Digital magazines: news and a history timeline

by Tony Quinn

It can seem as if digital magazines have just suddenly appeared as an application on the web, Apple's iPad or iPhone and Kindle, but there have been many attempts at creating such a medium going back decades - who now remember's the Newton, Apple's first handheld device built around an ARM chip? This news-based history in the form of a timeline sets out the developments in hardware, software and published product in the UK. A separate page also covers digital magazine software developers such as Ceros, Exact Editions and Zinio, which use a 'platform' to turn printed magazines (often from PDF or InDesign files created in the print production process) into a digital format, sometimes called 'living magazines'. Interaction with social media such as Twitter and Facebook also covered. A separate page is devoted to the digital and print activities of customer publishers and content marketing agencies

30 July 2013 Go straight to latest news

Showing the way to go (early 1980s)

  • electronic mail (e-mail);
  • Teletext 'magazines'
  • Prestel-based bulletin boards
  • Micronet

Digital production (late 1980s)

  • magazines use DTP

CD-Rom magazines (mid 1990s)

  • video-based CD-Rom magazines
  • CD-Roms as cover-mounts on mainstream titles

Websites (mid-1990s)

  • Newspapers and magazines launch websites

Online digital magazines (mid-1990s)

  • online PDFs
  • adding interactivity
  • online - a new channel for magazines

Brand extension (early-2000s)

  • mobile phone and TV channels

Online-only digital magazines (mid-2000s)

  • Dennis launches Monkey
  • News-stands on the web for digital magazines
  • Customer publishers adopt digital format
  • Apple iPad and otherv tablets take hold

Development of digital mediaback to top

Date Event Details
1982 Magazines start to use electronic mail and online noticeboards Acorn User (Addison-Wesley) uses Dialcom/Telecom Gold, a subscription-based email system
1982 Cover disc - vinyl Your Computer (December) 33.3 rpm vinyl single holding Sinclair ZX81 games
1982 Publishers start to use computer networks Acorn User and contract publisher Redwood throws out all typewriters and introduces Econet sysyem based on Acorn BBC Micro technology. Copy written on networked BBC terminals, stored on floppy discs or 5MB network hard drive and printed on centralised daisywheel or dot matrix printers to be sent to typesetters. Redwood continued to use the system - which grew to about 80 terminals - before switching to Macintoshes running Quark XPress
1983 Subscription-based online bulletin boards using viewdata systems (broadcast by TV stations or over telephone lines)

Viewdata systems consisting of several hundred 'pages', each of 24 characters by 20 lines of text (1K in size):

  • Ceefax (BBC): data was broadcast inbetween television frames (not interactive) .
  • Prestel (British Telecom): over telephone lines (1200/75 baud).
  • in-house systems for companies, eg travel agents .
  • bulletin boards on home computers used this technology.
  • other systems were Minitel in France and Telidon in Canada.
   

Emap launches Micronet, which reaches 1m subscribers. Magazines and individuals set up their own pages using Prestel

  Thousands of computer users run own boards from home, office or school using BBC Micros, modems and phone lines  


Schools in the Outer Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland had access to a dedicated viewdata system in 1984
1985 Acorn Computer takes delivery of first ARM (Acorn Risc Machine) chip 26 April 1985. Steve Furber and Sophie Wilson at Acorn Computer take delivery of first ARM (Acorn Risc Machine) chip. ARM becomes the first Risc (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) chip to power a mainstream micromputer - the 32-bit Acorn Archimedes. Apple licenses ARM development system - and later ARM Ltd is spun out of Acorn with Apple's help. 'ARM chips are cheap and fast, and consume so little power that - as the company demonstrated in a neat stunt with a thermocouple - you can run one off a Pentium's waste heat.' 'Herman Hauser's Second Chance' by Christopher Anderson, Wired, May 1996
  BT launches MUD - Multi-User Dungeon Simon Dally forms a company with Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle to promote and market MUD, a multi-user dungeon game. The game was launched with British Telecom as the first online multi-user MUD. He told Acorn User editor Tony Quinn he found the minicomputer to run the game in a builder's skip. Computer magazine Popular Computing Weekly quoted Dally in May 1985: 'I know the BT venture is just the start of something truly enormous.' Indeed, it was key to the development of today’s massively multiplayer online games
1986 BBC attempts to establish a standard for interactive video discs BBC Domesday system with Philips Laservision disc player - using double-sided, 12-inch optical discs - controlled by a BBC Micro. The software pioneered many aspects of multimedia presentation, such as virtual rooms and objects that could be 'walked around'
1980s Development of digital technologies for typesetting' page layout and image manipulation

