Publishing Expo (and Digital Magazine Symposium) Review • Nxtbook Media

Publishing Expo (and Digital Magazine Symposium) Review

Written by Nxtbook Media

Nxtbook had the opportunity to sponsor the Digital Magazine Symposium at this week’s Publishing Expo show in New York City. This was the second time around for this event which was received with mixed reviews last year.

While the recession probably caused some vendors to pull out of sponsoring marquee events like the FOLIO Growth Summit this year, the lower costs and hoped synergy of two shows in one (Book Business and Pub Expo combined their exhibit halls again) helped keep the sponsorships from the digital magazine industry in this show near what it was last year. (As I recall, there was one vendor missing who sponsored this event last year and two additional who didn’t.)

This year’s symposium was chaired by David Renard, of mediaIDEAS, who brought a very broad perspective to the room.

The first panel included two publishers doing “Best of Breed” solutions and included both the New Yorker and the new Popular Science Genius Guide. Both projects were quite interesting, Mark Jannot of Popular Science admitted later that the level of cost and complexity associated with the new Guide might not be sustainable long-term.

Nxtbook take-away: Animation is cool, no doubt, but it’s often complex and expensive. In 2007, Nxtbook released Ad-Jolt, our low-cost, low-effort way to add buzz to your project. Granted, you can’t use Ad-Jolt to get to the level of animation in Pop Sci, but you can start (and go pretty far) for a fraction of the cost.

Next up was a panel on choosing a DME (Digital Magazine Enabler — as Renard likes to call companies like Nxtbook). This panel included Barry Green from Hearst (publisher of this Nxtbook) and Bob Fernekees (publisher of many Nxtbooks including this one) and Matt Carey of Rodman Publishing (who never bought a Nxtbook — what’s up with that, Matt?).

This panel was highly engaging, with lots of key take-aways for publishers. In the end, Renard asked them each what’s most important. Here’s what I wrote down (though if I got it wrong, blame me, not the speaker. It’s important to note I was under high doses of cold medicine at the time):

Carey: Don’t worry about the capabilities of the vendor at first. Instead, focus on your own goals for your digital magazine. If you do that first, it makes the evaluation much easier.

Green: Figure out how much work your production department can and will do, as different vendors have different requirements. (Ed. note: As a full-service provider, Nxtbook takes the same PDF you give your printer.) Also, watch out for nickel-and-dime charges. There’s lots of discussions about page rates, but some vendors charge a lot more for additional services. (Ed. note: Barry nails it on the head. At Nxtbook, we pride ourselves in including many of our services for the standard fee. First up, we feel it’s more honest. Second, we know that many of those “additional things” (like social media and RSS feeds) are critical for your long-term success.)

Fernekees: Ask the vendor to show you examples of other publications they’ve worked with a similar or identical business model to your own, which will show both the breadth of the vendor and demonstrated success. Also, with all of the buzz about social media, inquire as to how the product can tap into those possibilities.

The final panel was about Paginated Media: a Vision for the Future. The panel was supposed to include Darren Budd of the infamous Mygazines, though he was an unexplained no-show. Whether he was dodging papers or missed his plane from Anguilla is anybody’s guess, but the panel seemed none-the-worse without him.

Instead, attendees were treated to information about the soon to be released, which hopes to eventually allow readers to compile their own magazines, but is starting with celebrities doing a similar thing. (Think MTV cribs for digital magazines.) Stay tuned for coverage on that one.

The other seat on the panel was taken by Andrew Degenholtz, who spoke at length about, a platform-agnostic digital newsstand available to Nxtbook Media customers. It was an interesting juxtaposition of one really out-there idea and one less sexy one that just makes a lot of common sense.

Attendance for the Symposium fluctuated from 25-40 throughout the panels, which was about the same as last year. However, there was definitely a greater sense of hope and possibility than last year, which ain’t a bad thing to be sharing during this wintry economic season.

Accolades should be given to the Publishing Expo crew for pulling off the Symposium. Last year, they successfully pulled in sponsors for the first iteration of the show and delivered some decent content. This year, they held the line on sponsorships and delivered better content.

It’s anyone’s guess whether Media Business or FOLIO will remain content to let Publishing Executive produce the only significant live event for the digital magazine industry, but after two successful airings, Publishing Executive may be positioning itself as the go-to event for digital magazine industry changes. How long their competition allows them to do so remains to be seen.