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Ask Slashdot: How To Deliver a Print Magazine Online, While Avoiding Piracy?

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the please-don't-steal-this-magazine dept.

The Internet 298

An anonymous reader writes "I work for a technical magazine that has been available in print for over 40 years. Moving to providing an alternative subscription available online has been hard; the electronic version is quickly pirated and easily available around the world each month. We are a small company, and our survival depends not only on advertising but on the subscription fees. Do any slashdotters have experience of delivering electronic magazines via a subscription service in a way that is cost effective and secure?"

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Fingerprint it! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343565)

The best approach for dealing with piracy is making it easy to go after those that do it, without making it harder for everyone else. There are a number of good fingerprinting / watermarking schemes around. Try that as first approach with a readable "This copy has been bought by XXX" marker on the first or second page to make it obvious that it is a personalized copy.

Re:Fingerprint it! (2)

OpticalPaul (936448) | about a year ago | (#44343741)

Watermarking can be considered in addition to "secure document" techniques, such as password-protected PDF files. While technology cannot prevent piracy (and just as a printed magazine can be photocopied or scanned and shared), technology can remind users to behave. If each copy can be traced to the original user, those users should be disincented from piracy. Finding a balance between security and usability may be a more difficult issue to resolve.

Re:Fingerprint it! (3, Informative)

sqlrob (173498) | about a year ago | (#44343851)

Password protected PDF secure? You're kidding, right?

My wife and I had some password protected PDFs that wouldn't open on our e-readers. I stripped the passwords in about 5 seconds, since I had the passwords because we were authorized users. No problems reading on our devices after that.

These PDFs were part of a collection, some were passworded, most were not. My wife and I both had the same password even though we downloaded with differing credentials, so I'm assuming everybody got the same password. Security, what's that?

Re:Fingerprint it! (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#44344009)

Not only that there are plenty of PDF password strippers out there that if you have a quad or better (and considering you can get AMD quads for like $70 its kinda nuts not to have at least a quad) can go through entire rainbow tables in no time at all, just set it to use dual cores and you can keep doing other stuff while it runs in the background.

I'd say the best bet is the watermarks but they'll have to be well hidden as its too easy to strip a watermark out if its obvious, maybe have an obvious personalization watermark and a second hidden one with a code that can be traced back to the purchaser, that way you go after the source without punishing your readers.

And I'd like to say how proud I am of this community right now, here is a legitimate small business trying to stay alive and instead of the usual "Just accept getting ripped off, information wants to be free!" bullshit instead there is actual discussion on how best to protect his content while still giving the customers a good experience. If everyone would work together and find compromises like this maybe we could actually show its possible to sell digitally without nasty DRM schemas like SecuROM, we've had Steam show us the way for games but there is still a lot of work that needs doing for e-books and other works and its just nice to see it being discussed like rational adults instead of breaking down into dogmas and bullshit.

Re:Fingerprint it! (1)

dos1 (2950945) | about a year ago | (#44344103)

You miss the point. If you have password to the file, you can strip it with no effort. Even some popular PDF readers can save copy of the file without password, there's no need for additional software.

Re:Fingerprint it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344157)

There should be both obvious and hidden watermarks. The former to make it more obvious that this is a personal copy that is not to be distributed, and the latter to identify those who distributed anyway.

Re:Fingerprint it! (2)

bazmail (764941) | about a year ago | (#44343769)

Good thinking. And when your laptop is stolen/infected with a trojan and your files eventually make their way onto the net, you can be sued. Everybody wins.

Re:Fingerprint it! (0)

murdocj (543661) | about a year ago | (#44343921)

right... "Oh, I didn't post those files on the Internet, some virus stole my pdfs and posted them". Really?

Re:Fingerprint it! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344013)

Hey, anything to eschew responsibility so they can enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor while actively undermining any efforts to make a living at it (even though that means soon the authors will have to go do something else and there'll be no more new content from them.)

Re:Fingerprint it! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344043)

it happens, you retarded fuck

Re:Fingerprint it! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343781)

For a technical magazine with a thousand subscribers that might work, but in general this technique is dumb. So what if a DVD leaked online which was watermarked as belonging to Anonymous C. Oward ? There's zero liability due to viruses and trojans. The risk of public shaming will not secure the computers of the world (if only it would be that easy... "THIS is the picture of the idiot who wants to increase his manhood by software").

Re:Fingerprint it! (5, Interesting)

murdocj (543661) | about a year ago | (#44343931)

How about if you know who posted the last copy online, he doesn't get any more issues? Assuming that most people are honest (and I believe they are) makes it easy to weed out the jerks.

Re: Fingerprint it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344049)

Zero liability with trojans/viruses isn't compatible with the notion that people are responsible for what happens on their ip-addresses with hacked wifi. Not that I agree with any of those ideas but it seems to be analogous. I do believe watermarking is the way to go, it would be as effective as you can go without making it a hassle for the paying customer.