Apple Macintosh (1984)
Postscript from Adobe Systems (1984)
Apple Laser Writer printer (1985)
Aldus Pagemaker (1985)
ISO defines SGML (1986)
Adobe Illustrator (1987)
Quark Xpress (1987)
Adobe PhotoShop (1989)

1992 Adobe Acrobat PDFs Adobe launches Acrobat portable document format
  Jonathan Ive joins Apple Jonathan Ive leaves London design agency Tangerine, of which he was a co-founder, for a job with Apple, a client
1993 11 November: Guardian article about the World Wide Web The Guardian's Computer section (p19) carries an article 'The world in a web' by Joe Levy of Edinburgh university describing the World Wide Web project at CERN. The article gives a Telenet address for information and an FTP address for the Mosiac browser at NCSA.
  Apple launches Newton personal digital assistant based on the ARM 610 RISC processor The Apple Newton was an early attempt at a tablet device. LIke the iPad 17 years later, it was based on an ARM RISC processor, in this case ARM 610, and used handwriting recognition software. Acorn founder Hermann Hauser leads consortium to develop rival ARM-based EO personal digital assistant, which is later sold to AT&T. Neither device was a success and each is reckoned to have cost its backer £50m
1994 Newspapers move to the web Daily Telegraph claims to be the first national newspaper on the web
The Unzip CD-Rom from IPC and software developer Zone UK was based on content from New Musical Express, Vox and New Scientist in 1995. It cost £15.99 (for the PC or Mac) and had a target circulation of 20,000. Only one edition was published. The CD-Rom lacked the depth (and cheapness) of a printed magazine, the visual quality of TV or the excitement of a computer game
1995 CD-Rom magazines At least 10 available (Baumann 1995). Blender (a US title distributed by Dennis in the UK at £9.99 based around samples of US bands and film trailers); Unzip, 'the UK's first fully interactive magazine on CD-Rom' (IPC)
  CD-Rom cover mounts on non-computer magazines
August issue of men's monthly Maxim (Dennis Publishing)
  Websites for mainstream magazines Uploaded.com (Loaded, IPC); nme.com (New Musical Express, IPC)
1996 Electronic auditing ABC Electronic established to provide independent certification for data related to electronic media
X-Net bi-monthly came with a CD-Rom at £7.95 for 100 pages. It featured popular pin-up Jo Guest and hundreds of addresses for pornographic as well as sport, comedy and car websites. The CD-Rom held more than 300 links to websites and used the sales line: 'Babe Fest! Interview the girls, then watch them strip.' It caused a furore, to which its editor, Dominic Handy, responded in the Guardian: 'We did not go out to publish a porn mag, we wanted to publish Loaded for the internet.'
1997 Digital kiosks BT Touchpoint with NME, Loaded and Marie Claire content
  Improving technology meant CD-Rom titles could market themselves based on their video content. Among the first publishers to exploit this development were those behind top-shelf titles such as X-Net and Enter (below)
1998 Sunday Times CD-ROM covermount Windows on the World was an educational CD-Rom produced with the British National Space Centre
1999 BRAD (Nov) directory lists 668 entries under 'new media'  
  Nuvo Media's Rocket e-Book Portable e-book device for $300 that held about 4,000 pages (10 books). Owners could buy copyrighted digital versions of books and journals
2000 CD-Rom magazines based on video content Enter monthly from Pure Communications. Lads' mags with advertising from Toyota, Heineken, Mars and Jameson whiskey
 

