January 19, 2016 Last Updated 8:31 am

Publishers find digitizing archives remains the biggest obstacle to monetizing them

Morning Brief: Amazon issues update to iOS Kindle app to fix issue with recently added social sharing feature; Apple notifies developers of App Store price changes in 7 countries

The more from vinyl to digital formats may be blamed for much of the troubles with the music industry these days, but let’s not forget that one of the prime motivators for the move was the desire to monetize the label’s catalogs. Digitizing music meant being able to reintroduce all those old LPs all over again, to a new audience.

Remonetizing the old recordings was not necessarily a greedy move, of course. When Blue Note records was resurrected in 1985, it started by issuing a series of LPs on vinyl of classic records that had been out of print. The label, then owned by EMI Manhattan, did so by using high quality vinyl and LP covers made from solid materials, using the original artwork. The inside sleeve covering the LP was not just paper, but contained a plastic inner sleeve for added protection.

Today, of course, digital music is everywhere, with streaming now beginning to dominate the industry.

Starbucks-180Today, Starbucks issued an update to its mobile app that is music related.

“The Sound of Starbucks: Now, you can discover music playing in participating U.S. Starbucks stores, save songs to a playlist on Spotify and take the music with you when you leave. Location services must be enabled to use this feature.

It’s a nice little music discovery feature (and it us not forget that Starbucks sells CDs at the check out counter, though I am sure it is not a huge part of their business).

All this is a roundabout way to talking about the content archives of newspaper and magazine publishers. Why is it that most publishers don’t look to monetize their back issues, features stories, and other materials? Look at how The New York Times treats its archives: it features archival material online often, but only as more content for their website or print paper. This gets us a good clue as to what is going on.

Many newspaper and magazine publishers are like a mouse in a maze, always moving forward, though occasionally seeing another route to take, then it is straight forward in the new direction. Too many publishers see their markets as choices between A or B, never as a tree where their can be many branches, many product lines.

If Vox Media would still be producing a limited number of sports blogs and never expanded into new sports, then politics, tech and the more.

One issue, a publisher mentioned to me recently, is that while they are inundated with solicitations from vendors offering PDF publishing services (he says he really wishes the calls would end), it never is approached by a vendor that can make digitizing his archives cheap and easy. For him, the biggest barrier to monetizing his older content, and archives of photos, is digitizing it all so that evaluating and editing the material is easier.

Amazon issued another update for its iOS Kindle reading app. A week ago Amazon issued an update that added some social sharing features, but some readers were finding that the samples being shared did not display correctly.

The stronger dollar has caused Apple to once again raise prices for some countries. Canada, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and South Africa are effected in this round of price increases.

Publishers should note that subscriptions are not effected until the subscription runs out. But when they do, the reader is informed not only that their subscriptions are running out, but that the price will increase:

Subscriptions will not be interrupted in Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, and Singapore. Shortly before their existing subscription renews, subscribers in these territories will receive an email from us to let them know about the price increase with the option to turn off their subscription. Subscribers in Russia and South Africa will need to resubscribe at the new price. Israel will not be impacted, as auto-renewable In-App Purchase subscriptions are not supported there.

There is no doubt that this is probably good customer service on the part of Apple, but publishers will likely see a drop in subscriptions as a result (though because of the limited number of countries involved it would only effect a few publications).

But publishers who sell significant numbers of subscriptions into these markets need to review their pricing to limit the damage. Here is an example: the lowest tier for an in-app purchase is $0.99 in the US and this used to be the lowest tier in Canada, back when there was virtual parity between the two currencies. But Apple recently raised the first tier in Canada to $1.19 (CAD), and now it has gone to $1.39 (CAD) thanks to the falling loonie (in case you don’t know, the Canadian one dollar coin has an engraving of Queen Elizabeth on one side, and an engraving of the common loon (bird) on the other).

Apple last week also announced that its app analytics now support tvOS apps for the new Apple TV.

Comments are closed.