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Zinio and the prospects for digital magazines

? The future of blogs in fiction and movies |


| BW cover story on social networks ?

December 03, 2005

Zinio and the prospects for digital magazines

Stephen Baker

It was a blogging panel a year ago in New York. John Battelle was there, Wonkette, our then editor in chief, Steve Shepard, and a few others. The question came up about the future of magazines in the digital age. Shepard mentioned Zinio, the company that produces page-turnable, digital versions of magazines, including ours. I think it was Battelle who responded that Zinio was "fish with feet," merely a transitional product for those who need help migrating from paper to the Web.

Zinio has all kinds of flourishes. Advertisers can produce display ads that morph into videos. Magazine graphics can come alive. And subscribers in far-flung spots in Asia and Latin America can receive the "print" version of the magazine without waiting for the mail. But all this is also true of the Web--without the magazine format. Is there a place for a magazine format on the Internet? Does Zinio have a future?

10:06 AM

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I used to rant on this topic with comments like: "It's a magazine except there's no paper" is right up there with, "Except for that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" It's like saying that pictures of food are like food without the smell and taste. I've also said stuff like, "The web offers some amazing opportunities to do things you can never do with print. Stop trying to make it print. You're missing the point." But I've stopped ranting because I've decided that trying to discuss McCluhan's theory that old media people always want to make new media into old media just gets lost on the digital magazine folks. So, I've decided to stop disagreeing with them: There's an audience for digital magazines. Somewhere out there, someone wants these fish with feet. So to the "platform providers" for digital magazines, I say: knock yourself out. Good luck. I love all of you and stop sending me e-mail trying to convince me how great digital magazines are. I truly believe you truly believe there's a future in them. I understand all the reasons why you want to believe in them. I even understand the graphs and charts that show how they're being accepted. I even think they're cute and clever. But for me personally, I like to swim and I like to walk; just not at the same time.

Posted by: Rex Hammock at December 3, 2005 12:08 PM

I agree Rex. I look at it as a niche business, at best. And the niche shrinks with each passing year.

Posted by: steve baker at December 3, 2005 02:49 PM

Why bother with Zinio's clunky way of doing things when there is the PDF option?

The last time I looked, Zinio produced files that I cannot index and search on my PC. Rather misses the whole point.

I also resent having to pay twice for something. I subscribe to Business Week on paper. I don't mind paying a little extra to get a PDF file. But when so many of my subscrptions come with a free PDF,

I scan important BW articles to make searchable, and indexable, PDF files. ScanSoft gets my money for PaperPort. Zinio doesn't.

Posted by: Michael Kenward at December 3, 2005 02:52 PM

As web production costs decrease, web presentation standards increase and the cost of locking content online decreases I see digital mags losing the business case.

Posted by: cityhippy at December 4, 2005 12:48 AM

I'm an employee of Zinio and have enjoyed reading the blog commentary on digital magazines. My opinion on this subject should be obvious, so I'm not going to state it here. I am going to share some hard facts, which I think would help the conversation.

The digital magazine audience is not shrinking each year. It is growing rapidly. Based on audited publisher statements reported to ABC and BPA, we saw 57% growth in titles and circulation for digital magazines over the past year. This growth comes in the context of a flat overall print magazine market.

Additionally, we see this growth demonstrated in consumer demand. Transactions and dollars spent on digital magazines on has more than doubled from last year. In some ways, consumers voting with their wallets is really the bottom line for this debate.

Posted by: David Zinman at December 7, 2005 04:25 PM

I think digital mags are excellent. The reality is that few publications--newspapers and magazines--have effectively made the transition to the web; for most, their website supplements or reproduces verbatim the print version, but the online reading experience is almost always lacking. Newspapers are published daily--when I read the news, I want to know what was in that day's edition--not what was breaking news at the very moment, which is what post news websites provide. I can read the breaking news tomorrow--this is the only reasonable way to follow current affairs. Likewise, with magazines, I want to read what was in the magazine, and I don't want my monthly magazine purporting to provide late breaking news on their website--this is not helpful to me frankly--it's like one checking their email every 5 minutes, no sensible person does this, you really need to have a regular method of getting the information. While the general public may find helpful (and it is for a quick look), in the long-term, others prefer true publications. Furthermore, most publications' websites are quite simply too complex. Sure, any moderately tech-savvy person can navitage the index bars that appear and the left and avoid the adds on the right. But when you need information and you know what your looking for--that days news or that month's publication--viewing a homepage with 100 or so links on it is absurd. This design model will ultimately fail. Zinio and other webmag purveyors provide what many have been looking for for quite some time: simply a digital way to read their favorite publications and to have the same experience reading them in cyberspace. It's nice to be able to go back to a newspaper or magazine that you've marked with a bookmark and be able to say "this is how much I've read; this is how much I have not yet read." Try this on most websites--you can't; the next day the website is drastically different and into the archives you must go; and even if the archives are neatly organized by issue, again you simply have no idea where you were.

