Raju Narisetti and Digital Journalism, Part 2

This is the second part in a series about Raju Narisetti’s presentation at the West Virginia University School of Journalism on October 29.

5. Web video offers a possible way out. At this moment, WSJ is the single largest producer of web video on the internet. There’s a demand for it. The really good part: video is the first type of journalism where the business model travels with the content.

Think about it: you can watch news anywhere, and the advertising that comes at the beginning always plays, no matter how you watch it. Boom – consistent revenue.

6. Mobile might be a threat or an opportunity, but one thing is true: it is a journalism reality. More people than ever are using mobile devices to consume data. Before you make something, ask yourself: is what I’m making going to look good on a phone? On a tablet? As you think about a package, ask yourself: “What mobile experience do I want to give?”

7. Great journalism still matters, but how people experience that journalism matters more. Most of our audience is going to be digital. The problem with that is the buffer time that used to exist for great news stories is now gone – people want their stories immediately, which is dangerous for accurate reporting.

Everyone has stories at the same time, Given the immediacy of our news environment, we can’t worry about being first – we have to worry about creating the best experience. Take something completely available to everybody and make it a unique experience, then next time something happens, people will come to you to see what you’ve created.

8. Good and bad journalism experiences come at the intersection of content and technology. A good journalism experience is made with a combination of good media and good storytelling. That being said, are you working with your programmers?

There’s a problem, though – a lot of journalists don’t know how to talk to programmers. Journalists think their words, their photos are art – everything else is just stuff.

For the IT guys, coding is art. Everything else is just stuff. So how do you speak the same language? Ask yourself this question when you’re working with a coder:

What is the end product that we want to provide? That way you can agree on how things in a news package should work and what they should do.

9. Newsrooms now face a new competitor: our advertisers. The advertisers are becoming storytellers. Look at General Electric – thanks to social media and powerful digital self-publishing, GE can circumvent journalism outlets and build their own audiences.

It’s not going to be easy to bring these advertisers back. A lot of their budgets that used to be spent on advertising are now dedicated to “content marketing,” their version of digital media packages. Overcoming these challenges requires us as journalists to shake our old notions of church and state – we need to consider native advertising and sponsored content. We can’t ignore this any further.

So how do we help advertisers spread their content? We need to make sponsored content transparent and lay down our own rules. If we don’t, that money is going away for good. At the end of the day, the competition is for the single non-renewable resource readers have – time. If we can get more of their time we can get more ads.

Look at Red Bull Stratos – 25 million people watched a man jump to earth from the top of the atmosphere, and it was all a huge marketing event. People could have spent their time anywhere, and they spent it with Red Bull.

Raju Narisetti and Digital Journalism Design, Part 1

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This is the first in a two-part series about digital journalism. Check back next week for the second half.

Last Tuesday Raju Narisetti, Senior Vice President and Deputy Head of Strategy for the new Newscorp, came to West Virginia University to spread his wisdom to the journalism school. Narisetti, or “@Raju,” has a long and prosperous history in journalism, especially digital journalism, as you can see from his Wikipedia page.

I had an opportunity to have dinner with Raju and some choice faculty from the journalism school, and he blew our minds. Immediately following, he gave a presentation that rendered speechless an entire conference room of students, professors and professionals. Plus, he’s verified on Twitter. Boom!

Raju’s presentation was one of the most important perspective-shifting moments I’ve had when thinking about digital journalism. He focused on nine ideas that all future-thinking journalists should understand.

But first! An introduction. We’re in kind of a weird spot in journalism – everyone is telling us print is dead, and people are making their careers in specific mediums. Fact is, our audiences are moving back and forth between digital mediums pretty easily. Plus, there’s more people consuming journalism than ever before, which creates an interesting problem: there’s more demand for our work, but less people paying for it and even fewer creating it.

Let it be known –

1. Print isn’t going away anytime soon, and for a pretty basic reason. In many markets, print is the best way for advertisers to reach their audiences – because of that, there will always be print products and print staff, at least in our lifetimes. Most of our revenue will come from print, and we’ll always have staff devoted to it. The money’s still in print, folks. Don’t count it out.

