At the US association of magazine media publishers’ (MPA) conference last week, Google chairman Eric Schmidt took the stage with Wired editor-in-chief Scott Dadich to talk about the future — it’s mobile — and how magazines fit into it. The latter isn’t a subject he’s devoted much thought to, Schmidt admitted, but he is confident that magazines’ future is not in print, but on tablets.
“Tablets are now more popular than PCs,” he said. “You can read it, it knows where you are, it has an accelerometer. There are all sorts of stuff [publishers] can do in tablet magazines [that they] couldn’t do in print magazines.”
Five years from now, the world will have “powerful, tablet-looking things — [devices] that look roughly like a tablet — as a substitute for traditional media,” Schmidt predicted. Those tablets will have apps that are “incredibly immersive,” including magazine apps, which will take advantage of people’s social graphs, location data and other features to offer a more interactive experience, he said.
“It should be very positive for [publishers],” Schmidt added. “In the world of online advertising, the location signal allows you much more targeted ads [than print] ads today … [The more targeted they are], the more likely [readers] are to click, and the more likely advertisers will bid up the price of [ads].”
Schmidt did not say whether he thinks magazine publishers’ ads will be able to compete with the targeting capabilities of Facebook or Google, however, nor whether revenue from those ads will ever rival that of print.
Schmidt may envision a future for magazines, but he doesn’t see much of one for long-form content. He believes attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. “I don’t think we’ll go back to books,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of reading, but more ADD type of reading.”