So, Hearst publishing is going to come out with an e-magazine reader. For those familiar with the Amazon e-book reader Kindle, it will be easy to picture the same with a bigger screen and less bulky. For those who are not, here is a photograph of the Plastic Logic reader:
The Hearst E-reader will probably be very similar. Hearst publishes 18 magazines ( Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, O, Esquire and many more) as well as many newspapers ( including the troubled San Fransisco Chronicle or Seattle PI) . Finally, founder William Randolph Hearst was the character that Orson Wells so well portrayed in “Citizen Kane”.
Late this week, the publishing giant, who recently finished building a giant tower in midtown Manhattan, announced two initiatives: The creation and production of a magazine e-reader and the start of paying website access.
Let’s start with the e reader : This is a typical move from a giant US corporation. The decision of creating this reader did not spawn from an interest of better serving their readership but from 1) The need to reduce cost 2) The need to continue to control the medium.
Electronic distribution would save millions and millions of dollars to Hearst, by saving in printing, paper and physical distribution cost . It would do nothing to the readership experience. Case and point ? The first models of these E readers will be in black and white, instantly shoving magazine editing back a good 70 years. Tell me, for example, which woman will want to see Harper’s Bazaar fashion pictures in black and white ? The first color e-reader might hit the shelves by 2011. By then, the readership will have moved on.
Furthermore, if Hearst builds its own reader, it doesn’t have to make any deals with any third party. Think Apple Ipods and the music industry. The publishing giant is taking what it thinks is a step ahead but trying to cut off the middle man by launching itself into hardware production. Some executives probably also think that if their E-reader is succesful enough, Hearst will be able to force other publishing companies to use it and thus corner the market. Aaah, the good old days of monopolies…
Why it will fail ? Because for one, the first model will be in B/W. Nothing has been announced about its resolution. Furthermore, who needs another big thing to carry around ? Already, to me , the Kindle is unappealing as it would mean one more electronic to drag along. Yes it can carry many, many books at the same time in less space, but I, as many people, usually only read one book at the time. Plus the chargers, plugs etc. I would like to see convergence in my electronics, not more stuff.
However, it will primarily fail because Hearst has no intention to adapt to the changing market place . As Rob Haggard from a photo editor blog so rightly nailed, they will continue to make magazines for advertisers and not readers. Because, while they continue, other forms of attention grabbing media will appear, mostly on the internet and on cell phones, and that is where their readership will go. Because most of their readership from Harper’s , Oprah Magazine and Good Housekeeping is older and really not tech savvy. Finally, it will fail because it is not their core business to produce electronics and 99% of the time a company diverts from its core business, it fails.
The publishing giant will also start charging for access to their websites. Hard to comment on this as little details have leaked out for now, besides that the price would be adjust daily. No sure what that implies.
Both initiative will impact photography and photographers a lot. Hearst is not known to be photo friendly. Some past and existing contract are extremely one sided. With the current economy, it is very doubtful that it will suddenly become more friendly, if adjusting at all. It is quite possible that the corporate lawyers will try to claim that there is no change to usage and thus no additional payment should be made for either models. We will see. A new set of battles is to come.