Thursday, February 09, 2006

Econtent 100 companies that matter - report's good but display is a shocker

Econtent have released the digital version of their 100 companies that matter report.

First congratulations to James Robertson and Step Two designs for making it on the list alongside huge multinationals in the 'digital content industry'. Great to see a small Aussie consultancy being recognised internationally for their excellent work.

The second more interesting thing is the actual display of the report utilising nxtbook 'technology' from innodata-isogen. It is a fancy use of Flash which according to the company is helping the value chain of print publishing meet digital publishing or some sort of marketing hyperbole blah blah blah.

The fact is that it goes against standard accessibility features already built into our browsers (they do have fancy resizing zoom features etc which are pretty nifty to look at though!) and is simply is trying to bridge a gap that can't be breached with mere Flash reproductions no matter how fancy it is.

Printed material will never be effective online unchanged for the medium.

For effective online content you need to think in terms of online structures, user interaction. Utilising anything to republish printed material exactly will fail online and once you get over the cool flash effects and actually try and navigate the tool fails.

Why? Because as users we are used to navigating websites online not books or print magazines, and why as a user should I bother to try and learn yet another technology trying to create an entirely new web interface system?

The technology is fancy looking but will it solve any user issues? Doubtful.

I think for a magazine such as Econtent (supposedly a leader in digital content thinking) to not even follow basic accessibility and usability conventions and standards is simply embarrassing.



At 4:24 AM, Blogger superk said...

Indeed it's embarrassing. Even on the great computer I have at work, it took more than 30 seconds to load the bloody book. These guys really didn't get that reading a book online makes no sense.

My 0,02ยข


At 4:43 AM, Anonymous Spencer Ewald said...

Hi Nick,

Digital replicas are not meant for everyone so I understand your points. However, they do have a place (especially with international distribution and audiences)in the "information value chain".

Our users (a web minority) shower us everyday with overwhelming positive responses. Third party research conclusively shows those who subscribe to digital versions read them about the same as the print counterpart. Also, e-catalogs and e-brochures seems garner above average reponse rates. Although digital edition enthusiasts may be the minority, they are large enough to help publishers reap positive ROI's.

As the technology evolves and the reading devices change we believe we will see print and web converge even more, thus changing the way print materials are distributed online. Hopefully, then we will be able to convert you to the otherside!

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Nick Besseling said...

Thanks for your comments Spencer.
I accept and understand the print/web convergence need especially for traditional publising companies.

However I think the focus for these types of tools shouldn't be the reporoduction of printed material into a web format but the reproduction of the print base content into a web format.

Sure reprint the content but don't reproduce the layout or format.

Why not utlise technolgoy that focuses on the idea of write the content once and then be able to work the content for a variety of purposes and mediums.

I agree that there will be and is a market for this technology but I don't think it will replace good mark-up based online publishing based on code.

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Spencer Ewald said...


Good insights and I believe we will get there in good time. It really is a "walk before you run mentality" as print publishers shift their business models. And, I also know digital replica's are not the savior as only 10-20% of a given audience prefers to get the digital version in place of the print. Look at it this way, we are saving trees! :)

I'm not sure about New Zealand but here in the States, it is typical that over a third of a magazines circualtion will not visit the website--mainly because they don't like the layout of a web page. So it can work both ways.

The future is content on demand and that will be served digitally. As the tools get better for "input once publish many times" we will see this migration. It takes time for publishers to adopt to the tools. We plan on helping publishers in this migration.


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