Re:Fingerprint it! (5, Insightful)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about a year ago | (#44343941)

Nah.

The best approach for dealing with piracy is making your content easily accessible, hassle-free (i.e., no DRM), and offered at a fair price.

Re:Fingerprint it! (1)

sa3 (628661) | about a year ago | (#44344117)

Buying a single copy of each issue by creating a new account each time would bypass this form of protection.

The online version would need to host every page for on demand access instead of providing downloads.

wrong approach (4, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#44344149)

the wrong approach for dealing with piracy is going after those who do it.

the right approach is offering something which doesn't give them a reason to "pirate" it. Not to mention that the term isn't even correct, you can't pirate an ebook/magazine.

example: having your magazine available worldwide without restrictions.
example: offering something in the digital version that print doesn't.

TLDR version: put in effort to make a good magazine instead of doing the lazy step of "we need more control to deal with piracy"

You can't avoid piracy (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343569)

So just make it cheap and easy for real subscribers. If it's not worth someone's time to pirate something, they won't. Also, add something that can't be pirated, like an expert's forum, with article authors participating.

Re:You can't avoid piracy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343675)

you realize that you are saying "you can't avoid piracy so you need to blend it with something that ... can't be pirated!?"

Re:You can't avoid piracy (1)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | about a year ago | (#44343829)

And? It's a proven working business model.

Re:You can't avoid piracy (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343733)

Your problem is ill conceived, you are grudgingly moving to the web because that's what everybody's doing, but you aren't really willing to change the business model and ask for a way to keep things working like before. I have some bad news for you: the web is a completely new medium and you need to adapt or disappear - technical journals will survive for some time but they will eventually die just like the rest of the print media.

To elaborate the parent's post: give it away for free, with a limit of free articles per device, a.k.a porous paywall [slate.com] . The heavy users will buy a subscription while the casual users willing to pirate but not subscribe will get the articles free contributing to your advertising revenue, which generally pays little for repeat visitors.

Re:You can't avoid piracy (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343737)

The expert's forum is an excellent idea. I often read the article comments for valuable insights beyond the article.

This makes me think the best way is to deliver the "magazine" in a continuous flow instead of as a "monthly". On the web, monthly magazines make no sense. Publish an article every few days and link between articles such as part 1 and part 2.

Who wants to pirate one day at a time? Who wants to have to sort and organize multi-part articles? This increases the labor for the pirates and actually gives you some labor flexibility on producing content.

Re: You can't avoid piracy (1)

Panaflex (13191) | about a year ago | (#44343783)

Seriously - listen up to this.

You need to be posting videos, extra articles, guest articles and all things awesome online.

You need to talk up your online swag in your magazine and make it part of the experience. And you want it to be part of the total experience of owning the magazine. Indispensable in other words.

Re:You can't avoid piracy (5, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year ago | (#44343843)

I agree that you are looking at the wrong numbers. Who cares how many people are reading (pirating) it? You should only care about how many people are paying for it, and work to increase that number. One thing that comes to mind is special deals with advertisers that are keyed off the individual user name. Don't have a paid account? Don't get 15% off a widget... This could also be more advertising revenue.

Re:You can't avoid piracy (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44344145)

I'd mod you up if I had mod points.

I wish more folks would understand this. If you make the content reasonably priced and you use a format that's available cross platform, then you shouldn't have any trouble selling enough copies to pay for production and a tidy profit.

The cost of DRM can easily wipe out the proceeds of hundreds of subscriptions, or more, without guaranteeing a single additional subscription. And in all likelihood the magazine will be pirated within a day or two of release anyways.

Re:You can't avoid piracy (1)

bfandreas (603438) | about a year ago | (#44343867)

You'll also have to take publication frequency into account. If you are running a daily rag, then piracy will not be an issue as long as you can provide faster than the pirates. If it is a monthly rag you might have to reconsider.
The best thing to do is actually to have a tablet app with a no-fuss subscription. Also you'll need a website with free articles and a link to the app in cas you won't get featured. Also being available via Amazon and B&N helps. Ease of purchase is the key here. And you'll obviously need to know your audience. If you do a knitware magazine then going purely digital might not be such a bright idea.

I would start worrying if you weren't pirated.

If the content can be accessed... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343571)

then it can be pirated.

I always read that word "piracy"... (2)

David Betz (2845597) | about a year ago | (#44343575)

... as "privacy", which makes it make more sense.

Welcome to the internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343577)

Where have you been?

Flexpaper, CloudCrowd, or other third party tools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343583)

Use third party tools such as Flexpaper or CloudCrowd to display PDFs on a website while securing the document from being downloaded. Flexpaper offers a cool interface to display magazines.