Posted by: Mark Lindsay at December 10, 2005 12:32 AM

The real future of digital magazines is iPagez. Just go to to see for yourself. They make Zinio look really outdated. Some of their magazines can be seen at:

They are incredible.

Posted by: Michelle K at December 14, 2005 07:44 PM

Hi guys,

You should be aware that the comment above about ipagez is spam. Each and every time someone on the Web blogs about digitial magazines, etc., they post a comment.

The comments are often lies -- claiming to be magazine publishers who are customers of the product, for example.

They have hit my blog twice (I write about B2B media.) Do a search on Google or Technorati to see what I mean. They post this crap everywhere - craigslist, spam blogs and in the comment sections of blogs such as yours.

The exact same post as above has appeared on my blog and on others.

You have to wonder what sort unethical company selling what sort of crappy product would turn to this foolishness as a way to market.


Posted by: paul conley at December 28, 2005 08:50 AM

Digital magazines should be PDF... not Zinio. I like that they have thought to make digital textbooks but the Zinio reader does not have the functionality to make it useable for me as a dyslexic student. With my learning disability I need for text to be spoken and with the reader there is no way to select text and have it read to me by the computer like a PDF file would be. The only advantage that I can see with this is that a printed page would be easier to scan into my OCR software than an actual book because of the bound pages. However, this leaves me having to make a paper copy in order to make a useable digital copy. Unnecessary steps, wasted time and it really defeats the purpose!

Posted by: Jaq at January 18, 2006 10:39 PM

I've been subscribing to both the print and Zinio editions of BW for a couple of years now. Invariably I read the paper version, even though I almost never leave home without my laptop. I spend a lot of time on airplanes and the paper version is, of course, much easier to deal with (can't have your latop on during taxi, takeoff, landing, etc.) However, there can be no doubt that the archive value of Zinio is huge. I love the fact that I can toss the paper version whereas a few years ago I used to save them for months in case I wanted to go back and re-read something (I know, I can do that on the web, but the actual "magazine" format is often easier to refer back to.) I must agree with one of the comments above though: to make a subscriber pay twice for the two versions is at least a little slimy, if not outright robbery. Zinio needs to make their money somehow, but there should be a significant break for subscribing to both paper and digital.

Posted by: Mark Fei at January 26, 2006 06:42 PM

I did visit those sites mentioned using ipagez technology and it was quite an awesome experience if my magazines came in this format I would definitely pay for it to be digital instead of print and I don't understand the comment about it being spam it was relevant to the topic and I found it useful and informative

Posted by: JR at March 26, 2006 12:14 AM

Just Remember they are not the only ones with digital magazines/publications and a local visor. Latinamerica has wher people can suscribe to many publications in their own format.

Posted by: Jos? Alb??n at April 17, 2006 01:22 PM

I have been doing some research on digital magazines... I came across this comments page and I read the comments above.. I have been doing initial research on Zinio and when I read about Ipagez, I decided to check it out... Unfortunately, it takes forever for their site to download... until now I have not seen even how it looks... I only see a bunch of lines... If it is true that their site is better than Zinio then it would be better if the downloading would be quicker so we can see the difference.. It would not make sense if the waiting time to check their website out is the same as having to wait for your printed magazine to be delivered to you... It defeats the purpose of a digital format....

Posted by: Nel at June 21, 2006 05:45 PM

The Ipagez site works great and download quick for me. I realized that I need to double click the magazine icon to view it.

Posted by: Wayne at August 3, 2006 03:42 PM

I'm not impressed by either one. It's nothing more than flash programming. I've also done some research for good digital magazines and have found that Texterity, by my standards, has the best choice in not only appearance, but quality of choice for their readers to.

I'm not looking for glitz and faerie glamour (which is what Zinio and ipagez are about), but surefire performance and flexibility.

Flash is nice, but only if you want to dazzle people with lack of substance.

Posted by: Catalyste at August 3, 2006 04:50 PM

I don?? agree with some of the above comments that flash can be used only if someone wants to dazzle people with lack of substance. I don?? think technology has to do anything with usability or content. You can use flash in variety of ways that are practical and usable. It all depends how much thought has been put into a product. Only one digital magazine has impressed my so far and that is Real Magxine. Interface is very user-friendly and they have used flash at its best. Check out

Posted by: Zubair at September 19, 2006 03:29 PM

I believe there is a market for digital magazines as long as it's executed right. Flash is a great presentation layer in my opinion. For example, check out this trade publication. They have a fabulous digital magazine and it's USABLE. They make all the other ones look like dinosaurs.

check it out.

Posted by: tomorrow's platform at September 20, 2006 12:26 PM

contract connected is really cool. the visuals are amazing!! seems like they are up to their 6th issue.