Microsoft launches Reader software using ClearType for PCs and laptops

Microsoft Reader Cleartype logo

Company predicts in a timeline on its website (dated September 13 1999) and in advertising that: a 'slate form' Tablet PC would be a mainstream device by 2004; eNewstands would 'proliferate on street corners' by 2006; by 2008 ebook titles would 'begin to outsell conventional volumes in most countries'; two years later companies would be giving away ebook devices; and by 2020, the primary dictionary definition of a book would be writing displayed on a computer. Barnes & Noble.com and Microsoft open eBookStore for Microsoft Reader (www.bn.com). Michael Crichton's Timeline was free to download. Other promoted books for sale included Lethal Seduction by Jackie Collins, Married to Laughter by Jerry Stiller and Deadly Decisions by Kathy Reichs. Online magazine Salon was sceptical. The Microsoft timeline pages were taken down by 2001
2001 Digital facsimile editions of newspapers start to appear 'Flat PDFs' with no interactivity
  US software developer Zinio founded  
2003 SMS text messaging Loaded (then published by IPC)
  Online media have become mainstream: BRAD (Jun) no longer lists websites separately  
  Sunday Times CD-Rom supplement The Month CD-Rom is based on entertainment and arts content. It was sponsored by Renault for a reported £250,000. The first time the disc was loaded, a 40-second Renault advert was shown. After that, users could skip the ad halfway through. Commercial deals included a website with MVC where users could order reviewed CDs; and a link to Warner Village's website to book cinema tickets online
2005 Financial Times launches digital facsimile edition Includes How to Spend It
  Digital paper announced  
2006 Switch in teenage spending to online and mobile-phone-based media blamed for teen magazine closures Emap closes Smash Hits. The name lives on as a digital music TV channel and radio station, online and as a mobile phone service
  Digital (facsimile) magazines Exact Editions launches first titles (Feb). Quickly expanded to include Dazed & Confused
  Downloadable magazines for phones Time Out, OK!, Glamour, GQ on Mobizine platform (Feb)
  Magazines launch on YouTube Condé Nast puts Glamour, GQ and Vogue on YouTube
  YouTube seen as affecting (men's) magazines ‘Unloaded, and now the party is over,’ (Brown, 2006)
  Magazines use YouTube for marketing Nuts men's weekly (IPC) celebrates sales results with a raunchy ad on YouTube
  Temporary video websites exploiting social networking Zootube.co.uk for Emap's Zoo men's weekly
  TV magazines cover online films and podcasts Radio Times covers YouTube, iFilm and Google Video on radiotimes.com and in magazine
Interactive digital-only magazines launched Monkey from Dennis. 'The world’s first weekly digital men’s magazine' (Nov)
  Media organisations launch special editions in Second Life online world US technology title Wired (October); German tabloid Bild (December); Sky News (May 2007); CNET, Reuters, BBC Radio 1 and Channel 4 Radio (Green 2007)
2007 TV guide revamps website to help find shows on the web for downloading Radio Times
  First ABCe figures for digital-only and print magazines Monkey releases ABCe of 209,612 copies a week
Jelly fish digital magazine start page
  Digital-only magazine for teenagers National Magazines launches Jellyfish as a trial using Ceros technology. The magazine's motto was 'if it moves, click.' However, problems with the emailed files being blocked because of poor mailing lists led to the experiment failing and it was closed within 6 months.
  Contract publishers seek ABCe audits for digital titles River Publishing registers Healthy for Men with ABCe (May)
  Advertising revenue rising but 'no one has got the business model for online cracked yet,' Stevie Spring (chief executive, Future Publishing)  
  '[Newspapers] have yet to find sound monetisation models' (Richard Stephenson, chairman of Yudu Media, quoted by Kirby 2007)  
  Magazines move into digital TV Nuts TV channel based on the weekly IPC men's magazine (September)
  Free weekly men's magazine launched with website ShortList gives away 500,000 copies. 'Our site is completely central to everything we're planning' Mike Soutar, quoted in Dorrell, 2007
  Online digital facsimile newsagents launched MyMag Online in Ireland
  DVD magazine announced 'The world's first' magazine on DVD from Expansive Media (for November launch)
  Publishers working with digital paper E-Ink working with Time magazine (Moses)
2008 Digital magazines becoming an established medium Exact Editions has about 70 titles; Ceros 200. In February 2008, Zinio launches Global Newsstand to make 850 titles available to buy and read online
  ARM ships its 10-billionth chip core ARM chips are reckoned to power 85% of the world's mobile phones and are so ubiquitous that production exceeds the population of the planet
  Brand expansion for Monkey Dennis Publishing and mobile media company Player X launch Monkey as a free mobile TV channel (March)
  Dennis builds on Monkey business model Dennis launches fortnightly iMotor and Gizmo
  Monthly car launch Motor Play launches as a free digital car monthly ‘with over 200 pages of beautifully produced articles on cars’
  Social applications and widgets for Stuff website Umee develops utilities such as Twitter, Facebook and Clearspring widgets for Haymarket's Stuff.tv
  Wallpaper widget News feed and a photo of the day from monthly design title
2009