Re:Flexpaper, CloudCrowd, or other third party too (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year ago | (#44343631)

Won't work. You can't prevent people from making screenshots. Yes, that's more work, but it only takes one person to subscribe and go to the trouble of taking screenshots of every page and compiling a PDF from them, and then uploading it on BitTorrent.

Not only that, who the fuck wants to read PDFs online using some shitty in-browser viewer? Not me; I'd never subscribe to something that made me jump through hoops like that. If I can't download the PDFs and be able to read them offline (like when I'm on a plane), then I don't want it.

Re:Flexpaper, CloudCrowd, or other third party too (4, Insightful)

ttucker (2884057) | about a year ago | (#44343677)

The only people punished by DRM are the ones paying money....

Re:Flexpaper, CloudCrowd, or other third party too (5, Informative)

easyTree (1042254) | about a year ago | (#44343849)

Agreed. I just made the mistake of buying an audiobook on audible.co.uk. Never again. They expect you to install a downloader just to get the content; plus the downloader isn't triggered from all browsers so a change of browser might be needed. Once you've actually got the content, there are device-synchronization and audible-drm-compatible-player issues. Who wants to go through all that ? Unfortunately the content wasn't available on bt so I can't resort to that as a means of making it the content accesible in a way that suits me. To add insult to injury, audible 'allow' me as a customer to burn a limited number of books to CD but... drumroll... this process has a dependency on iTunes. WTH? I suppose I should know better as it's now owned by Amazon :S

What a great future we all have to look forwards to when any remaining audiobook-content creators still in competition with Amazon are no longer :S:S:S:S:S

Re:Flexpaper, CloudCrowd, or other third party too (2)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#44343739)

I think that's what Adobe's content creation apps do. You create nice small vector-graphics and text documents, then generate a 400Mb multi-page jpeg.

Re:Flexpaper, CloudCrowd, or other third party too (1, Interesting)

melikamp (631205) | about a year ago | (#44343761)

Exactly. If the OP wants to be respectful toward the readers, delivering an online magazine is very simple. Remove ads, put everything online under CC-BY-SA (https, no paywall, no login required to read), create a downloadable pdf for offline viewers, and start a donation drive. I promise you near-zero effective piracy rate. There will be sites with exact copies, but no one will use them or link to them because they will have ads, and your site will actually be the most convenient source. If you can't get enough in donations, then no one wants your magazine, and you should probably diversify your business.

Re:Flexpaper, CloudCrowd, or other third party too (3, Insightful)

murdocj (543661) | about a year ago | (#44343955)

Sounds good. You should do the same with your work. There are lots of people competing for jobs, so you should just show up and work for free, and if someone wants to make a donation to you, great.

Impossible (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343593)

If text can be read, it can't be secured.

Impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343601)

Screen capture, video capture, etc.

Just price it low enough that everyone buys it.

Anything over $1.99 and people will pirate it.

Not sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343603)

Unless you can offer something in print that you can't get as conveniently elsewhere, maybe your company should accept that this business model is dead.

I'm sure its not the answer you wanted but progress cannot be stopped.

xmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343609)

DRM sounds right, users would love it too...

DRM Free (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343643)

There are two types of people. Type 1 will pirate. Type 2 won't. DRM doesn't stop Type 1. DRM does stop Type 2 from enjoying your product. Type 1 will discover your product and then look for a pirated copy. Type 2 will stumble across a pirated copy and then subscribe to your product.

Your basic question is whether there are enough Type 2 people to make it worth your while to offer an electronic version. My answer is: I have no idea. I only know that as a Type 2 person myself, if I am interested in your product, it is much more valuable to me without DRM, because then I can view it in a way I like and introduce other Type 2 people to it who may also subscribe.

Re:DRM Free (5, Insightful)

Ragzouken (943900) | about a year ago | (#44343803)

The simplicity is appealing, but you're just wrong. Some people will buy if they can't pirate. Some people will buy if pirating is difficult. Some people will buy if buying is easy. There are all kinds of people out there.

DRM == no sale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343857)

For some Type 2 people, it's even more clearcut.

I'm a Type 2 person and I gladly buy things that I enjoy. However, never under any circumstances will I buy something that's DRM-protected, because it means that I own nothing and I might lose access to it.

DRM-protected content is only leased, not purchased property. I'm not interested in a lease.

So for me there's no question, DRM means no sale.

Re:DRM Free (4, Insightful)

runeghost (2509522) | about a year ago | (#44343907)

Also, Type 1 (pirates) can easily turn into Type 2 (paying customers) when their circumstances change. Often pirates are people who literally cannot become customers. Many college students have abundant time but little money, inclining them to pirate readily while making purchasing an unattractive option. After graduating and (hopefully) acquiring a somewhat lucerative job and a busier schedule they'll happily pay a reasonable price to save themselves some now-precious time.