2. Digital advertising isn’t our savior. No matter how many clicks, views or visitors we accumulate, the revenues from digital advertising is constantly falling. Why is that?

The supply of websites is almost infinite. There are currently about 15 billion indexed web pages. If you’re an advertiser, the choices where you can run your ads have expanded dramatically. Because the supply of websites is exploding (because anybody can make one), the supply of potential ad space is huge. Because of that, it’s hard to justify hefty advertising fees.

The implications of this? If you’re going to create a new website or digital storytelling experience, you have to think about including revenue-building models into it.

Look at the New York Times’s Snowfall.  Their biggest, most expensive project and their most popular web post ever originally had no advertising built into it. As Raju said,

“It’s the most insane thing you can do in a newsroom: the thing that will get you 10 million views won’t make you a penny… Snowfall pageviews are empty calories.”

Ask yourself this question when you’re creating: How can I integrate advertising into this and make money while people are reading my journalism?

I know it’s hard, because to us, journalism is art. How could we tarnish that with an ad for consumer goods? The fact of the matter is this: We will always need advertisers, and we need to think about how we can use our digital storytelling skills and audience metadata to make money. That’s how it was with newspapers, and the story hasn’t changed now that we’ve moved to the web. Always be thinking: How can I get paid from this? It’s the only way to survive digitally.

3. Paywalls are here to stay (and struggle.) There are more than 600 papers in the U.S. with paywalls. Unfortunately, the ones who think those paywalls will solve their problems are wrong. Indeed, a paywall is a significant source of revenue, but if you see it as your final solution, you will fail. Think about paywalls in this way: can we convert flyby readers into subscribers? Are we giving them such an amazing experience that they’ll choose to pay for it?

If you can put together a mindblowing, compelling media package, people will notice it and be like “Hey, I like what they’re doing and I want more. I’ll pay for it.” It’s a journalism challenge and a media challenge.

That challenge pales in comparison to this one.

4. News has to go to the readers, they don’t have to come to us. Because of social media, people are less prone to go and explore news websites. We have to be where the people are – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr (god forbid.) Imagine the challenge in that now we have to go to the people AND make money off them. Whew.

The good news is that in 2013 the definition of a journalist must include “I will do everything that I can to bring as many people as I can to my journalism.” It’s part of your mission and job description. How can you bring people in? If you think of this promotional aspect as extra work, as stupid stuff above your excellent journalism, you will fail. If you consider promotion as part of your job, you’ll integrate it into your work and be more successful because of it. If you don’t know what it is, you should wise up and sell your soul to the SEO gods. 

Raju gave an anecdote about – who else – Miley Cyrus. As it turns out, Americans don’t know how to spell her name. Looking to capitalize on our ignorance, writers could use the misspelled versions of Miley’s name in their post’s metadata – it was totally invisible on the page, but it was picked up by search engines who directed the ignorant spellers to their stories.

Gaming the system, you say? Nay, I say – if we wrote a story, it’s our responsibility to help people find it. 

Chew on that for a while. Check back next week for the second half of Raju’s list.

Scientific American, Sexism, and a Quick Update

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Okay, so I know the blog has been quiet for a week, but I wanted you all to know why. (Breaking the 4th wall – I’ll try to make up for the shortcomings with a few extra posts over the coming week.)

So over the summer I was an intern at Scientific American magazine, and if you follow any science journalism, you’ve heard about the controversy surrounding their temporary removal of a blog post and the somewhat unrelated resignation of their legendary Blogs Editor Bora Zivkovic. Two pretty bad events that were handled very appropriately by the Scientific American staff.

On the other hand, I’m pretty upset about how the internet is handling it. There’s a lot of rhetoric, insults and general misunderstanding about the whole thing, so I blogged super hard about it for my Health and Science Reporting class. Please give this piece a read and share it. I highlight and address the parties responsible for spreading some damaging (and illogical) perspectives.

I know the work is only a logical drop in a rhetoric ocean, but it needed to be said. Here’s to hoping our nation’s most esteemed science magazine earns back some of it’s much-deserved respect.

