April 25, 2014 Last Updated 8:00 am

The intersection of publishing and consumer electronics

The first earnings reports of the new year from the big tech companies came out this week (Google was last week) and despite some concern that sales growth would slow they showed that the sector is still strong. Apple, Amazon and Google all came in with solid revenue growth, while Microsoft came in soft, but promised better performance going forward.

In contrast, the publishing world continues, for the most part, to see falling sales. The NYT report was a bright spot, though even the Gray Lady provided guidance that seemed to caution investors – though hopefully they are pulling an Apple and setting themselves up for a “beat” next quarter.

ArtWoo-cover-featureIt is, of course, silly to compare tech with publishing, gadget makers with news makers. But today there is an intersection between the two thanks to mobile, tablets and digital advertising. The devices makers need to continue to broaden the market for their devices to provide publishers with a bigger market for eBooks and digital publications. At the same time, the two sectors compete for digital advertising. It is an odd dance that occurs.

Unfortunately, while publishing is reliant on the device makers, the same is not as true for the device makers**. Sure, they sell subscriptions and merchandise that are produced by publishers. but more and more they are publishers themselves. Additionally, they are creating a whole new shadow publishing industry, one that I have watched grow up here at TNM these past three years.

This new, shadow publishing industry produces digital magazines and eBooks, yet doesn’t see themselves as part of the traditional publishing industry – they don’t belong to the MPA and don’t even know it exists. Many of these digital publishers see the print guys and their new digital products as their competitors. Many digital magazine producers using MagCast or PressPad or even Adobe DPS do not have backgrounds in the publishing world – one reason why many of those inside the industry look at these products and are aghast at their design work.

Art Woo Magazine is probably a good example of this trend. The new magazine launched this week and is available exclusively for iOS and Android devices (the iOS version is live in the Apple Newsstand, the Google Play version will be soon). It is created using PressPad which limits the risk to only a few hundred dollars a month, though forces the magazine to appear under the vendor’s name and allows them to plaster their logo on the app’s icon.

The publishing team, according the new magazine’s website, have backgrounds in fine arts and drama, not journalism or digital publishing. Each team member appears to be from Athens, though the magazine is in English.

For new publishers such as the Art Woo team, what is more newsworthy, that tablet sales reached a certain level, or that Hearst’s ad page are up (or down)? What is worse news, that iPad sales fell, or that Ladies Home Journal is being shuttered?

** The money Apple brings in from selling eBooks and digital magazines may seem like a large amount from the publisher’s perspective, but it remains a small portion of Apple’s overall sales, about what they earn from Mac mini sales, and when was the last time they updated the mini? (Answer: a year and a half ago.) For Amazon, book sales was where the company started, but they are now earning a greater share of their income from selling other goods or their own devices.

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