But if you make it too hard to access your content, you're going to end up shooting yoursefl in the foot. Bury your content behind a secure and obnoxious paywall and sure, Type 1's won't ever see a pirated copy, but neither will they potentially become future customers, because they never developed a taste for your content. And many Type 2's will decline to spend their precious time (even 5 or 10 minutes may end up being too much if there are other options available to them) dealing with your DRM. And that's assuming you don't manage to kill your own word of mouth (or even search engine presence) by locking up your content.

Obviously the precise impact of your DRM will vary depending on the nature of your content, but in many cases (I personally think it's the vast majority of cases) pirates don't represent any loss in current sales, but do represent potential future sales.

troll here. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343647)

Unfortunately, the /. crowd (or at least the younger ones) believe that information wants to be free.

Among others:
- How dare you put ads and cookies? It's an invasion of privacy!
- Paywall? Everything is a rehash from AP/ Reuters!
- We don't need journalists...we have bloggers!
- We're just trying out things on piratebay before we buy it....if it wasn't free in the first place, we would've never paid for it in the first place, hence it's not theft.
- it's not theft because you can make infinite copies.
- I want to buy it, not license it. If I paid for something, I *own* it.

blah blah, side-arguments to copyright and such, and how the system is broken.

Re:troll here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343909)

It's nice to see a fellow information anarchist. Welcome...

Re:troll here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344169)

By creating a new thread instead of replying to the person that actually made similar arguments, you are showing yourself as setting up a straw man argument.

Don't worry (4, Insightful)

Alomex (148003) | about a year ago | (#44343653)

Don't worry about it. A regular paper magazine can be "pirated" by loaning the issue to friends. You actually want that, because the more people are familiar with your magazine and the more they read it, the likelier they are to subscribe.

Re:Don't worry (4, Insightful)

brit74 (831798) | about a year ago | (#44344029)

Yeah, but there's only one copy of the magazine and the owner generally wants it back. Plus if the borrower is borrowing a copy every month, it gets onerous and makes him look like a cheap freeloader to his friend. Conversely, when people pirate on the internet, one upload means that a million people can get a copy, they get a permanent copy, they never worry about giving it back, and they don't look like an onerous freeloader to his friends.

My point is that there are more limitations and disincentives to borrowing a physical magazine than there is to digital piracy. This produces stronger incentives for a physical borrower to buy his own subscription than digital piracy does. As a result, creators see digital piracy as much more threatening than physical piracy. (This is the same reason creators see libraries as less problematic than digital piracy.)

An Idea (dumb?, good? you decide) (4, Interesting)

raftpeople (844215) | about a year ago | (#44343659)

Make the advertisements and credits for your web site part of your content in a way that it's too much work to remove so the copied versions retain this stuff. Like watermarks in images, maybe an article delivered as an image with advertising and credits, etc. Then embed tracking links so you can demonstrate to advertisers the total "viewage".

Well now (3, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#44343661)

This should be interesting...

Is Slashdot REALLY the place you think you'll get the best advice on this topic? I expect you're mostly going to hear from people who expect everything available for free.

In any case - do you know for sure piracy is causing significant issues for you? Just because something IS available on torrent sites doesn't mean that's where everyone who was a print subscriber is getting it now. I tend to believe a lot of people that download torrented stuff are only doing so because it's available for free - they have zero interest in buying it, and in the old days would never have been one of your print subscribers.

iTunes manages to sell a lot of music without protecting it at all, for example. Maybe you're thinking about it backwards - rather than focussing on making it hard to get at your content, instead think "how can we deliver this content in a compelling, visually interesting, easy to navigate way? People who were inclined to pay for "print" may very well be inclined to pay for continued access to that expertise, if they feel they're getting their money's worth.

Re:Well now (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a year ago | (#44343913)

iTunes manages to sell a lot of music without protecting it at all, for example. Maybe you're thinking about it backwards - rather than focussing on making it hard to get at your content, instead think "how can we deliver this content in a compelling, visually interesting, easy to navigate way?

And the answer, contained in that very same paragraph, is of course: sell it through appropriate online stores and let them deal with it.

Re:Well now (1)

brit74 (831798) | about a year ago | (#44344091)

> "iTunes manages to sell a lot of music without protecting it at all"

Keep in mind that iTunes has mostly captured sales from the physical market. If you compare how much music sales have declined since 2001 and then look at the amount of revenue that iTunes is bringing in, you'll notice that for about every $1 decline in music sales, iTunes has managed to pick up something like a paltry $0.15 in sales. (Now, I'm not arguing that the other $0.85 decline is necessarily caused by piracy, but it's wasn't caused simply by music streaming services like Pandora - the decline was visible years before any music streaming services were available.) If this guy's magazine follows the same trend as music sales (even with the existence of iTunes), he'll very likely go bankrupt.

