4 News. Online, all the time

E-magazines / e-zines

On-line, magazines can exist in a variety of forms. Magazines with a large subscriber base can afford to produce content.

There are many large print publishers who provide digital reproductions of their print magazines through various online services for a fee. Many of these sites are accessed via portals with the aim of selling and marketing the paper-based publication. Here, the reader can access an excerpt from the paper publication, view some photos and subscribe to the print publication. This implies that the reader [may] not have access to full-text articles via these portals. Some content may be reserved for print, and others for online editions.

Popular services for e-magazines are Zinio and the Apple Newstand. These make use of flippable representations and Adobe Digital Publishing Suite Respectively. A well made e-magazine, usually redesigns the content so that only one story is displayed at a time, and adverts are often made interactive, or omitted.

Some organisations do use different terminology to distinguish between the different representations of e-magazines. E-zines, or Zines, can refer to digital only magazines, not intended to be printed.

Many e-zines are intended for small and niche markets which can rely on the electronic format to provide content more cheaply. Magazines can be identified by their writing style and organisation as much as by their appearance. While an e-magazine is bound to reflect the printed image, an e-zine will be topically organised and article based, and can be designed in way which is more suitable to on-line reading.

There are many e-magazines that provide free access to many aspects of their on-line content although some publishers have opted to require a subscription fee to access premium on-line articles and/or multimedia content. Electronic magazines generate revenue based on targeted search advertising to users (e.g., Google’s ads banner in the right-hand column), banner ads (online display advertising), affiliate links, online classified ads, product-purchase capabilities, advertiser directory links, and many other innovative ways.

(De Wet, 2003:308)

E-newspapers

With the introduction of the internet, newspapers have also started to appear as online-only publications. However, to classify as an online-only newspaper they must be Web-published and must not be part of or have any connection to paper formats. The online newspaper should also be regularly updated and keep to a fixed news format, very much like a hardcopy newspaper. Electronic newspapers are usually published by the larger professional media companies and consist of 80%+ news content.

An e-newspaper or news website typically contains newsworthy material with stories and articles relating to current events, life, money, sports and the weather. These sites/portals often also offer a variety of Internet services such as search facilities/subject directories, Web publishing, reference tools, stock quotes, etc.

Modern printed newspapers all over the world are now also developing and running Web newspapers. Not only do they allow for instant updating of news stories, but they also provide a way to instantly connect to news communities/newsgroups to converse about important matters of the day, the latest entertainment, classified ads, and even obituaries. But also, as distinctions between modes of communication become more and more blurred, and as mass communication transform itself every day, anyone who has some sort of communication device (cellphones; PDAs; broadband connections), can now be in instant contact with news and events worldwide.

(Shelley et al, 2005:82)

Online newspaper publishers can thus create documents that are made available to websites for publication, syndicate the documents and then readers can subscribe to receive the latest (or user-specified) news. News websites often use RSS and twitter to publish headlines and stories.

RSS: Really Simple Syndication. An XML-based system which allows a web-site (called a reader) to collate articles from user-selected sources.

(Shelley et al, 2005:683)

The periodical pay-wall

The internet’s unrivaled capacity for instant communication makes it ideally suited to delivering news as it occurs. The expectation however is that this information should be free, and periodical publishers need to make a decision as to how to balance their need for exposure, with their need for profit. When content is freely available, it benefits from easy exposure, and this can improve its search rankings and general popularity. This is even more likely if the content is of a high quality. But, high quality content demands high quality writers, researchers, editors, designers, managers and so forth. With so many (often free) news sources available on-line, traditional sources (such as newspapers) need to compete with affordable and valued content.

While some fees are drawn from advertising revenue, on-line ad-rates are set differently and can be cheaper. Therefore it is required that some additional revenue is made up through subscriptions, which can also lead to an increase  in other special services.

In general, on-line advertisements have been found to be less profitable. This is largely because they are so easy to ignore. They are not part of the experience in on-line publications. They need to be treated supplementary to the article content and therefore are relegated to the sides or inserted in the article text or as pop-ups. However they are presented, it becomes easy to ignore them. Add to that that so many readers use ad-blockers to remove the adverts as well. Advertising has become a dirty word in the world of pulled entertainment (see ‘Information push and pull’ below).

Print magazines are able to use print advertisements to their advantage as they are highly targeted towards the readership of the magazine. They form part of the experience, and as such are almost integral to the experience and therefore there is an opportunity for them to take advantage of the electronic medium which they are in, more than is possible for newspapers.

In order to generate revenue on-line. Subscription is the most reliable method and the nature of the subscription determines the income and success of the publication:

  1. Publications can be completely closed off behind a paywall. That is no one can access the content without being a registered and paying member.
  2. Publications can also be semi-closed in that they may allow for limited views. This method involves tracking the number of requests a user makes on a publication’s site. After the user has viewed a set number of articles, they are unable to view any more without registering/subscribing for a certain time period. For example, a site may allow each anonymous user 5 free article views per week, and each registered user 10 free article views. This system is maintained using a combination of technologies including IP address logging and cookies. In this way it is possible for the publisher to identify you, perform demographic and consumption research, and deliver targeted advertising.
  3. Publications can also be open to the public and pursue revenue through advertising and print subscriptions.
  4. Publications can also take on a hybrid approach whereby they can include any of the above methods, by providing certain articles for free and limiting others. This method can also differentiate between users by classifying them in different ways, for example:
    1. Unregistered users may have access to free articles
    2. Registered users (registered on the site but without an active subscription) may have access to more articles than unregistered users. These users can be sent marketing material.
    3. Subscribers have full access to all articles and archives.

Many newspapers are making use of a variety of methods to stay afloat. This includes syndication of content to other news agencies, targeted advertising, sponsored content, app sales, subscriptions, and mergers with global media conglomerates.

E-newsletters

A newsletter is a regularly distributed publication generally about one main topic that is of interest to its subscribers. Many newsletters are published by clubs, societies, associations, and businesses, especially companies, to provide information of interest to their members or employees. Some newsletters are created as money-making ventures and sold directly to subscribers.

Newsletters are usually available to interested parties through subscription; or distributed to members of an organisation which are supported primarily by subscriptions, organisational membership fees, or paid for by the publishing authority of the company. E-mail newsletters are very common, especially as a publication in support of a website.

Many services, most notably MailChimp, are used to create dynamic newsletters to custom mailing lists.

Information push-and-pull

Traditionally media is a push tradition. We rely on the curators to select appropriate content and provide it to us. We can choose to ignore this, but it is part of the medium. When reading a magazine, for example, you will be confronted by a lot of advertising information. This can be ignored, but not removed. The same is true for television and radio.

Internet-based media is now a pull tradition. Rather than purchasing an issue, one can purchase access to a database and read only the selected stories. Video and audio streaming on demand are also part of this phenomenon. Information that is requested by the user is considered to be pulled. In this way, one can have a custom reading experience, enjoying only the material that is of particular relevance to you.

In pull environment, advertising is unwanted, and is seen as being invasive. Therefore pulled media must be reliant on subscribers. This can be a mutually beneficial arrangement, as many consumers are willing to pay for quality content.

Internet interaction allows for the generation of virtual micro-communities (as seen on forums), and therefore it is likely that the future of periodical media will be based on the these communities supporting their publication.

Currently a lot of money is being invested into maintaining brands, providing links to popular content (whether news-worthy or not), and gaining new readers. The mass media market of the future is very uncertain, and many conglomerates are kept afloat by stock market and property investment. As more and more readers move towards digital consumption, it seems likely that periodical publishing industry will need to down-size, especially as advertising becomes increasingly blocked.

 

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