On another note, this Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Martin Hall I’ll be speaking on a panel about finding, nailing and succeeding at high-level media internships. You should come and hang out, it’s gonna be a great time.

Also this Saturday I’ll be speaking at the School of Journalism’s Open House from 1 to 3 p.m. You should also come to that and learn more about the School of Journalism, especially if you’re a prospective student.

Other than that, look forward to posts this week about magazine branding and the New Vocabulary of Magazines. Next week I’m trying to get the coolest Q&A ever with a high-level magazine design director – it’s a secret who it is!

 

New York Magazine Web Redesign: The Elephant in the Room

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So New York Magazine debuted their new homepage yesterday, and from what I can tell, the internet is underwhelmed by the change.  Even the magazine itself is asking us to be patient, and I’m not sure why. Below is the before and after of the homepage.

Before:

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After:

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It’s true there isn’t much of a shift, but there’s a huge aspect of this website nobody else is talking about: the mobile version.

I don’t know why people aren’t reviewing the mobile version of the site. In fact, it’s kind of shocking – mobile news consumption is spiking to legendary levels, and everyone is ranting about mobile journalism being “the future.” If you are starting a news platform, you need to make it for mobile. Doing otherwise would be shortsighted, considering usage trends.

So why the hell is nobody talking about the New York mobile site?

Screw it. I’ll do it. This website is killer and obviously took a lot of work. If you ask me, the website looks and operates better on a mobile device, making New York a powerful presence in the world of digital magazines.

Let’s explore.

New York’s website has adopted a smooth, intuitive responsive design. The spans and divs flow together smoothly, and there are three “snaps” when re-sizing. It’s no secret New York is dedicated to this design – last year they tried to pretend they weren’t totally committed to it, but I’m not fooled. Responsive is awesome: it’s easier to code (than say, 3 different apps for mobile software), it creates continuity between platforms and it looks damn cool.

And that intuitive thing: there’s a running argument about the effectiveness of mobile UX, and this is nothing new. Hell, there’s an entire acronym dedicated to the interactions between human beings and technology: HF&E, or Human Factors and Ergonomics. (Spoiler alert – I’ll have a blog about this next week.)
My argument is that New York’s website is positively ergonomic. There’s only 4 swipe directions on the x and y axes, and the website is designed to promote that swipe. Look at this screencap from my phone.

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See how the second story is cut off from the right? The second I saw it I knew I had to swipe right, which led me to a revolving queue of top stories. Also see the same cutting effect at the bottom of the frame.

Also easy to comprehend is the tabs at the bottom of the frame. I don’t know what they mean (I’m not a regular reader) but made sense to snap through them. See how they’re framed? They look just like tabs in a web browser. There’s that UI/UX culture I was telling you about. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

Is that intuitive enough for you, ladies? Needless to say, I’m endlessly excited for New York Magazine – they keep moving up. They just won the Cover of the Year Award from ASME over the summer, and I don’t think they’ll be stopping this excellence anytime soon. I can’t believe I worked in the same office building as them.

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A Map of the Magazine Industry: A Work in Perpetual Motion

Like toys, cars or clothes, magazines are a consumer product. Anyone looking to publish a magazine must be able to identify and appeal to their target consumers. For many magazines, location is key – it’s hard to cover a specific community if you aren’t a part of it.

Below is a constantly-growing-ever-changing Google map of magazine headquarters around the world. One can observe trends in these locations, from the fashion magazines in New York, the political magazines in D.C., and the home & garden magazines in the Midwest.

These trends prove that magazines are an effective litmus test of culture. By looking at where these magazines are located, who they’re covering and who is subscribing, we can track the evolution of people’s cultural interests. For example, the success of the legendary “Seven Sisters” magazines is representative of a once-dominant subculture in the American Midwest: stay-at-home mothers with children and working husbands, all of whom are decidedly Caucasian. Now a few of the Seven Sisters are evolving to fit modern tastes, an act also representative of cultural shifts.

Hell, when I was adding magazines to the map off the top of my head, a large handful were New York-based and published by Condé Nast. Apparently this shows I’m interested in “provocative, influential, award-winning content.”