Posted by: thomas at September 28, 2006 12:10 AM

I have to mention, as late as this is, that the Zinio format is GREAT for reading... Just NOT reading magazines.

I work in the graphic novel industry, and something like Zinio is great for all-visual/non-parseable content - pulling the text from a comic book, while technically possible, doesn't give you the same usability as, say, producing a nice webpage article from typical print magazine content.

Being able to have a whole catalog of every comic book ever made accessible online would truly be something, and unfortunately, to do so in a way that is financially possible for the creators, while also usable/featureful for the reader is going to take "Zinio or Zinio-like" solutions, for now.

Outside of comics, the trend holds - the more graphic a magazine is, the better these "online reader" formats fare... The more textual content it has, the better off it is as a straight website - especially if they can make the site free/searchable, and clean up on advertising...

But, at least for now, it's really hard to insert ads into graphic/visual content in a pleasing/unobtrusive fashion for the reader, let alone provide related/targeted ads for the reader's demographic. If that problem can be solved, then Zinio and its brethren stand a much better chance in the "real world".

Posted by: Deano at October 11, 2006 03:57 PM

I've just downloaded my first Zinio magazine, and I'm disappointed by a couple of things. First, the search feature doesn't seem to allow you to seach for phrases. For example, a seach for "The 268-pound pilot" matches every instance of "the". Not too useful.

Also, there doesn't seem to be any way to archive the magazine as something else, like a PDF. If you just print to Acrobat, you end up with a 72 dpi image in a PDF, which looks nasty and contains no real text (just an image of the text). I know the Zinio format contains the text, since it allows those useless searches, so why not let me have access to it?

I wish I could archive my magazines as searchable PDFs, rather than the proprietary Zino format.

Posted by: Chad at October 25, 2006 12:56 PM


We've just launched our magazine/book digital delivery site and service namely

We are offering a first in the industry, our technology and service is FREE to publishers who wish to convert their existing PDF artwork into a digital format and then use our delivery web platform to sell it.

The magazines are not web based, totally stand-alone products using a protection key that limits illegal abuse and copying.

We do all the work, the publisher simply supplies a PDF to us via FTP or other Media and that's it, a so called "win win" no risk situation.

We have a DEMO of our product on the front page, try it.

Kind regards, Anthony

Posted by: Anthony at February 5, 2007 10:24 AM


I was happy to see the big variety of options for digital magazine readers. I think you guys have missed NewsStand reader. For my self, the question of reader is not a technological one, but one of content. I simply use the ones that support the magazines I'd like to read.

I do have a question: I'd be happy to get feedback on how people are using those readers. I'm contemplating between my laptop, a tablet PC or hybrid gadgets like the new Sony UX series. Looking for portability I find laptops too heavy and cumbersome for this. I'd be happy to hear feedback from others.



Posted by: Ariel at February 6, 2007 09:41 AM

The cost of digitising a publication with most service providers prices alot of smaller companies out of the market.

We launched a DIY digital magazines software solution last Month @

What makes it different is that unlike other digital magazine companies this software allows publishers to create their own digital magazines in-house without the need of hiring specialist services. It comes in three different formats also, two for online viewing & one for off-line viewing.

Simply by running your press ready pdfs through an auto batch sequence, the magazine is ready to go.

you can also add in hyperlinks, comments database, keyword serching, thmbnail naviation, dynamic printing.

Posted by: paul at March 16, 2007 01:10 PM

I first looked at page-turning digital publication technology for Selling Down Under back in the mid-90s, and was turned off at the time by the lack of broadband. Times have changed and recently we launched a page-turning edition of the publication at

The magazine is aimed at the travel industry in Europe and the US/Canada -- and postal distribution from Australia has become astronomical of late. I am happy to say that the take-up rate for the digital page-turn edition has been really excellent -- partly because we promoted it as an eco-friendly way to go.

The key to making it work is fast download, no special applications to read the magazine (which is the downfall for many digital productions), and a continuation of the printed version in reduced page format -- with an index that points to digital-version-only features. We are using to present the on-line version, and are now looking at adding video clips and audios on a regular basis.

In short: digital magazines do work -- they just need a little TLC to get then accepted.

I know this post is appearing on April 1, but this is no hoax!!!

Posted by: AD at April 1, 2007 05:20 AM

This is a very interesting article.

My take - the future for eMagazines is connected with the ability to integrate with book search and Google type search engine marketing.

Integrating look & feel with familiar branding + popular search would be a big bonus to publishers and advertisers once traditional and new media are integrated properly.

Our new service for eMagazines is exceptional with these features:

1. Fast downloading - NOT FLASH based on HTML

2. Best search capabilities

3. Copy protection (option)

4. Best resolution

5. Conrent indexable with popular search engines

Posted by: Menachem Livni at April 25, 2007 07:52 AM

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