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Summary:

Russ Grandinetti, vice president for Kindle content for Amazon, spoke to magazine publishers and editors Monday in San Francisco, where he talked about the particular challenges facing their industry as they slowly move toward digital platforms for publishing and editing.

Russ Grandinetti, vice president for Kindle content
photo: Eliza Kern/GigaOM

When it comes to bringing magazines to the Kindle or iPad, some of the trickiest competitors aren’t fellow digital platforms — it’s the actual print products themselves. Paper magazines are still pretty good, Amazon told publishers on Monday.

Russ Grandinetti, vice president for Kindle content for Amazon, spoke Monday in San Francisco to magazine publishers and editors with the Association of Magazine Media about the challenges and rewards of bringing magazine content to the Kindle, which he said can be slightly different than digitzing books, although that also seemed like a challenge at first.

“Even books, which is an easier transition for people, is a difficult task. When we started, we didn’t look at who was selling digital books at the time, we looked at the print book,” Grandinetti said. “Because it’s lightweight, it’s resilient, it’s inexpensive. And the print magazine is also very very good at what it does. And the digital experience only approximates a small amount of that in many ways.”

He said the consumers love many of the things that have made books great for 500 years, and many of the challenges in getting them to adopt digital are even trickier with magazines. They tend to rely more on large glossy photos and less printed text, things that don’t always transfer as well to a variety of digital formats and devices.

But Grandinetti said he thinks the future for digital magazines is bright, even if the print product itself still has a good deal to offer, mainly because digital platforms give consumers the opportunities to bring the content with them anywhere they go.

“The strenth of the Kindle platform, which has led to our success in books and what we can help do in magazines, is that customers don’t plan out which devices they’ll use for which continent,” he said, noting that they were surprised by how many consumers said they were reading entire novels on their phones.

Grandinetti also noted that digital magazines offer greater potential benefits for monetization, because they’ve found that consumers who get trial subscriptions for magazines are extremely likely to then convert to a paid subscription, and because the platforms put advertisers even closer to points of sale with the consumer.

“There are many advertisers out there who want to get as close to a transaction as they can,” he said. “And on the device that we build, it can literally be just a matter of a click or two with a trusted source between them.”

The transition from totally print to totally digital is still in progress, he said, because, “Print is so good, that this is going to be a nice, long, slow transition.” But Grandinetti said publishers will have a huge advantage in accessing more and more data about reader patterns, which is quickly becoming more of an asset, as long as they use the information responsibly. He said Amazon learned the power of recommendations with its “People who bought this book also bought” feature.

“People were freaked out by that in 1998. Freaked out,” he said. “So I think publishers have that same opportunity.”

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  1. I’m not sure magazines have a digital future. Printed magazines are multiple short form content distributed as a bundle because it’s too expensive to ship each part individually. This is similar to when we started buying music tracks individually instead of full albums. The content should just migrate to digital individually as blogs, Kindle Singles or whatever. The ‘magazine’ apps / Newstand stuff that I’ve tried on the iPad have horrible usability issues compared to a simple web page.

    1. Simon,

      Out of curiosity…what are the horrible usability issues you have encountered and on what Apps. I would like to see where my competitors are failing.

    2. I disagree that content should migrate to blogs. I think that when done correctly tablet magazines provide an excellent experience.

      Not all magazines are created equal and I think the worse offenders are those who choose to simply produce replica editions as opposed to learning the ins and out of tablets and producing issues that reflect this knowledge and take advantage of the platform.

      I’m not talking strictly interactive material but it’s the little things like making the fonts larger for a tablet publication that go a long way to a pleasurable reading experience.

  2. Corey Tate / Spacelab Magazine Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    I agree with Simon on the apps, but disagree with the article. Magazines can be way better on the web, because print can’t provide audio, video, user comments, social media, real-time interaction, real-time ad delivery based on user preferences …,

  3. Exactly.Digital magazines are very useful in every manner.Theses magazines are portable and they can easily handled.They don’t need much care and theses magazine don’t need too much space.So what is the point.Popularity of ipad magazines are one of the best exam of success of Digital magazines.

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