Value (4, Informative)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about a year ago | (#44343665)

In general, we think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem. For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the U.S. release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable. Most DRM solutions diminish the value of the product by either directly restricting a customers use or by creating uncertainty.

- Gabe Newell

Re:Value (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44343801)

Yeah, we'll see how much Gabe believes that when he releases Half-Life 3 without DRM.........

Re:Value (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year ago | (#44343885)

Yeah, we'll see how much Gabe believes that when he releases Half-Life 3 without DRM.........

Much as I hate DRM, Gabe has worked very hard at keeping his DRM out of the way of paying customers. He has also worked very hard at building a platform for delivering content is a very easy and trouble free way. Not very RMS friendly, but VERY customer focused, and I can respect that. (Enough, actually that I have the Linux Steam client on my machine right now.)

Re:Value (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44343903)

Much as I hate DRM, Gabe has worked very hard at keeping his DRM out of the way of paying customers.

Aside from the issue of completely shitting on First Sale in a way that defeats the concept in the US and has been ruled illegal elsewhere?

Re:Value (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343997)

Except that they will move the price point through a sale that will make it cheaper than if you paid full price and resold to try and recoup your money. So for a lot of us the point is moot.

Re:Value (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343919)

That's easily covered with the caveat: "Most DRM solutions diminish the value". Most. Not All.

Steam IS DRM. But it's DRM is covered by increasing the overall value. Community, Multiplayer, Auto-Updates, Sales, etc.

To think that the words "most DRM" means "all DRM" diminishes value is blind at best and purposely misleading at worst. Steam adds more than enough value to offset the "price" of DRM. It'll never be enough for "some" die-hard anti-DRM activists, but then again for any extreamist there is never going to be enough this side of "My way or the highway".

Re:Value (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343975)

Yeah, we'll see how much Gabe believes that when he releases Half-Life 3 without DRM.........

Why? He said that the problem with most DRM solutions is that they diminish the product. Assuming that his chosen DRM (i.e. Steam, which is what I'm assuming you're getting at here) doesn't do that there's nothing wrong with what he said. Obviously that's a contentious issue but given that Steam is by far and away the dominant DRM store a large number of people seem comfortable with it.

Re:Value (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344051)

Learn to read. And that is too many dots, ellipsis is 3 dots, stop that.
He specifically said "MOST DRM", not DRM period.

DRM isn't bad outright, but most implementations are very bad.
And I equate it simply to an anarchistic society being a system that is completely free, anything can happen at random and you have basically zero methods to prevent societal collapse. Having some sort of law and order of the land prevents society becoming too chaotic.
DRM at a very basic level should emulate that and only that. Any higher and you end up with China and North Korea, and worse, Saddam and other dictators similar to him in the past.
Steam is just ever so slightly above that line because the oddities with playing offline and due to some 3rd party DRM systems allowed through it that have caused problems in the past (and very recent past, including some DRM systems banning people for modding their game for offline play and having never went online ever, terrible)

Look at what happened to Humble Bundle. "Pay what you want, get these Steam keys too!"
People were paying so low and it costed everyone else money and them barely anything.
And the "coal incident" a bunch of bundles back.
Now that they have put in the very limited protection of "beat this price" to get things like Steam keys, music and stuff like that, the environment is far more sustainable and it is still decent.
Of course, don't post that on /v/ on 4chan, they will cry their eyes out because they can't get cheap steam keys any more. They ruined it for themselves, hope they enjoyed it while it lasted.
But of course, I have to thank them as well because they made the system far better and there are far better bundles these days, and more frequent too! (again, they'd disagree simply because it costs money now, jews, rip-offs, sellouts, etc. the usual 14 year old insults)

Subscriptions are a far harder thing to manage, however.
Premium services used to, and still are in some cases, be the cool thing to do.
Offer a service in a much better way, more stuff, less other clutter, better support, whatever.
If that was possible with the question in the OP, then it could be a good avenue to pursue.
However, since ads alone don't appear to even be supporting them too well, there seems to be a problem in that area too. And for a magazine, that is a worrying problem indeed since those can usually be a very good method for people to get ads across to people.
You'd probably need to investigate more or different advertising partners, or generally just get yourself out there more.
Hell, OP alone could very likely net you a bunch of subs.