iPhone app from NME

NME logo

IPC's music weekly sells 59p app to access band photographs using Umee technology. Rebrands itelf as: online, magazine, TV, radio, mobile (note the order)
  FT drops digital fascimile technology for How to Spend It Financial Times relaunches online version of its large-format luxury monthly magazine How to Spend It. Razorfish uses Adobe Flash 10 to translate 'the glossy magazine reading experience into a convincing luxury online environment'
2010 January: IPC spins off magazine from website IPC Connect, the women's division of IPC Media, launches monthly cookery magazine, Goodtoknow Recipes as a spin-off from its web portal, Goodtoknow.co.uk
  February: Dennis closes monthly motoring emag iMotor Dennis blames e-mag's lack of success on the economic downturn and that it had 'found it hard to convince manufacturers to make full use of the creative environment that a digital magazine offers'. Monkey and iGizmo not affected
 

April: iPad launch in the US

May: Apple launches the iPad in the UK. Claims 300,000 sales on the first day.

Newspapers and magazines such as Wired, The Spectator and the Financial Times release iPad apps to read their stories in a format that tries to mimic the printed page. The FT wins 'best iPad app' award for its free offering, which is downloaded 150,000 time in 3 weeks; the August edition of Press Gazette gave the total as 250,000 (p6). iPad screen is 9.7 inches diagonally, compared with the iPhone's 3.5in
  May: VW releases free customer magazine as iPad app DAS (Digital Automotive Space) also set up as a website in June. The plan was to publish the app quarterly in five languages across Europe
  Economist hails mobile-phone-based magazine sales strategy Readers elect to receive mobile text message summarising the main stories from the issue about to go to press. They can then buy that issue by replying, triggering a charge to their credit card. Issue is then delivered overnight. Magazine reports operating profit had climbed 3% to £58m with copy sales at 1.4m a week.
  August: Dazed & Confused released as free app for Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch Dazed co-founder Jefferson Hack said: 'From fold-out poster to iPad app, Dazed has come a long way since its birth almost two decades ago. With the new app, a whole new audience of culturally aware iPad and iPhone users will be introduced to Dazed.' The digital magazine was based on Exact Editions Precisely platform
  September: iPad 'changing the rules of digital publishing' A report on the Yudu website suggested people were spending far more time browsing the iPad app for GQ and Vanity Fair than they were the websites (from 2-4 minutes a month to 60)
  Segmentation of digital publishing strategies

Publishers talk of discrete digital channels:

  • smartphone 'snackers' who want news, sports and other snippets in the early morning and evening;
  • PC users who want access to valuable information from websites;
  • users of the iPad, Kindle and other e-readers ot tablets who see the device as nearer a magazine and are used to paying for 'cool' apps.

Mobile apps tended to be:

  • free branded sampler of news and reviews;
  • paid-for content at, say £2.99, but with mobile advertising between screens;
  • ad-free premium versions at, say, £10.99;
  • subscriptions to a print magazine and app at a 10-20% discount to the full print subscription. Buyers are likely to be upmarket 'early adopters' who are attractive to advertisers and improve the magazine's readership profile.

Some publishers see the iPad as an opportunity to improve the image of their print brand and appeal to a younger or more upmarket audience. Selling mobile advertising is difficult because web banners are not suitable for small screens. Also iPad apps cannot display the level of advertising as print pages and there is no equivalent of a spread.

Another problem is Apple's control of the iPhone / iPad customer and the potential for publishers to earn revenue from digital subscriptions and digital advertising.

