View Full Version : Swat Magazine, Electronic Edition?

August 1, 2002, 11:09 PM
This can't be an easy time to be in the publishing business, especially for those who work with periodicals when you have the internet encroaching...

I've noticed that American Handgunner is offering articles for sale online in .pdf format. Unfortunately for them, it seems that they're charging more for the cumulative sum of the articles than you would pay for a copy of the magazine off the news stand. I also noticed that Guns Magazine is offering a year's worth of back issues on CDROM as a subscription incentive. Pretty neat, if you ask me.

I'm not one of those people advocating or foreshadowing the demise of the printed word, and I've given some consideration that media offered in electronic format tends to proliferate beyond the copywrite holder's control. I sympathize and can't offer any practical solutions to this. But I have to tell you, I really like the idea of having copies of your magazine that I can archive, access and reference on my computer. I'm not sure how you would maintain control over your material if offered in that format, but I would love to have access to back issues as well as build my own library on my computer. it's just more convenient, and for those that travel as much as I do, there's no substitute for having the information there to reference or read at liesure rather than having to haul around (literally) boxes of my favorite magazines (which deteriorate over time anyway). Can you please consider publishing your magazine in electronic format?

Rich Lucibella
August 2, 2002, 09:58 AM
We've been working on, what I think is, an Internet first. The project is currently dubbed the S.W.A.T. Minimag. As each issue comes off the news stand, we'll offer a PDF of selected articles and features (@15 pages in all) for internet distribution free.

I think this will be a valued product and I believe it'll cause many fence sitters to subscribe. As for selling individual articles; that's a possibility. More likely, we'll sell back issues in PDF format...these are currently $8 each. We can definitely do better than that.

August 4, 2002, 08:59 PM
I'd pay to get back issues in PDF format. This is a worthwhile effort and I really appreciate it. SWAT could be the hallmark of substance and innovation.

August 4, 2002, 10:23 PM
I'd also be interested in an electronic edition. PDF with copying and printing disabled would be fine.

I've become so spoiled by reading, writing, and editing on a computer that contending with hard copy anything is deliberately avoided.

I save everything I might want in the folders of a personal information capture system so I can instantly or VERY quickly find anything in it. Sure beats the stacks of magazines of the past because anything can be searched for anywhere in the data all at one time.

Rich Lucibella
August 5, 2002, 09:30 AM
Does Adobe offer the ability to limit printing/copying?

Mal H
August 5, 2002, 09:45 AM
Yes they do. I'm sure someone has found/will find a way to get around the safeguards, but the general public can "read but don't touch".

August 5, 2002, 11:57 PM

PDF should be a natural. I'm positive you can disable printing very easily when you generate your PDF file, and there doesn't seem to be any way to use the [Ctrl]+[c] copy to the Windows clipboard because PDF files are viewable only with the Acrobat Reader.

The PDF was developed to enable owners of documents to "securely share" them over networks. That's not an oxymoron as it may seem to be. If a document can be excerpted, it can be easily altered.

Adobe saw a market for paperless access to documents that provided everybody with a degree of assurance that they had not been changed. Since PDF files are encrypted and can only be read by the Acrobat reader, any tampering is immediately detected.

In essence, print enabled Adobe PDF files give publishers assurance that the electronic format isn't any easier for plagiarizers to steal from than an original hard copy.

If a mag publisher disables printing, stealing content would be MUCH harder than with a distributed hard copy. They'd have to screen capture the document, print it out, then OCR it. They'd have to spend a great deal of time to steal low value source material, so the cost/reward ratio couldn't possible benefit them.

Rich Lucibella
August 6, 2002, 06:57 AM
Thanks for the info all. "Stealing" the material is not a big issue for mags like S.W.A.T. Passing an article around is good advertising. As for use of the material in print, that's what copyright filings are for.

The main concern is loosing newsstand sales to electronic issues. Clearly, if one purchases a magazine he can't give a "copy" to friends. Electronic publications, however, run this risk. I think there's four ways to handle this:

1) Devise a method whereby the PDF may be downloaded, even printed, but not copied. I doubt this capability exists in PDF. If it did, it would be ideal. We could sell the PDF for less than the normal Newsstand price if there were a way to accomplish this.

2) Make the full magazine prohibitively expensive in electronic format. Somebody here mentioned that AH has recently started a PDF download page (though I've been on Caeca to get ours going for months! :mad: ) If you look at it, they sell the PDF mag in sections. To purchase the entire mag this way is upward of $20 per issue!

3) Offer PART of the magazine FREE for download.

4) Offer Back Issues as download.

I'd like to do a combination of 2, 3 and 4. Each month, we could offer a free PDF "sample"....about 8-10 pages of the magazine with one or two columns and features. Easy download even for the DSL/Cable Challenged. This would be available only to a mail-list. The individual columns and features would be available for sale on our web site. Full copies of back issues could also be offered at less than the current back issue price of $8 for the die-hards out there that absolutely have to build an electronic library.

I've got Caeca's plate pretty full just now. If anyone has the Adobe tools and the desire, contact me by email. The pay sucks, but we can offer you the full PDF as we receive it and we'll even put you on the masthead if things work out. When I took over the magazine, one of the first things I asked for was PDF copies....we've been receiving these since our second issue. However, to do it right, we'd need some bells and whistles: repaginate to be viewed left to right, rather than up/down; make the links "live" for advertiser websites and the like.

August 6, 2002, 12:47 PM
RE #1: A PDF file is just like any other file, so it can be copied in its entirety. So #1 is out.

RE #2: Counterproductive. Mags prosper as verifiable eyeballs increase due to advertising. If people won't subscribe to the print version, they're not going to subscribe to a more expensive electronic version.

