You’re so vain, you probably think this magazine is for you

You’re so vain, you probably think this magazine is for you: Slate’s Daniel Gross has some thoughts on the “no-action auction” of New York
Magazine. I’ve refrained from blogging this topic because of my “no
transaction coverage” policy. The chorus of “I’m thinking of buying it”
claims by everyone in the magazine world is especially tiresome. 
(Let’s start a rumor: Hammock Publishing is considering purchasing it.
No, wait, let’s don’t.)

Quote:

Vanity
publishing—the practice of wealthy people or corporations backing
money-losing or barely profitable publications for the psychic and
social rewards—is alive and well. Vanity publishers tend to attach to
high-brow or ideological magazines. The New Republic brought new owners
aboard last year but has kept the same money-losing ways. Entrepreneur
David Bradley bought the unprofitable Atlantic Monthly in 1999 and has
upgraded it sharply, while incurring further losses. The New York Sun,
a neo-conservative daily newspaper with neo-con sugar daddies, was
launched in April 2002.

But New York magazine, with its heavy
lifestyle focus, is a different kind of vanity publication. Today, it’s
not something you own because you have a personal agenda. It’s
something you own because you want to meet celebrities and date models.

Come to think of it, let’s start a rumor.

Amazon launches full-text search

Amazon launches full-text search: Amazon.com today launched its full-text search feature, “Search Inside the Book.” (Here is a rexblog flashback comment about this and another one). I don’t need to say anything more about this as Gary Wolf has done so already in an excellent story that will appear in the next issue of Wired. (Come to think of it, I have a lot more to say, but it will be later and lengthier and perhaps not first here.) I consider this Amazon feature (indeed, it is so much more than a feature) one of the most significant developments ever on the Internet, in book and magazine publishing and in academic research. Well, perhaps not ever, but in a long time. I hope it performs as hyped.

Does anybody really care?

Does anybody really care? Yesterday, according to mediapost’s
Ross Fadner
, “Newsstand Inc. and Zinio Systems Wednesday
unveiled new digital publishing initiatives that are likely to
accelerate the migration of printed media to digital
formats.”

According to the article, “Newsstand, which produces exact online
replicas of print versions of magazines, newspapers and newsletters,
announced plans to launch its first consumer subscription acquisition
campaign, aimed mainly at the so-called Millenials set, young adults
(18-24) who are known to be heavy downloaders of digital
media.”

I’ve blogged
about my doubts
regarding this technology (and here) in the past
and continue to be skeptical about its longterm viability. As I’ve said
to some high-ranking executives who’ve called me about my blog
comments, “As a publisher, I love the idea that people can download a
magazine and that advertising impressions can be counted as if the
reader was a print consumer. It is great in theory as an archival
service and a potential revenue source for back issues. Also, yes, I
can really understand why a person in another country would really like
to have access immediately to the issue online. Yes, as a publisher I
can understand it completely.”

However, as I’ve pointed out, as a consumer and Internet user, I don’t
get it at all. Downloading a souped-up PDF-like document and trying to
replicate a print experience online is clearly the idea and invention
of someone wanting to retrofit an old medium onto a new one: a
phenomenon sometimes called “paving the cow paths.” To further prove
how incongruent the product is with an appropriate internet user
experience (of, frankly, with plain common sense) the service allows a
publisher to set a time limit on how long a consumer can view the issue
purchased. The NY Times electronic edition (more on this below), for
example, becomes unviewable by the downloader (who has
paid for the download) after a month. I wonder how
this feature will be marketed to “the Millenials”? Do they think
Millenials crave a downloading experience where they
pay for the download and then can’t view it? Again,
this is a great idead if you’re a publisher, but does this
really make you confidant that this company knows
how to market to Millenials?

Here’s another question. If this technology and approach are so
compelling to consumers, why can I no longer find on the NY Times
website (a major publication owned by one of the company’s early
investors), the Newsstand version? It’s
still available on the newsstand.com
, but I remember
when it used to be marketed on the front page of the paper’s website
regularly. Now, I can find no mention of the product other than a dead
link under “electronic edition” on the NYT’s home page.