Like our society, magazines are constantly changing and moving. Stay on top of how they’re changing – both the content and how they’re delivering it – and you’ll know a lot about humanity.

 

National Geographic’s 125th Birthday Party is on Tumblr (and it’s wild)

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One of the oldest legacies in magazine journalism, National Geographic Magazine, is having it’s 125th anniversary this year. To celebrate, they’re highlighting the driving force behind the magazine: photography. They’re hosting a huge crunchy speaker series in Arizona, their October issue is full of their best photography, and they’re highlighting some of the best work on their website.

And oh yeah – like every 13-year-old girl, they made a Tumblr. And I think it’s one of the smartest things they’ve ever done.

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I know what you’re all thinking about Tumblr, and I want you to throw it out the window. If you’re an adult like me, NatGeoFound is probably the coolest Tumblr feed you’ve ever seen. It’s a daily helping of photography from throughout NatGeo’s history, with every picture dated and captioned. Scrolling down the feed is nothing short of an intense experience.

And as I’ll argue after the photography break, getting on Tumblr fits National Geographic’s strategic plans in a number of beautiful ways. The photos in this post (barring the GIF of Gary Coleman) came from NatGeoFound.  Check out the feed. I know it will be hard, but please come back.

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Photography has long been the cornerstone of National Geographic. They’ve successfully positioned themselves as the leading force in photojournalism, and many a user has been enthralled by their work. The Tumblr feed is mesmerizing.

Another interesting aspect of National Geographic Magazine is their forward-thinking bent. I guess you don’t last 125 years without learning something. Making this Tumblr signals NatGeo’s focus on adapting to the digital future of journalism, something hinted at in this interview with NatGeo Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns. He really showed NatGeo’s digital aspirations in this quote:

“We aim to be the leader in visual factual entertainment. The blurring of the lines between photography and video and between print and digital platforms has created a rich environment for us to experiment with immersive storytelling that amplifies voice and helps people connect more deeply with our coverage across editorial and social platforms.”

So why is this Tumblr a good idea? Let’s explore with a list.

If they want to stay relevant, they need to engage a younger audience. Flip through a NatGeo and you’ll notice almost all the magazines are geared towards an older demographic. The median subscriber age is around 45, according to their own measurements. And I hate to be morbid, but let’s be realistic: these folks are gonna die eventually. Nat Geo Kids is cool and all, but most of those subscriptions are coming from parents who already have their kid hooked on the actual magazine.

Having a Tumblr is a fantastic way to engage an audience that is probably heavily invested in the internet already. Get them hooked on Nat Geo photography now and they’ll be readers for life. Speaking of photography…

Tumblr is a visual platform. It’s driven by images, even if most of these images are sepia-tone shots of vintage crap overlaid with words.

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Case in point. Decidedly not NatGeo.

Still, Tumblr users have an appreciation for photography, and while they may end up slapping some pithy quotes on these photos, Nat Geo has an untapped audience here. Hell, they have an untapped audience all over the internet, because…

Everyone is visually oriented. Videos, GIFs, photos, tweets – the internet is shifting towards a culture of easily digested visual content. And that’s no surprise, considering human beings are visually-oriented creatures. Maybe that’s one factor in National Geographic’s massive success so far.

The best part about this Tumblr is the symbolism. Nat Geo is really following through with their plan to establish a powerful internet presence, which is refreshing. A year ago then-CEO John Fahey hinted at the potential end of a print product, and I couldn’t believe it. Even making this Tumblr is a good step forward for the magazine, and it represents a level of quality and forethought missing from other major publishers. Lets hope the new CEO, former NPR man Gary Knell, is just as innovative.

Take a hint, magazine world. Nat Geo is old as dirt and is still whipping all your butts.

The Covers of the Century – UK Edition

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A quick heads-up about a cool thing going down on the other side of the pond: The Professional Publishers Association, a UK-based publication organization, is hosting a “Cover of the Century” competition.

The PPA has chosen ten finalists for the competition, including covers from Vogue, Cosmopolitan, MacUser (what?) and TimeOut London.