  Wired iPad app sales plummet Sales fall from 100,000 in June to about 28,000 in August for the Adobe-based app
    Apple reported sales at the end of September of more than 8m iPads. Goldman Sachs expects Apple to ship 37m iPads in 2011
  FT combines print and digital sales Evidence of digital segmentation with the Financial Times announcing combined global print and digital paid-for circulation measure to be released each quarter. This is in addition to print data from the Audit Bureau of Circulation. At the same time, the paper withdrew from ABCelectronic. 'We aren't a volume site so we are looking to measure ourselves against registered users and subscriptions,' FT deputy director of communications Tom Glover told Magforum
  Poll on magazine reading/browsing in 2020 Exact Editions ran an online survey in October 2010 asking people's opinions about their future reading habits, How will we read magazines? See poll results.
  iPad advertising revenue Financial Times deputy chief executive Ben Hughes tells Campaign (15 October 2010, P12) iPad app has generated more than £1 million in advertising revenue since it launched in May. More than 400,000 subscribers had signed up for the app and it accounted for one in 10 of the newspaper's new digital subscriptions. In total, paying digital subscribers had risen by half in a year to 189,022. In addition, FT.com had three million registered users. Daily print circulation was 401,898. The paper began accepting Paypal as well as credit cards
   

December:Seven launched Project, a monthly amagazine app, for Virgin

At the New York launch, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson stressed the advertising potential: 'It's a truly interactive digital magazine ... it's going to make advertising a hundred times more efficient.' 'You can even play with the adverts.'

  Oppolis analysis shows more than half of reviewers had a problem with an iPad app

At the launch of its GoMobile tablet publishing software, Oppolis showed the results of a survey of 800 reviews of iPad magazines. Among the results were:

  • 385 out of 800 (48%) gave negative reviews;
  • 206 cited poor delivery (won't download, slow, errors, etc); 47 complained about the user interface; 54 had issues with the content; and 78 had more than one negative comment;
  • More than half of the negative reviewers complained about not being able to download the magazine they had paid for;
  • One magazine had 110 reviews and of these, 80 reviewers gave it 1 star mainly based on poor delivery.
  Kindle 'is bestseller' on Amazon says Bezos, though he does not state figures

Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said: 'We're grateful to the millions of customers who have made the all-new Kindle the bestselling product in the history of Amazon - surpassing Harry Potter 7 [Deathly Hallows].' [Amazon.com lists HP7 as its 80th bestselling book.]

'We're seeing that many of the people who are buying Kindles also own an LCD tablet. Customers report using their LCD tablets for games, movies, and web browsing and their Kindles for reading sessions. They report preferring Kindle for reading because it weighs less, eliminates battery anxiety with its month-long battery life, and has the advanced paper-like Pearl e-ink display that reduces eye-strain, doesn't interfere with sleep patterns at bedtime, and works outside in direct sunlight, an important consideration especially for vacation reading. Kindle's $139 price point is a key factor -- it's low enough that people don't have to choose.'

2011 Researchers say iPad sales are hitting PC sales

In a report on PC sales, IDC has said ‘Growth steadily slowed throughout 2010 as weakening demand and competition from the Apple iPad constrained PC shipments’.

The FT backs this up with a Gartner study, saying: ‘IDC and Gartner, in separate reports issued on Wednesday, said total shipments were less than previous projections.’

IDC estimates that about 17m tablets were shipped by manufacturers in 2010, most of them from Apple, and that figure is expected to reach 44m in 2011, alongside 385m PCs.