Adding more DRM on top is likely not a good idea. A Subscription alone is already as far as you should go, more and it might turn even more people off when they hear you sued some dude for stealing the magazine.
Try to get more people in and premium services and possibly eliminate subscriptions entirely.
Subscriptions only usually work very well if you have a huge install-base already. (like that newspaper that went from ad-supported to subscriptions, it gets more money from a considerably smaller userbase even at only $1 if I remember correct)
So if it was my magazine, I would find any possible way to eliminate those subs entirely and replace them with premium services and an online-ad-supported website. That would be my first priority.
Next would be generally getting more hits on the site as well as reaching out to advertisers for said website.
And a bunch of others all in front of DRM for subscriptions as a last resort.
Very best of luck to you guys and the team.

Re:Value (1)

brit74 (831798) | about a year ago | (#44344127)

Gabe talks out of both sides of his mouth. It's true that making it convenient will reduce piracy. However, Steam is DRM. This shows that he full understands the other side of the equation as well: stopping piracy isn't just about better service, it's also about making piracy difficult for pirates.

you can't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343671)

If I can read it digitally, I can copy it and distribute it. You can try and make it less trivial for me to do that, but then your making your product less desirable (DRM is typically a huge ballache) and mine more.

Its practically a law of nature, don't make the same mistake as big media by thinking you can stem the tide by sheer force of will.

Re: you can't (1)

SociallyRelevant (1432463) | about a year ago | (#44343789)

How about offering some interactive features for which screenshots would fail to capture the full experience.

Re:you can't (2)

xstonedogx (814876) | about a year ago | (#44343793)

Don't I feel stupid. I was wondering what this word (seemingly from French) "ballache" meant. Then it dawned on me.

Watermark, and get over it (4, Insightful)

jameshofo (1454841) | about a year ago | (#44343679)

Put a watermark on the page and hand out a few small warnings to those that are distributing to please stop, and slowly step up enforcement. Make it cheap enough that people wont want to pirate it, make it valuable enough that people will respect you enough not to. And build a community around your product, you can always go the DRM route but its ruling with an iron fist, and makes the content inaccessible and hostile to port to other devices, at that point your customers will put in the effort to pirate it because they have no respect for your company.

Modern companies are getting worse at "customer service" and going the DRM route will make you just another one of the companies people love to hate.

Re:Watermark, and get over it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343771)

"My computer was hacked and my copy, that your found on pirate bay, was stolen."

Why not make/license Apple/Android magazine apps? (2)

Jace Harker (814866) | about a year ago | (#44343681)

I'm not a huge advocate of DRM or anything, but it seems like you should aim at the Apple/Android tablet market. Build or license a magazine app for content delivery. It'll let you control how much access your users get to the content -- can they save a copy? email it to someone? etc. -- while making it really convenient for your users to get the content delivered regularly and with minimum effort. I suppose you could try to do this on the desktop, but the mobile device world seems tailor-made to your needs, assuming your target audience usually owns mobile devices.

watermarking can help a little (1)

Darth Technoid (83199) | about a year ago | (#44343683)

If you watermark the file (PDF or other) with some identifying information about each file's recipient, you can track down the source of some of the piracy. Of course, once pirated, the game's over.

Alternatively, you can only make the document available online, with user identification required.

Why oh why? (0)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44343687)

Why is this age old internet troll of the "small record store" suffering from "piracy" being repeated over and over again?

Re: Why oh why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343923)

People are trying to run a business, it's a reasonable question to ask how can they prevent stealing. You can steal stuff from your local neighborhood businesses, but most people wouldn't think twice about it. Im not sure why digital content is different, maybe we all have looser morals than we think when the prospect of getting caught is slim to none and the effort required is minimal.

Upside down (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343689)

Your question runs against the trend of how the future of online business will work. Let me put it this way.. The Greatful Dead recieved free advertising from fans who would pay $$$ to go to a concert and get to record a show. That recording was then free for all to share and enjoy. The music was good but never as good really being there - just ask the guy who gave you the tape. Perhaps you've got 3 kids and can't go to the show - well enjoy the music a concert really isn't a place for a mom & dad with kids -- It's still a win-win . For a movie this trend works just as well - be the first to see the new Bieber vampire movie and get a signed t-shirt and brag about how awesome it was to your friends - They only got to watch the movie a few days later on their cell phone. This forumla is how the future economy will work, like it or hate it that is how it will work. But be aware that this formula breaks down when you try to sell information or when you are a middle man who brings nothing to the table. So you want to sell online content - it's got to be valuable - people are going to have to want to pay for it. But more so when the information leaks (and it will) it has to support the original artist by way of advertisement or added content.

Re:Upside down (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about a year ago | (#44343729)

be the first to see the new Bieber vampire movie

Why bother? He doesn't need to play a vampire in order to suck.

Re:Upside down (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344019)

be the first to see the new Bieber vampire movie

Why bother? He doesn't need to play a vampire in order to suck.

No, but people tend to care less, when you stab a vampire with a wooden stick compared to stabbing a person with a wooden stick.