For us Yankee users, some of these magazine covers might seem odd. (Wait, did I just call magazine readers “users?”)

Still, some of these covers are pretty awesome. From a cover featuring Darth Vader that plays audio of his iconic breathing to a photo of Kate Moss looking casual in the Crown Jewels, you’ll be entertained.

Go visit and cast your vote.

 

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Why I Paid for the Adobe Creative Cloud: A Manifesto

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So if you aren’t up to speed on the Adobe Creative Cloud software, read this blog post and educate yo’self. This is not a review, this is a manifesto.

I did it. I just subscribed to the Adobe Creative Cloud, and as I type this, I’m downloading Illustrator and Photoshop.

For what I have done, computer gurus and broke graphic designers everywhere will scoff and criticize me. They will turn their nose up at me and say:

“Why pay for Adobe when you can torrent it for free?”

"Yeah, why?" *heavy mouth breathing*

“Yeah, why?” *heavy mouth breathing*

Indeed, their question is relevant. Why would I, an already struggling college student, voluntarily choose to pay for software? Out of the people I know who use Adobe, literally all of them have pirated versions.

So yes, why would I choose to pay for Adobe?

I didn’t do it just because I wanted the best design software on the market, I did it because I stand for something. Below I justify my decision.

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Someday, I want to be paid for what I create. A few years ago, I used to sell class notes online through a now-defunct service, and I was actually making some money. It helped defer my living fees and relax a bit – students who didn’t attend class could buy the study guides I made. For the final exam, I spent hours creating a 15-page guide and sold them online for $3, advertising them through emails to classmates.

The day after I put the study guide online, a guy bought it, attached it to an email, and sent it out to everyone in our 400-person class. The email said:

“Some douchebag is trying to charge us for notes, so you’ll find them attached.”

Good Guy Greg?

Good Guy Greg?

I was crushed. I made no money off that final study guide. Upset, I emailed him and attempted to explain his wrongdoing, but he didn’t care. He held me responsible, saying I was trying to “screw over the class for money.”
It was after that I realized: this is how artists must feel when they see their music pirated. After that I swore off pirating music – now I use Spotify to get all my music and stay legal. I do the same with my software.

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I respect Adobe. Adobe has been in the game a long time, and there’s a reason they’re the best – they work hard. For their intense influence on the business (and my own work) I have the utmost respect. To continue to produce their software regularly with a relatively lax approach to internet pirates is impressive and admirable. I’m glad to see they’ve finally taken a step and offered financially-challenged people a hand.

I want to obey the law. More and more of our lives are spent online, and the lines between our corporeal identities and our digital ones are blurring. In that respect, we are becoming more transparent thanks to the internet. I will not steal something on the internet – soon, it will have the same impact as theft in real life.
Yeah, laugh at me. But see what happens after you download that last season of Breaking Bad and your Internet Service Provider knocks on your door with a subpoena. I think you’ll change your tune.

I believe in a respectful internet economy. Since Napster took off in the 90s, the internet has been a hive of illicit software trading, from music to movies and the aforementioned Adobe software. The people who share these files think nothing of the original creators, the true heroes who wrote songs, filmed movies, developed software. Sharing files adds a sense of rebellion, of refusal to participate in the Fat Cat’s scheme – I know, I’ve felt it. Adobe software typically costs thousands of dollars – beating the system and getting them for free wasn’t just a rush, it was practical.

But times have changed. The rampant downloading of illegal software has caused corporations to crack down on downloading. One only needs to look at SOPA and CISPA to see that the entertainment industry’s copyright lobby is hard at work in Washington. Thus we’ve created a warring dichotomy – the torrenters keep finding new ways to hide themselves and share their files, and the corporations are battling to shut down the free internet almost entirely.
But I believe in something different. I believe in an internet where, out of respect for the creators, people pay for software, music and entertainment. It’s not that they can’t pirate something – it’s that they don’t want to. The future internet purchaser understands how much time it took to develop software, film a movie, or create a piece of art. They empathize with the creators because they too probably create and sell things it online.

