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Internet Publishing & Its Impact on Our Industry

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Internet publishing is using the Internet as a medium for publishing information. The Internet is broader than just the World Wide Web, so IP comes in many forms.E-Mail Newsletters: Distributed by e-mail, these are the equivalent of print newsletters. Most of these newsletters tend to be business-oriented, and quite a few are about the Internet business. There are many, many independent publishers in this arena, including Larry Chase who has a great Internet Marketing e-mail newsletter.E-Books: E-books are downloadable electronic format books. The granddaddy of them all was the Gutenburg project, which provides many public domain books in plain ascii text files. There is much excitement in this arena as several players are about to release e-book devices. One of these is Rocketbook, partly owned by Barnes & Noble. You will be able to buy Rocketbooks on the B&N Web site and soon from in-store kiosks. These new ventures are backed by people with deep pockets, but they certainly will be open to content from independent publishers.Web Books: These are similar to e-books, except they are read on the Web. There’s been a lot of publicity in this area, as the CEO of an Internet company is about to publish a book in this format, and is publicizing it on his site. In general, this is not yet an active area.Web Publishing: This is the most developed area of Internet publishing and is sure to see further growth. There are two major subcategories here.(1) Searchable Databases – Dan Doody, who spoke at PMA University, is a prime example of an independent publisher in this sector. He publishes medical abstracts on a subscription basis. There is, in fact, quite a lot of action in Internet publishing in the medical arena (with one IPO on the way). The idea is to take some reference text and put it up in a searchable format on the Web, usually on a paid subscription basis. This is also used heavily in the finance area. An interesting example (currently free) is http://www.companysleuth.com/. The owner of this site, Infonautics, also has a subscription site target for the home market – a sort of homework helper, with all kinds of reference books and articles available online. The Web version of the Encyclopedia Britannica is another good example: http://www.eb.com/.Of course, there are many examples of nonsubscription sites that offer this type of information. Some are labors of love by independent publishers: http://www.artlex.com/. Some of these sites are standalone, some are integrated as services as part of a Webzine site.(2) Webzines – This is by far the most active area in Internet publishing. Webzine is short for Web magazine, but this covers a very broad spectrum of Internet publishing. The shared characteristic is that information is updated, usually on a frequent basis, and the site focuses on a particular topic. Many webzines are extensions online of offline properties, from both large and small publishers. Most newspapers and magazines now have a Web site. Some offer only a sample of their articles. Some put up the whole issue. And some create material for the Web site only.http://www.nytimes.com/ and http://www.wsj.com/ happen to be my two favorite and most visited sites (along with the online English edition of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz). Interestingly, the former is free while the latter requires a paid subscription.Of course, there are also webzines of this sort from far smaller publishers. For example, http://www.theonion.com/.The most interesting development, from the point of view of the discussion at hand, is the hundreds, if not thousands, of webzines published by independent publishers. The biggest of these have large investment backing by venture capital: http://www.ivilliage.com/, http://www.mamamedia.com/, http://www.thestreet.com/, http://www.salonmag.com/, and http://www.slate.com/.But there are many others that are totally independent operations or backed by smaller investments. Some examples are http://www.nerve.com/, http://www.word.com/, and http://www.photoarts.com/toc.html. And, of course, my own two sites: Jewish Heritage Online Magazinehttp://www.jhom.com/ and Whole Pop Magazine Onlinehttp://www.wholepop.com/.

How Do Internet Publishers
Make Money?

Marketing: For some publishers, their Internet effort is a marketing tool. Larry Chase uses his e-mail newsletter (as does John Kremer) to promote his book and consulting services. Three years ago, travel publisher Rough Guides decided to put up all their information on the Web. Their sales have jumped since then. Macmillan also gives free access to many of their computing books for the same reason. The Internet is proving to be an effective promotional tool, if used properly.Advertising: Well-visited sites can use advertising, just like magazines do, as a major source of income. Given that the Internet is still in its early days, there are very few publishers who are profitable just on the basis of advertising revenues. For smaller publishers, sponsorships are a more likely alternative.Subscriptions: Sites both large and small do charge subscription fees. The key to success in this area is having information that people want which is not easily accessible elsewhere. Subscriptions are mostly relevant for searchable database sites. The Wall Street Journal is the only successful webzine that takes paid subscriptions. I would argue that within five years, nearly all reference books will be published online, most exclusively so, many available in print only through print-on-demand technology.Merchandise: Most, if not all, pure publishing sites also sell merchandise of some sort. E-commerce has become the buzzword du jour.Services: This is a variation on reference services. Here is a good example: http://www.authorworld.com/index.shtml.This independent publisher has a site targeted at authors. From this site, he sells shareware useful to writers. Instead of these being downloadable, they could be available directly on his site using a browser – rentable software with a Web-based interface (totally cross-platform by the way).Distance Learning: This will be a growing area of revenue for webzines.

Why Should PMA Members Care
about Internet Publishing?

Whether we like it or not, the Web is becoming more and more the primary information source. Book publishers, as purveyors of information, have to understand this as both a threat and an opportunity. Remember how many copies of the Pentagon Papers were sold in book format? Well, it was far less than the Starr Report – not because there was less interest, but because a huge number of Americans read the Starr Report online. In this sense, the Internet directly competes with nearly all our publisher members, except, perhaps, publishers of fiction and poetry.The flip side is that the Internet provides huge opportunities for these same publishers. The Internet allows publishers to directly reach and sell to their target audiences, without having to deal with all the problems and headaches of the current industry distribution infrastructure.

Why Should Internet Publishers
Be of Interest to Our Organization?

First, because many of our members are already Internet publishers and many more will become so. Many of these will become exclusively Internet publishers. Second, because the Internet is the largest growth area for independent publishing over the coming decades. Many people, who in the past would have gone into book publishing, are becoming independent Internet publishers. To ignore this is to ignore the potential decline and perhaps (though not likely) eventual irrelevance of PMA. As a side note, many Internet publishers are moving into book publishing in an interesting synergy. Print-On-Demand technology will reinforce this trend. Hence the lines between book publishing and Internet publishing will blur more and more.Aron Trauring is with Maxima New Media, an interactive media development and publishing company. Among their online publications are “Jewish Heritage Online Magazine” at http://www.jhom.com and “The Whole Pop Magazine Online”http://www.wholepop.com/.

 

 

 

 

This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor December, 1998, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

 

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