One vendor's view of digital editions

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It's becoming conventional wisdom that executives can and often should blog. But how many publish a digital magazine to share their views with the industry? QMags President-CEO Dan Schwartz is also the publisher of Digital Magazine News, a nifty digital publication that is no mere marketing vehicle, choosing instead to break news and share publisher experiences with digital editions. We asked Schwartz to share some of his insights with Media Business.

MB: How would you characterize the market right now?

Schwartz: If I were to have a one-phrase description, I'd say we're still in a "trying things out" phase but with far more focus than six months or a year ago. We're in a late experimental stage. I think pretty much across the board, people for one reason or another have chosen the platform they're going to use, they are testing it and have gotten results.

MB: What challenges do digital magazines still have to overcome?

Schwartz: Standardization is a huge problem [with every vendor offering different readers and underlying technologies]. Publishers are confused, and readers are confused. My argument is that the industry should standardize around [Adobe's] PDF [format]. Today, [Macromedia's] Flash is also being used. Basically, there's no agreement anywhere on anything. I think it's a huge problem; it would do everyone a big service to agree on one standard.

MB: A lot of publishers are testing digital magazines, but is this market a real business?

Schwartz: I think it's a real market. Every day I talk to different people doing more titles. This is a real market; it serves a real need. On the cost side, it enables publishers to pick a part of their circulation base, say by 5% to 10%, and deliver to them digitally saving time and money. On the revenue side, digital magazines are just starting to deliver new opportunities now.

MB: What have you learned from producing and delivering Digital Magazine News?

Schwartz: In the end, I think we go back to traditional publishing models. The overriding thing is that this is about publishing, not technology. Produce good content that people want and advertisers are willing to pay for. New technology can be a stumbling block if you get it wrong, but it's not going to make you successful. That's the long hard lesson.

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