Feb Murdoch launches The Daily, an iPad newspaper News International chief joined by Apple execuitve Eddy Cue (stepping in for Stteve Jobs). 'A newspaper that’s both old-fashioned and cutting-edge' that will sell for 99 cents a week or $40 a year.
    Yudu 'webinar' with US publishing group Seybold based on case study of four-title Canadian publisher Rapid Media's move to iPad. Recording and slides available with registration
  June 7: Financial Times launches web-based app based on HTML5 for smartphones and tablets, bypassing Apple. Works on Android phones and Motorola Xoom as well as Apple products FT avoids need to go through iTunes - which has credit card details for 225m people. Plays off 30% take by Apple against app store's ease of use, but FT chief John Ridding stressed need for 'direct relationship with customers' after publishers expressed concern at Apple's reluctance to share data on the identities and behaviour of people buying apps through its shop. International Newsmedia Marketing Association voiced concern in February about rules from Apple relating to content subscriptions on iPhone and iPad. Rob Grimshaw, MD of FT.com, said the FT had no plans to pull out of any apps store, but would encourage users to adopt the web app with a marketing campaign, including a week's free access
  July: Dennis launches Padder – a fortnightly magazine app about the iPad Launch advertisers included News International, Battlefield 3, Intel and Just Mobile. First issue free, £1.19 after that
  ARM ships its 10-billionth chip core ARM
2012 Online advertising £4.8bn in 2011 Internet Advertising Bureau UK estimates online advertising increased 14.4% to £4,784 million in 2011 (April 2). This is the biggest sector, worth 27% of all ad spend. TV was 26% and press (display and classified) 25%. Online video doubled to £109m
 

Digital magazine software reviews (Feb 2012)

 

.Net magazine reviews 10 ways to make digital magazines, including Google Currents; Treesaver; Baker framework; Laker Compendium; Kindle Publishing (this was in beta and site has been closed); Adobe Digital Publishing Suite; WordPress; Magaka; doing-it-yourself; and Facebook.
May Technology Review says publishers don't like apps Online MIT magazine is dumping apps and following the Financial Times down the HTML5 route (May 2012)
June French digital newsstand Lekiosk launches app in English 600 titles for any tablet, smartphone or computer
June Huffington Post launches iPad version Huffington is the name for the weekly iPad magazine at Apple's app shop
July FT has more digital subscribers than newspaper sales FT.com subscriptions up 31%, says company. Survey says FT global audience is 2.1m people worldwide
Aug Growth of Twitter - but with mixed results Snapshot on 30 Aug: Dazed and Confused on Twitter has 405,000 followers with 13,675 following; Grazia has just 122,000; Vogue 731,000 with 1,161 followers, but just 877 following
Oct BBC shuts off the analogue TV signal - the end of the Ceefax viewdata system after 30 years

Northern Ireland is last part of UK to receive analogue, says BBC

 

  Contract publisher uses augmented reality app technology Dutch customer media publisher Label has used the Layar augmented reality app in its own publication Labelmag to demonstrate interactive print. AR apps can recognise an object seen through a smartphones or tablet camera and use it to trigger a link to a website or video or game. Other platforms include Blippar and Aurasma, which is part of Autonomy
Dec 2012 Murdoch shuts iPad paper, The Daily The Daily, needed about 500,000 subscriptions at $0.99 a week or $39.99 a year to break even, but only achieved 100,000 and was losing $30m a year
US weekly Newsweek stops publishing print edition
February 2013 PPA combines ABC circulation figures for print and digital editions

PPA, the magazine industry trade body, quoted Condé Nast MD Nicholas Coleridge: 'Digital editions of magazines are more and more important as an exciting and viable addition to print. It is essential that these are fully recognised by the ABC, if our circulations are to remain accurate and coherent.' Glamour came out top with 428,325 (4,248 digital), then Good Housekeeping (412,704; 3,378). Men's Health was the digital leader at 12,676 (215,380 in print), one of five titles to exceed 10,000
PPA combined circulation chart

June 2013 Magazines go online only as sales falls take toll on print Auto Trader announces last print edition after circulation fall from a peak of 368,000 in 2000 to 27,000 in 2013. Women's monthly More had been closed by Bauer in April and Condé Nast's 2005 launch Easy Living went online only in May. Mumsnet ran a thread on the closure

6 June 2013





Under the headline 'Growing love for digital magazines', the Guardian reports that 'more than half the British population have bought and read digital magazines', according to research by lekiosk, a digital newsstand app

13 July 2013

 

Future launches royal baby appRoyal baby app from Future

Future launches a commemorative app with the Press Association days ahead of the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first child. The iPhone and iPad app is free to download, but sells special sections, 'chapters', for 69p each. It claimed to be the first such app to feature photography of the new arrival

19 August 2013 Digital magazines: how popular are they? The Guardian analyses PPA data on digital sales compared with print
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