Skiff: Preserving the print experience in digital devices
Skiff, the Hearst-backed e-reader venture, is lining up additional partners and developing apps for different device types as it prepares to release its digital storefront and its own e-reader device by the end of the year.
Last month’s announcement that Skiff would be the “preferred e-reading service partner” for Samsung smartphones is indicative of Skiff’s efforts to create a digital storefront that delivers digital publications to multiple devices, not just its own e-reader. Skiff plans to support Android- and Linux-based devices and is also developing an iPhone/iPad app, according to Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, Skiff’s chief marketing officer.
In an interview, Van Rensselaer said Skiff expects to announce at least two additional OEM partnerships before Skiff launches. “There are a variety of OEM partners and device makers who will have an opportunity to carry the digital storefront,” he said. “It will also be available in the various app stores, such as the Android Market.”
Van Rensselaer restated Skiff’s emphasis on a “publisher friendly” model that creates an electronic reading experience that’s “reminiscent” of print, with authentic layouts, native fonts and display advertising.
“With newspapers in particular, this is really important for migrating readers from print to digital,” he said. “Of course you can add other sizzle to it, but it has to be reminiscent of the print experience.”
The advertising system is a key piece of the Skiff service. Van Rensselaer described a turnkey insertion system that provides a variety of advertising specs and sizes based on the screen size of the supported device. The company has developed a series of templates that allocate real estate for different size ads.
Skiff has performed research with “one of the world’s biggest advertisers” to validate the most consumer-friendly advertising formats for digital newspapers and magazines, Van Rensselaer said. It’s no surprise, he said, that those ads will resemble what you now see in print publications.
“These will look like print ads,” he said, adding that newspapers and magazines are two of the only media vehicles in which consumers are accepting of ads. “There’s something there to work with. We have to do that respectfully in order to preserve the lean-back reading experience.
“The emphasis will be more around visual display, and the impact that has, so the advertisers that are currently spending billions on print advertising will be able to preserve those investments.”
The Skiff system does support interactive ads – allowing readers to “touch through” to access additional information or conduct a transaction – but Van Rensselaer said interactivity would probably be more of a “phase 2” approach after the initial launch.
“That’s really something we want to ease our way into,” he explained. “We have to get the actual display ad right first to demonstrate that it’s an effective way to bring consumers together with marketers.
“If you’re trying to stay religious about preserving the things in print, you don’t want to be too aggressive by forcing consumers to be interactive.”
Van Rensselaer did not offer details on the revenue cut that Skiff will take from publishers, but did say “it’s the most attractive economics we’ve seen out there. The majority of the subscriber and advertising revenue gets thrown back to the publisher.”