Oh, wait, you said Bieber. Nevermind then, go nuts. In fact, here's a wooden stick, you can borrow. Want some garlic, a cross and some holy water too? You know, just in case...

Free sharing of thoughts (1)

tigusoft (2991607) | about a year ago | (#44343701)

This can be hard from your POV, but limiting people to share information is usually not good. To resolve this conflict of intelectual slavery, you could try to shift business to new models that do not require denying usres from freely talking or sharing. Maybe some extra options, comments, or even crowdsourcing. If this is at all possible in your case, then such model removes the problem while keeping both sides of trade happy.

Inflate your circulation numbers (2)

intermelt (196274) | about a year ago | (#44343709)

You mention that the publication can't be supported without the subscription fees due to not making enough on advertising. Maybe you should increase your advertising rates. If people are pirating the electronic version, than your circulation is higher and your advertising rates should be higher.

If that doesn't fly just watermark them like other people mentioned and go after the pirates.

let's crowdsource a solution to this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343711)

your publication is digital, you feel you should convert your rights to it into money by management of the resource?

ok, so the salient features seem to be

  1. 1. digital
  2. 2. rights
  3. 3. management

let's put our heads together on this!

just call me,

DR M

Newstand.com does this (4, Informative)

quietwalker (969769) | about a year ago | (#44343717)

My wife used to work for a company called 'newsstand.com' that does this exact sort of thing.

I can't say that they treated their employees well, and they really embraced the whole 'outsource jobs' thing, but, yeah. They have some sort of secured reader, they manage your subscriptions, etc. You actually get an electronic version of the print version, reflowed and reformatted to properly fit a pdf reader, as opposed to a separate digital copy with less features or ads or whatever.

They're also used to dealing with publishers who can't spell IBM, though I don't know if they actually can help in those cases, at least it won't be a shock to them. So, if you or your IT staff are somehow mentally incapable, they can still handle you.

I have no idea of the pricing or anything, however.

Don't worry about it (1)

slashbart (316113) | about a year ago | (#44343735)

You could ask the publisher of Linuxjournal.com how it works for them. They've gone all digital (with no watermarks), and I've switched my subscription from paper to digital.

you can't, ignore pirates, they aren't your market (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343751)

they aren't your customers

work on delivering the most convenient, accessible, highest quality content to your customers (the ones who give you money)

you ignore the ones you get it without paying just like you ignore the ones who look at it and keep walking

Don't ride buzzwords. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343759)

Such as "piracy", no matter what you do, people will share it, and its enough for a single person to bypass whatever mechanism is in place, all that any such mechanism does is become obnoxious to legitimate users.

Dealing with the impossible (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44343765)

the electronic version is quickly pirated and easily available around the world each month...

Here's the thing; Everyone wants to change the world. Nobody thinks of changing their own thinking or approach to a problem. Nobody's going to beat "piracy". Not you, not the RIAA, the MPAA, or even the most powerful governments on Earth. All they can do is guilt and shame people, threaten and cajoule them, punish them, but they cannot stop them. Everyone thinks we're well into the information age, and it's easy to believe that when the devices we use are changing so fast. But we're still at the very beginning. This is a change to society that will take generations, not years. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Now, let's talk about computers. At their most basic, they are devices for the storage, transmission, and manipulation, of binary data. Fundamentally, information sharing is what computers do best, and that capability is what is driving this revolution of human consciousness. Trying to limit it or create new designs so it only works in one direction, is a practice doomed to failure over the long term. We can make short term alterations to our devices, make it more difficult, but we can't eliminate it without destroying the very thing that gives the computer value. This is something hackers, engineers, programmers, and geeks understand implicitly, but we have a hard time verbalizing it to outsiders.

We have an even harder time convincing people like you, whose business depends on an outmodded idea that publication and distribution are married to each other, that distribution can be controlled in any way. It's our fault in part because we aren't naturally gifted at communicating how computers work -- it is a radically different approach to everything that came before. Sure, we can come up with phrases like "Information wants to be free", but it rings hollow before traditional modes of thinking. It doesn't communicate the why behind it. Information doesn't want anything. But its creation in digital format means that it is now bound to a new set of rules. Knowledge, once converted to digital form, is now subject to a whole new universe -- it's like the laws of physics got rewritten once digitized.

You cannot stop "piracy". The future is instantanious information exchange, two-way, multi-modal, and without restriction. No matter what you, or the government, or anyone does, this will eventually be the case. I know it took hundreds of years before people really accepted the Earth is flat, and perhaps it will take even longer before people truly embrace unrestricted information exchange; But it is an inevitability.