RE #3: Promotional, with the objective of increasing print circulation, therefore it's irrelevant.

RE #4: Counterproductive, unless back issues are only offered to print subscribers.

That brings me to #5, which I'm originating:

5) Destroy the value of PDF files by making the opportunity cost of copying or distributing them prohibitive. This is one way it could work:

The first thing that happens when a download commences is that a cookie is written to the subscriber's computer by an ASP page that first verifies that the downloader is authorized through logins, passwords, etc.

Each issue is broken up into about 10+ discrete PDF files. Each file would have an internal link to the succeeding file.

For example, say the first file ends with a link to the 2nd file, which begins with the next page. If the 2nd file is already in the cache, it will open quickly and seamlessly. If not, the download URL will be navigated to, the cookie read, the download commenced automatically, and the 2nd file displayed slower but still seamlessly. If there's no cookie, the login page will be displayed, which will thwart the pirate unless the subscriber has provided the login information to the pirate.

Here's where the magic comes in. Each subscriber has an IP address tied to a specific ISP in a geographic area. The ASP page records the IP address in a SQL database correlated to the subscriber. If all 4 elements of the 4 part IP address match, that's your subscriber, so commence the download. If the first 2-3 elements don't match, odds are somebody else is trying to download. The ASP page refuses to initiate downloading and redirects the visitor to a "my account" page, which will transfer the subscription to the new user after the "different" subscription logon information is provided. The original "subscriber" will then be cut off. There won't be very many subscribers "sharing" their logon information.... :D

If you can't lick 'em, trick 'em.

Rich Lucibella
August 6, 2002, 03:18 PM
I disagree with some of your conclusions:

2) is not counterproductive. Magazines are in business to stay in business. Few want the electronic version. Those that do, recognize that it's more useful than print. What AH is doing makes enormous sense...it's not designed for the "Subscriber to Each Issue" crowd, but to those who have an interest in a feature here and there. Consumer Reports has been doing this (successfully) forever.

"Mags prosper as verifiable eyeballs increase due to advertising."....yup, that's what the Distributor will tell you. When you hit the Advertiser up for an increase, he states, "Mags prosper as verifiable eyeballs increase due to Content". One tells you the Advertiser will pay; the other tells you the Subscriber will pay.

Luci's Law: "Mags prosper by providing an honest, value added service by which EVERYONE pays (a little)."

3) is hardly "irrelevant". The (economic) purpose of a magazine is to sell magazines. I'm not looking to be in the E-Zine business....it's not economically viable except under a very different model. I'm willing to provide a value added electronic product; it can be free if it promotes newsstand/subscriber sales. Or it can be on a pay as you go basis. But it's got to make economic sense.

4) is not counterproductive if it's priced correctly. It appeals only to those who are specifically looking for a Back Issue; not to "bargain hunters". And it makes sense if that's the only way you offer Back Issues. This is not a real big revenue source for any magazine.

Your concept for assuring security is workable but, I think, cumbersome. Many people have dynamic IP's....AOL, for instance, might provide a match on only the first trip after as little as a 10 minute hiatus. And the goal is not to make the download more difficult (by adding steps).

I'm not convinced that you'll see S.W.A.T. go electronic in its entirety anytime soon. Back Issues and free mini-SWAT's. That's about as far as I'll commit.

August 6, 2002, 04:16 PM

Everybody's got their perspective! :D

The IP variations can be eliminated by just writing a subscriber cookie and using it instead. No cookie, no download -- just a redirecton to the "my account" page. Cookies aren't transportable, and they can contain any information needed to assure the publisher that only a legit subscriber is downloading.

E-zines don't have near the appeal of print mags... yet. But I think that's largely because the medium is so new and undeveloped. The appeal of "click through" revenue from advertisers, "live" ads, almost no distribution or final production costs, and other economic benefits are going to result in them becoming ubiquitous just as CDs killed off "Legal Reporter" books only to be killed off themselves by the Internet.

Success isn't so much being lucky as knowing where to stand.... :D

Rich Lucibella
August 6, 2002, 04:29 PM
Well said and agreed. That's one of the reasons we're gonna "test' the waters now. Internet trends are like perfect waves:
- Catch one too soon and it'll drown you!
- Catch one too late and you'll be wondering where everyone went to!

August 6, 2002, 04:32 PM
With regard to your ideas about the cookies: how will that stop one person from downloading the pdf file(s) and sending them to others? Or worse yet, posting them on another site for free download?

Unfortunately, subscribing over the net hasn't really caught on. And the companies that have successfully done it are few and far between (with the exception to the Post and Times).

August 6, 2002, 05:17 PM

Copyright laws are the deterrent to somebody distributing downloaded PDF files and especially to them posting the files for free download. An infringer has no upside and a tremendous downside.

The WP and NYT haven't been successful at collecting money from their net subscribers as far as I know. No wonder, because the substance of their content is freely available in thousands of different ways.

Something like S.W.A.T. would have a better chance because its content isn't otherwise available. You can get it in a way the publisher endorses or you can do without it, and that's the exact key to the success of the print media over the years!

Just because a "successful" metaphor for e-distriibution doesn't exist or isn't well known yet doesn't mean it won't be figured out soon. The technology and equipment is in place for both vendors and consumers, so it's only a matter of time.

Rich Lucibella
August 12, 2002, 07:22 AM
Large, full page color ads really bump up the size of the magazine....even in PDF. As a result the Feb, March and May books run as high as 48MB. November will be even higher. I only found this out when I went to set up a shopping cart for download and sat down to organize all the files.

We'll be looking at work arounds this week.

Rich Lucibella
August 13, 2002, 06:45 PM
Well here's a start: