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Phil, thanks for this post.

Call me a dough-brain, but I'm not sure I understand enough about how all this works to really get the gist of what you're saying (and I desperately want to).

Is there any chance you could explain in layman's terms, for example, what 'pay-per-click' is, and how 'pay-per-view' works? Are there any examples here on LJ which you could use to illustrate the point? Does it just refer to advertising, or do 'clicks' when someone reads a blog post count for something?

"There's no doubt that there will be takers if gardening media switched to a pay-per-view model but the big question is, will the mass be significant enough to maintain the current business? - I think not."

Again, are you referring here to readers of a magazine who would be prepared to pay to read it online, and if that were the case, are you floating the notion that there wouldn't be enough readers to support both a print and an online publication?

Thanks!

Thanks for your comment and questions John - I'll try and answer as simply as I can.

Pay-per-click

This is a method by which a content provider or publisher charges an advertiser.

The advertiser provides an image or a text link with a short description of services or products, agrees a cost with the publisher, and pays a fee every time a reader clicks on the advert.

It is a much more measurable way of analysing how many times an advert is viewed and how many times a reader clicks on the advert to be taken to the advertisers site - these are called click-through's.

At the end of a set period the advertiser pays his fee.

On occasions (especially on Google adverts)one or more advertisers will bid-up the price to try and secure a spot on the publishers site - if an auction ensues then the publisher can make a lot of money but this only happens in a big way on sites that mean something to the advertisers - for example, it wouldn't be wise for a women's brazier supplier to advertise on a lawn mower site.

By using a pay-per-click model it means a publisher can then provide content for free and attract readers to benefit his advertisers.

Using this method, a publisher relies on organic growth (attracting a loyal readership is a time consuming business) but also relies on a search engine to send readers.

A pay-per-view model differs in respect that the publisher has to work extremely hard to attract a loyal readership and does not benefit from organic search traffic (In days of old, a search engine could not access a site that resided behind a password and therefore could not get in to index the content - although Google is working around this issue and it is now possible to tell Google a sites log-in details so that the spiders can come in and read the content (especially useful for Google itself if the publisher wishes to embed Google code into its pages).

The up-side for a pay-per-view publisher - should he attract a sufficient audience - is he can charge to sell this premium content and also sell premium advertising on the site.

It is often viewed that if someone is prepared to pay for access to something then they are already a qualified buyer and therefore much more valuable demographically.

The dilemma for a publisher is, does he risk locking the site down and potential turn his readers off?

With so much free content available, online publications and traditional magazines will be hard pressed to maintain the same level of readership - once the economic tipping point is reached, each business will have to trim its employee head count and cost base down until it is sufficiently lean enough to make a profit; the big question is - and it's something that is still not understood - can it still be competitive enough to send out its publication.

Online publishers such as Landscape Juice (just me) are able to research, write and report with very little overhead.

I am sat at a desk in my home with an Internet connection and a laptop and I can publish a new article in a few minutes.

I think that existing publishers need to have a compelling USP if they are going to retain an online presence as well as maintain an expensive print run.

I have provide evidence that both Hort Week (10%) and The Landscaper (18%) have lost readers. This will bring with it a lesser return for advertisers (who are looking for a greater punch for their money - not less) so there will be a spiral downwards until a bottom is reached.

Just to give you an example - Landscape Juice's will see about 1.5 million page impressions in the year.

It also means I can get my contributors noticed and their content read by so many more people at a price that is cost effective for advertisers.

I hope that explains it a little bit more but don't hesitate to ask if you need more info.

Regards


Phil


"for example, it wouldn't be wise for a women's brazier supplier to advertise on a lawn mower site."

Oh, go on, Phil. We're not all Charlie Dimmock...

I do not think it make a difference for Google as they have many other sources of news they have access to.

Thanks Phil for your detailed explanation (the dough-brain is starting to rise a little!). It's thrown up some other questions which I'm sure I can't be alone in having.

"Landscape Juice's will see about 1.5 million page impressions in the year."

Could you explain what a 'page impression' is and its significance for you the publisher, the writer, the reader, and the advertiser? It's a phrase I hear a lot and usually in a positive context - is it anything akin to the actual number of copies a magazine sells and/or a magazines readership?

Out of interest, is there any mechanism in place to audit the activity for an online publishing venture like Landscape Juice - the equivalent of the Audit Bureau of Circulations which release the 'ABC' of print magazines that show how well they are doing?

Recycled crystal ball in hand, how do you see print versus online publishing evolving? Will it be something as simplistic as online publishers trying to build up a loyal following of readers who would be happy to pay you what they now pay for a weekly magazine like Amateur Gardening (£1.90) or a monthly like Kitchen Garden (£3.60), or will it be something more dynamic and interactive than that?

My own feeling (in respect of the gardening media) is that there's still some mileage in publishing on paper for an older audience who are less inclined to engage with digital media - which basically means folk who are happier to sit down with a magazine and a cup of tea, rather than sip their tea in front of a computer screen. Do you think this will soon be a case of diminishing returns as the more digital savvy generation come on up?

"I am sat at a desk in my home with an Internet connection and a laptop and I can publish a new article in a few minutes."

Do you think there's a risk here of you becoming too insular and perhaps introspective in what you write about? One of the undisputed and unique aspects to working closely with a team of people is the creative synergy it generates. Do you feel you miss out on that?

How do you see the role of the freelance writer evolving in the digital age? You say that revenue from advertising allows you to offer content for free, most of which is currently provided by yourself, but don't you think your readers might need to hear other voices to make Landscape Juice a must-read?

Do you ever see a day when you will be able to pay writers for their work, or do you think they might be better off nurturing their own micro-publishing ventures for a global readership while maintaining a synergistic relationship with an online publisher like Landscape Juice?

Having written a number of posts for LJ, as well as re-publishing articles that originally appeared in print, I've been astonished at how my own association with LJ has pushed me to the top rankings of a Google search. That can only be good thing when, like me, you're writing a lot about environmental issues and how they interact with how and why we garden in the way many people currently do.

As a writer I've felt the the power of digital publishing, but I can't imagine I'm the only one wondering what kind of path to take in times of rapid change. What kind of materials would you recommend for a gardening writer to build a brave new and livelihood-generating path into digital publishing?

A page impression is the result of a website visitor landing on one page of an Internet site (not to be confused with hits - a 'hit' is an individual action that occurs on a page.

For example, if there are three photos on the site and a viewer clicks on all three then that is considered three hits but, only one page impression; to add to any confusion, the original page impression also counts as one hit.

"Out of interest, is there any mechanism in place to audit the activity for an online publishing venture like Landscape Juice - the equivalent of the Audit Bureau of Circulations which release the 'ABC' of print magazines that show how well they are doing?"

Webmasters will have some kind of tracking software installed within their site template. Google Analytics is probably the most extensive and it is free. Once installed, it is possible to pull off many different types of reports - the most popular being:

Unique visitors - This is either a visit from a new source or a retuning visitor who has either cleaned their cache or who has not been on a site for a long time.

(Returning) Visitor - This is a website visitor who is returning to the site within a given period and whose cookie is still being tracked by the analytics software - a visitor may visit several times in a given period but only be recorded once as a unique visitor.

Page impression - how many pages are read (or called upon) by a single visitor - A page impression is considered by the analytics software to have been one page read - but it is not necessarily the case. The time on the page is a further metric that determines if the reader may have stayed to read the page content.

Time on site - Probably one of the more powerful metrics - this data determines the 'stickability' of a website. The longer the duration of a visitor, the better the content is perceived to be.

Other metric include: Bounce rate: The bounce rate is a measurement of how many visitors arrived and then literally 'bounced' straight off of the site. The higher the bounce rate the less the less stickability on the site.

"Recycled crystal ball in hand, how do you see print versus online publishing evolving? Will it be something as simplistic as online publishers trying to build up a loyal following of readers who would be happy to pay you what they now pay for a weekly magazine like Amateur Gardening (£1.90) or a monthly like Kitchen Garden (£3.60), or will it be something more dynamic and interactive than that?"

I can see the future in so many different ways. The print industry cannot continue in the same fashion as it has done the last 10, 30, 50 or 100 years. A traditional gardening publication cannot avoid losing a proportion of its readers - no matter how well run it is as a company, what reputation it enjoys, how well written it is or the history it carries. Pure economics will dictate that the 'age group mass' (the demography of the readership) will be consuming most of their news and information through some kind of reader - whether that's a hand held reader, PDA, laptop or desktop.

Traditional paper print will be reserved for specialist groups produced by specialist publishers with just a handful of staff. Their challenge will be to maintain or build readership and attract income. I see this as a mixture of online advertising, subscriptions and paper advertising - I don't see however how a purely paper magazine can retain the numbers they need to keep the print run viable - headcount at the big(ger) titles will drop further.

