Why paper publishers are shooting themselves in the foot


I’m going to tell you a story. It may be an isolated story, but it underlines exactly why old-school magazine publishers will slowly die, unless they basically buck their ideas up.

My partner has a subscription to Vanity Fair and Vogue – both published by Conde Nast. This entitles her to the hard copy magazine and a digital version. So far so good.

In September her copy of Vogue failed to arrive – irritating but not unusual in the world of magazine subscriptions. Plus, she still had access to the digital version, and when Vanity Fair arrived as usual there was no reason to think it was anything but a blip.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, my partner’s access to the digital assets stopped. Downloads were frozen.

She rang them up and was told that the September issue of Vogue was undelivered and came back Return to Sender.

Apparently Conde Nast runs a policy that if this happens, it triggers an account freeze.

And not just a physical account freeze, but a digital freeze too.

That baffled me but, assuming they contact a subscriber electronically to let them know, that makes sense. Except they don’t. They just do it. No questions. No follow-up.

The customer services person then told my partner that now they knew all was in order they’d unfreeze the account and start resending physical magazines, with digital access available in 24 hours.

End of story, right? Well, it wouldn’t be much of one if that’s all there was to it, would it?
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I’m constantly reading books and articles on the web telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing to make myself a better and more fulfilled person.

It gets quite overwhelming at times.

‘Don’t waste time, spend it more wisely’
‘Read facts. Make up your own mind’
‘Stay off social media. Do something more worthwhile with your time’
‘Stop chasing happiness – it only comes as a by-product’

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of advice is probably spot on. It’s just that you can’t do everything.

Ultimately what we all need is ‘balance’.
– The ability to go on social media AND spend real time with friends.
– Time to read an excellent nonfiction work, AS WELL AS the new Lee Child
– Energy to play squash AND watch the England game
– Eat a healthy salad AND an indulgent chocolate fondant

So by all means, I’ll keep reading all the great advice but offset with my own little vices.

Why this year’s ‘big digital trends’ will still be here in 2018

Last week I gave a presentation at work about the big Digital Trends that are engaging the best minds in the online world.

I wasn’t setting myself up as some sort of futurologist or digital guru – merely keeping people who don’t spend every day up to speed with what’s happening and how it might affect Age UK.

What struck me, however, is that almost none of what I was talking about was particularly revolutionary. For all its visionary nature and apparent speed of thought and action, digital trends take a long time to reach a tipping point and become – at the very least – common currency.

Let’s take one example: Mobile – when I worked at AOL back in 2005/6, everyone was talking about how mobile was the next big thing. Well, to be honest, it’s only just got here.

In fact 2014 will be the first year that mobile (in which I include tablet) finally overtakes desktop usage – talk about a long gestation period.

Another example is ‘big data’. That’s been a term that’s been bandied around for a couple of years and is only now coming to the forefront – although the concept and the practice are two very different things.

As for the ‘Internet of Things’ – the term was originated back in 1999 by a Procter & Gamble brand marketer called Kevin Ashton.

Why the delay?

So why are these trends taking their time? The obvious reason is money – in many cases, any large brand who wants to get involved first has to wait to ensure it’s not a flash in the pan, and then commit a large amount of money, time and resource to get it in place.

The other main reason is that we’re often waiting for the technology to catch up with the idea. Mobile has only become such a powerful trend with the convergence of high volume of tablets and smartphones, plus better connection speeds.

And the ‘Internet of Things’ was a marketing fancy in the first place. It’s taken the likes of Google to buy Nest for $3.2bn this year to really take it mainstream.

So don’t be surprised if you go to a presentation in 4 years’ time that is still talking about ‘personalisation’ and ‘real-time’ as being big trends. Digital doesn’t move quite as fast as everyone thinks it does.