If the internet was full of more people like this who respect the law and respect the economy, the dichotomy between copyright warriors and renegade torrenters wouldn’t exist, and the free-internet-dissolving talks of industry leaders wouldn’t be happening.

I believe in a future where we can trade information freely and pay respectfully for the hard work of others. Is that a reason to criticize me?

/endrant.

Signed,
Bryan Bumgardner
A happy Adobe customer

Game of Thrones and Flipboard

Here on &DESIGN I’m all about redefining the term “magazine” – it’s not just print exclusive anymore. So imagine my satisfaction when I heard this news: Flipboard, the digital media curator app that calls itself a magazine, released two new totally custom magazines, one of which is devoted to Game of Thrones.

Mandatory Khaleesi.

Mandatory Khaleesi.

I’ll focus on the Game of Thrones magazine for this post. Titled “The World of Ice and Fire,” it’s being officially run by the GoT fan site Westeros.org and is being promoted by Random House Publishing.

I guess the whole thing is just a huge nerd-out place for everyone who is a fan of George R.R. Martin’s work, the author of GoT. It looks like the articles are going to focus on news surrounding Martin’s work.

Remember all that preaching I’ve been doing about magazine branding? It’s more relevant now than ever, considering people are starting to fill their lives with echo chambers of internet media. If you want to connect with readers, you have to offer them something they can’t get somewhere else and offer it in a way that makes them feel like part of a community. Hell, look at this Flipboard Magazine – these people had a brand and community and no magazine representing them, so it popped up all on it’s own.

And oh yeah – Flipboard says users have created over 2 million of these unique magazines. Looks like the print people are going to have to get serious, and soon – winter is coming.

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Adobe Cloud: The future standard for designers?

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Although I touched on this in a previous article, I thought it deserved a post all on it’s own.

Adobe, the company responsible for developing the software that is used almost universally across the print publishing business, has undergone a pretty dramatic change, and not everybody is happy about it.

In a bold move, Adobe has shifted it’s membership plan to a subscription service, meaning customers can now pay monthly fees for software access rather than a one-time payment.

Software like Photoshop and InDesign, recognizable names in the Adobe Master Suite, are now being offered through the Creative Cloud. No longer will you be able to buy an Adobe disk in a store – everything is subscription only.

This is a big deal for everyone in the publishing business, from huge corporate customers to independent designers. Number one, because the Cloud could allow for groundbreaking innovation on the corporate level. Number two, because Photoshop is so expensive, an estimated 60 percent of all Photoshop users are using pirated software, which thanks to the Cloud, has become more affordable.

So can this software take off? Adobe seems to think so, and the numbers support them: profit is going up even as designers across the internet complain, with more than 40,000 signing a Change.org petition to end the subscription service. 

So why does this matter? Think crowdsourcing.

Just as print media has become more collective through the use of mobile media, with Adobe’s switch to cheaper cloud software, more people will have access to cutting-edge graphic design technology. All the pirates will finally be able to drop their ancient copy of CS2 and grab the new stuff, which I predict will change the design landscape a bit.

Consider it: for cheaper, universities and small design collectives will be able to pick up this software, and as we’ve seen with the cameras on cellphones, the more people who have technology, the more previously-untapped talent that comes forward.

I’m wary of difficulties, however. Here are some of my biggest concerns from a designer’s standpoint.

Will the frequency of upgrades increase with this service? A few hours of unannounced upgrade down-time can put even the biggest magazine’s daily flow into a tailspin. If there are going to be more upgrades, they need to be announced and easy to install.

Will third party extensions and plugins still work with the cloud Suite? These extensions connect the dots for designers, often being an integral part of the workflow. The humble BPelt plugin is a massive favorite among web graphic designers and cartoonists. Take things like BPelt off the table and you’ll lose customers.

Will anyone even buy Creative Cloud? Its already been pirated, yo ho ho. But I think this is missing the point. It’s never going to stop the hardcore hackers who download everything, but it’s going to probably sway the casual torrenter to think about going legit.

I hope as more people subscribe we start to see less knee-jerk opinions and more critical thought about this upgrade. In the meantime I’ll continue to enjoy my university’s CS6 subscription.