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Apple Safari and the Future of Online Publishing June 9, 2010

Posted by Peter Varhol in Publishing.
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As publishing has morphed from a paper-based activity to online over the past fifteen years, I confess that I’ve been disappointed with the ability of publishers to adapt to the new medium.  Publishers have doggedly pursued an advertising strategy despite a wealth of evidence that the advertising model didn’t translate well online.  There seems to be little question that this steed is deceased.

Now there is one more reason to doubt the ability of the advertising model to support publishing.  The new version of the Apple Safari web browser incorporates a reader that takes multi-page text with ads, and displays it as a single page without ads (but with pictures, figures, and the like).

So I downloaded Safari 5, and yep, the Safari Reader works just fine, displaying most multipage documents in a single page format.  The pages have to load successfully, and then Safari just strips out ads and reformats.

I’m not a content purist; I’ve made a decent living off of publishing (except for this blog), and I am acutely aware that someone has to pay for the content.  My paycheck came largely though advertising revenue in the print magazine days.  The paychecks more recently haven’t been as large, primarily because publishers haven’t yet found a way to replace the decline in ad revenue with new revenue sources.

Safari 5 will help to continue this trend.  Granted, Safari doesn’t have a big market share outside of Macs, but there seems little question that users will want this feature in other browsers.  It will become available in time, though the browser vendors themselves or through third party add-ins.

The ad model, at least the part of it that involves putting an ad on a page and generating views of that ad, is going to go the way of the dodo bird.  Any ad strategy that still relies on page views will be worth less and less.

Yet it still makes sense for those interested in promoting products and services to fund a lot of publishing activities.  It will just have to be done in a more interactive way.  I’ll have some ideas on that in future posts.

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