What we will find is the ease with which a publication can set up its own television channel (this is a whole new topic) so we can expect to see web based documentaries, adverts, 'how to' demonstrations, and online TV style debates. I am capable of making TV shows for Landscape Juice - if I had an assistant.

The older generation who are used to paper between their fingers will become a minority - publishers will have to consolidate and rethink their business models.

"Do you think there's a risk here of you becoming too insular and perhaps introspective in what you write about? One of the undisputed and unique aspects to working closely with a team of people is the creative synergy it generates. Do you feel you miss out on that?"

There are two ways to look at this. Yes I miss daily interaction with lots of people but I also find that I am not compromised by relationships. I never censor comments so if I am wrong then one or more people can interject and add some bulk to the story. I like to think that my reader is capable of making a decision as to whether the article, my opinion or the news is delivered properly and objectively.

Sometimes 'teams' can be indoctrinated with an institutionalised spirit; this can do a great disservice to its readers and its market - it's all about balance I think.

As far as 'free versus paid' and guest authors is concerned - I have just over 1,700 articles written since mid 2006. Some of this content is written by others.

Landscape Juice is very much a two way street. I will give up the front page (if that's the right terminology?) to anyone who has a story, view or thought to share. Landscape Juice gets content and the author gets a new audience or if they have a website they will get a link to their site - the link can be viewed as revenue too as it strengthens the authors' position on the Internet - as Landscape Juice gets bigger and better, any site with a link shares (proportionally) that success (or vice-versa if the roles turned).

I do hope to pay for work but I would also encourage micro-publishers to offer their work for free to blogs and other niche publishers - as you say, LJ has elevated your work up the Google rankings and this could be worth £000's over time by the way of free marketing and publicity. Anyone, anywhere can read your work and then click through to engage with you directly and hopefully, you (or others) can sell work directly.

If anyone is wants to publish online I would encourage them wholeheartedly to write a route map and set some goals. LJ was not a planned thing but more an evolution. It is eclectic in its delivery and has a fairly focussed audience.

I would write passionately about a subject close to you and you will soon get a following. It is also imperative to get others to link back to your site. It is also imperative (probably in equal measures in this day) to link out to other content and information. Any traffic will depend on the obscurity or popularity of your subject.

I hope all of the above helps a little more and feel free to ask more questions too.

Phil I was glad to see your post re Murdoch as his direction toward pay walls for his content has been on my mind -- it's crazy. I do hope the garden media will not look at this and think it's a good idea -- working with search engines like Google, the way landscape juice does, makes eminently more sense. As an IT news website editor, I watched the IT trade press struggle years ago with how to go online without cannibalizing off-line. And as a new garden blogger myself, I see the drama played out again in the garden media.

People go online to connect with each other, do research, buy stuff, play games, ogle celebs and get news. Websites that can occupy multiple parts of that bull's-eye will have a multiple win.

People choose garden magazines to lose themselves in beautiful photography and the best written feature articles. That off-line experience is impossible to duplicate online (until handheld electronic paper becomes cheap and ubiquitous), as someone commented above, because nothing but paper will do when you want to sit down a cup of tea and do the gardening magazine thing.

LJ obviously started off with a win when it went online to connect like minded people, and with your knowledge about how to craft good content that Google notices -- as well as other IT aspects like how to use analytics, blog engines, and Twitter -- you have a winning recipe the garden media should look at.

Garden mags please listen...online and offline are different worlds. Figure out how to use online to drive offline -- there's nothing like seeing a web address, Twitter name or picture of a website in a printed publication to make you want to go and visit it! Do online forums right, and get the e-marketing right, and the rest...including survival of offline products...will follow.

Thanks Phil, for that comprehensive list of answers to my questions; it's very useful to get your perspective from the virtual coalface. Have you thought about planning and writing a series of posts along the lines of 'Digital publishing for dough-brained gardening writers'? Might be a winner.

Stopwatch Gardener makes an interesting point: it's probably all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that gardening publishing must be either paper or online, with no synergy between the two.

That said, I can't help but think back to the dotcom boom when every man/woman and his/her dog were scrambling to get a slice of the gardening action, and after many successful strikes on the rooting front, all but a very few thrived and survived.

I was involved with a couple of them, briefly, and the 'angels' backing them seemed for a while to have bottomless chasms when it came to financial backing.

You can't help but wonder how it would all pan out if we had that kind of surge of interest in trying to make gardening work online now, as we had back then.

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