Publishing’s Comeback, Part 2: Adventures in Publishing
Posted: February 15, 2013 | 10:56 ET by Nick Parish

Last month in New York we unveiled our latest collaboration with Monotype in the Brand Perfect series: Brand Perfect's Adventures In Publishing report. In it, our Katrina Dodd looked at the newest companies, strategies and trends attempting to make publishing seamless across emerging platforms, and using the power those platforms create to supplement traditional narrative and ways of storytelling.

The full report is available to download here, if you register, but I wanted to take a few of my favorite excerpts from the main sections and pass them along to you and continue in our series of looks at the publishing business and its evolution.

The Economist / Visualising Content via Tumblr
The first major section is Journalism, which touches on the periodicals updated most frequently, and have had that most-frequently-updated status thrown furthest out of orbit by the always-on digital landscape.

London-based weekly The Economist is known for its incisive editorial and conservative (some might say ‘awful’) design. It gives away some content free through mobile and tablet apps, and its full digital edition through paid-for apps, but it also has a Tumblr site. This gives a strong visual flavour of each edition, allowing the user to see at a glance exactly what is going on inside each edition, using the cover, selected pages, and featured quotes and stats. In some ways the site resembles a vast infographic, and offers a great at-a-glance aide memoir not only to each issue, but also to salient economic events over time. Not a bad return for such a simple, low-cost set-up.

The Economist remains one of the strongest print brands around, and continues to extend its reach, comprehensively bucking the move to digital. Print subscriptions are consistently up and digital subscriptions are rising ‘significantly’. In June the Economist Group (50% owned by the Financial Times owner Pearson) announced profits were also up by 8.7%.

The Economist’s Tumblr works well and offers a gateway to its more heavyweight, analytical content. It’s worth remembering that the presentation of complex ideas lends itself well to the flexibility of digital, and can be a great way to encourage long dwell times – a measure of engagement. But finding ways to do this requires investment.

Faber & Faber / The Sonnets
A striking success in the next category, Books, is Faber’s presentation of Shakespeare’s Sonnets for the iPad. A starry cast of acclaimed actors was assembled to perform filmed reading of each of the 154 sonnets. Readers can follow the text, which is synchronised with the readings line by line and also linked to the kind of transformative commentary and analysis that we could all have used back in school. Not only does the app offer the users a second chance to understand what iambic pentameter is all about, but should they wish to spread that feeling of epiphany, they are invited to do so using Twitter, Facebook and email to share their favourite sonnets. Each is hosted on its own webpage, another example of a publisher using content to sell content – a striking show of confidence in the power of the complete app.

A small, but striking feature of the app is that AirPlay is enabled, allowing the user to stream the performances full screen to Apple TV. It’s an indication of how, in exploring all the new options suddenly available, the industry opens itself up to all the pressures of broadcast.

955 Dreams / The History of Jazz
Lastly in the report, we touched on the idea of Publishing Unbound, a literal tearing of the seams (sorry) of the industry, with spontaneous elements of publishing happening throughout every corner now brightened by human creativity.

Combining and connecting different types of content is now part of literary publishing’s playbook, but others are getting in on the action too. Mobile publishing specialist 955 Dreams is courting music fans with its History of Jazz iPad app, which uses a timeline interface to allow users to scroll through the genre by chronology, artist and label. Taking advantage of the range of photography inspired by jazz, in particular the 'birth of cool' era synonymous with greats such as Coltrane and Davis, each flick of the screen brings up images to accompany quotes and information on artists and their work. The music itself is not lost. Video footage and audio is plentiful, with an 'essential albums' list for each featured artist, linked directly to iTunes for ease of purchase.

The smart thing, of course, is how accessible it makes a genre that’s famously tricky for newcomers to grasp. Modality? Syncopation? So much easier to demonstrate through audio than to explain in words. The app itself sells for $9.99, but carries the additional bonus of affiliate sales of albums from within the app. According to 955 Dreams, these have seen a 14%-22% conversion rate per link.

What did we learn most from this dive into publishing? Well, it's flourishing in lots of different creative ways. But, for the whole story, take a look at the report.

Nick Parish is Contagious’ North American Editor, based in New York. He tweets @paryshnikov and @contagiousmag. Sign up for Contagious’ free weekly newsletter at
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