair of makeup bags bearing a famous Japanese brand name.

Shueisha is planning to make Seventeen, now published twice a month, a monthly magazine beginning with the September issue. Editor in Chief Yoshiharu Koshizaki said the magazine will have a premium every month, partly in an attempt to "prevent readers from sharing one magazine between them."

The "premium war" is a result of publishers' ability to collaborate with brand names and companies in designing the premium goods. Most of these items are developed especially for the magazine promotions.

In the case of magazines that come with premiums as "main products," the giveaways included a camisole or even a collapsible umbrella.

Last spring's relaxation on rules on giveaways by the Fair Trade Commission also is believed to have accelerated the trend.

The relaxation doubled the 100 yen maximum value of premiums for magazines priced at less than 1,000 yen. But publishers are believed to have been able to keep the production costs lean since they can have giveaways made in low-labor-cost countries, even when carrying brand names, as they are collaboratively produced, original products.

Takarajimasha began adding premiums to all of its magazines last year. Thanks to the move, the circulation of In Red increased from the 100,000-level to the 300,000-level.

That of Sweet also rose from the 200,000-level to the 400,000-level.

Takarajimasha spokesperson Keiko Sakurada said the premiums are "a priority investment for increased circulation."

Kazuhiko Sato, the head of the editorial department at Shufunotomo Co., which publishes Mina and Ray among other periodicals, said the company wants to utilize the appeal of giveaways so that "readers can get something."

There was an earlier boom in luxurious magazine premiums in 2001, when the Japan Magazine Publishers Association relaxed rules on the material and size of premiums. But some magazines were suspended or discontinued after suffering from poor sales of issues that came without giveaways.

That's why publishers place high hopes on collaboration this time. But Sato admitted such projects require a lot of time and effort, and More Editor in Chief Junko Sugino said she wants readers choose the magazine because of its articles.

According to the association, sales of women's magazines decreased by about 30 percent last year from their peak 10 years ago. Association official Kenji Takahashi said: "Premiums are important elements that decide the sale of magazines in this era of weak sales.

"But it is ideal if the premiums are an extension of the content of the magazine."