Publishers are getting more aggressive about repackaging their work into ebooks, iPad magazines, and other new forms, in the hopes of creating something readers will pay for.It’s a new mix-and-match world of digital products, fast evolving. Headlined last week by the launch of AOL’s Huffington magazine, we can see how rapidly our notion of potential digital reading products is changing, and, in fact, who may pay for what.
Huffington got its press (“The aggregator builds a magazine”) for several good reasons. It’s got Arianna’s name on it. It’s edited by veteran, national-ranking journalists Tim O’Brien and John Montorio. It leverages content that’s already been published online, though also adds exclusive-to-the magazine content. And it’s a paid product.
Paid. Magazine. Re-purposed. These are words that didn’t seem to have a lot of commercial value a scant three years, and certainly didn’t appear much together.
AOL is hardly alone in rethinking these big questions. We’re seeing a cascading experimenting around packaging and repackaging content from coast to coast, much of it so far unannounced, but in planning. The movement has been building (“The newsonomics of 100 products a year”) and we can see it including newspapers, magazines, online-only companies, book publishers, and public media. Each are taking new twists, looking for formulas that fit their emerging business models.
At The Boston Globe, a made-for-tablet and smartphone design magazine has joined its food ebooks. The Chicago Tribune, I’m told, is looking at about 20 ebooks to be tested over the next year. Frommer’s is starting to parcel out its guidebook content, in smaller bite-sized slices, with a partner. Wired is trotting out its first ever issue — a retro rocket blast from our collective past — in the Apple app store. ProPublica is repurposing its free web content in paid ebook form, at a faster rate, one a month for the last three months.