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The Future of Digital Publishing

PopSci’s Hano gave AD Show attendees his view of how e-readers will affect the publishing industry in the next five years.

Gregg Hano, publisher of Popular Science, gave AD Show attendees a lot to think about during his “Digital Edition Strategies for the Next Five Years” session last month. His company is working hard, he said, to take advantage of the consumer migration to e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle. Other publishers should be ready too, he said.

“Those of us in print and online [publishing] better figure out how to monetize it and work with the vendors, suppliers and hardware manufacturers to make sure our content is in front of as many people as possible,” he said.

Here are a few more points that Hano stressed during the session:

Get ready for the next generation of e-readers. Companies like Plastic Logic, Sony, Samsung, Jujitsu and LG are in the midst of some exciting developments when it comes to e-readers, Hano said, with some expected to debut at the end of this year. E-readers that have larger screens and more flexible page formats are being developed, and because most of these companies use E-ink as their default technology, it will make it easier for publishers to migrate their content to these devices.

The real wild card is Apple. The MacPad (described by techies as a “keyboardless tablet computer”), is on its way and publishers need to be ready for it, Hano warned. “We need to prepare and have content optimized to that device,” he said. But whether or not the MacPad is coming, Hano says that whatever the company releases in terms of an e-reader will “kick everyone else’s butt.”

Publishers should learn how to optimize their content for e-readers. Taking the whole magazine and putting it up on an e-reader won’t work, Hano warned. “We’re not going to take PopSci and attempt to deliver it on e-readers,” he said. “We are going to find content that makes sense, optimize it for the readers and get them to pay for it in a way that’s not cumbersome.” And similar to the way that people can press a button and purchase a ringtone for 99 cents, Hano added, consumers should also be able to purchase content.

The key to getting customers to pay for content is to package it. Consumers might prefer to get information on the Web for free, Hano says, but packaged information delivered with authority from a brand needs to be paid for. “Publishers need to learn that a paid model can indeed work if they develop and package content in a way that the customer can’t find anywhere else,” he told attendees. “And it has to be easy for them to get—spontaneously easy. Ease is the key.”

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