If you want help stopping this, you've come to the wrong place. The solutions offered up will be temporary, incomplete, and at a high cost. My advice to you is to change your thinking. You cannot stop information exchange, but you can give it additional value. In a world where all information is easily exchanged, the only value is in the decision to exchange it. The more you can do to convince people to make that exchange, the more value the goods will have. And as a packaged product, you can put things in like advertisement, etc., to support the costs of publication. Leverage this new resource to all but eliminate the cost of distribution. The network will find a way to do that for you. Focus on creating something worth sharing; And your reputation, your name, will gain value. That is what you sell, not the work itself. The work itself is just a collection of data.

Re:Dealing with the impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343889)

s/piracy/surveillance/g

Go re-read your manifesto and see how few changes you'd have to make. So why do we have so many stories here about the NSA, and corporate massing/buying and selling/crunching Big Data on individuals?

Re:Dealing with the impossible (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44344037)

Go re-read your manifesto and see how few changes you'd have to make. So why do we have so many stories here about the NSA, and corporate massing/buying and selling/crunching Big Data on individuals?

It's not a manifesto, for one. And to answer your question -- only an Anonymous Coward could be as stupid as to mistake a technical problem for a social one.

Re:Dealing with the impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344071)

Because of the butterfly effect?

What I would do (1)

kasperd (592156) | about a year ago | (#44343813)

Consider some sort of watermarking. It is not as easy to watermark text as it is with pictures. But it is still possible. Every time an article is written the writer need to find a few places throughout the text where two different versions of the text are equally good. Sometimes this will come very natural, when the writer encounters a situation where [he]/[she] can't make up [his]/[her] mind about the wording, the choice can be left to the watermarking software.

Leaving just a handful of bits for the watermarking software to chose in each article means any subscriber systematically copying articles would soon reveal [her]/[his] identity. Even copying as little as 100 bits of watermarking could produce a very clear signal about which subscriber is copying the data.

Make sure any technical means you choose don't get in the way of the user. You need to ensure what a user expects to be able to do with a website will still work. That includes searching the site using the users favourite search engine and sharing links with their friends.

As far as search engines go, try to treat the search engine as just another subscriber, which happens to get free access, as you want to drive users to your site.

Anybody who visits your site starting with a link from a search engine should be allowed to read the first article they found, but you can limit the number of articles per day a single user can access this way. When a non-subscriber follows links between articles, you can provide an interstitial page with information about signing up, and limiting the number of articles the user can read before subscribing.

Ensure that your subscribers can share links. When a subscriber want to share an article with [his]/[her] friends, there should be a link to provide a URL suitable for sharing. Each subscriber should only be allowed to share a fraction of the articles on the site this way. They are not supposed to be able to generate sharing URLs for every single article they access. But for those few they want to share, they should have access to such a URL. Once the sharing URL has been generated anybody with the URL should be able to access the page without having a subscription themselves.

Once in a while such a URL might spread widely, that is just good publicity for your site. In case archives of such URLs covering a substantial fraction of your site start spreading, you can easily track the URLs back to subscribers.

The trick is to ensure that fair usage remains possible, and is not hindered by technical means. And instead of trying to prevent users from stepping across the boundary of fair usage through technical means, just use technical means to track it. Subscriptions can be cancelled, if [users]/[customers] are abusing the freedom you give them.

Google Play Magazines? (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | about a year ago | (#44343847)

Or the other tablet/e-reader magazine solutions.

Why make it harder for yourself and try to roll your own when there already exists a solution.

If I knew, I would not tell you (1)

Tanuki64 (989726) | about a year ago | (#44343897)

Why should I? You ask for a way to protect your 'intellectual property' so you can make money with it. If I knew the answer to your question, it would be my IP. Give me one reason, why I should give it to you for free?

easy: personalize online version (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44343915)

Make every single copy unique and traceable to its buyer. Possibly by invisible watermarks, slightly changed layout, text, pictures, pixels etc. Be creative - the possibilities are endless. Change your methods regularly.

Important:
Make your users know every copy will be unique and traceable to its buyer. Also, tell them every pirated copy will be traced back and the uploader will be sued.

Success guaranteed.

Make it easy to buy; what about CCC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344005)

Allow your subscriber to pay via every known method. Some people don't want to use their credit cards online; others have paypal or bitcoin anyway. The more options the likelier you might get paid.

I'd suggest a watermark with the subscriber ID on each page (NOT the name, for privacy reasons). Then don't worry about it.

As an aside, how many people PDF'ed your printed mags and put them on line? When you have a journal that costs (say) $200 a copy, you would think that it would happen a lot. I wonder, though. Someone who has paid $200 is not likely to want to give it away to others for free.

Questions:
But people do share articles. With a paper journal, a person might scan and share an article. How will they share a single article now? Would they email the whole journal? The Copyright Clearance Center seems to work for printed journals. How will it work for your electronic only journal?

What about licensing your journal to an aggregator like ProQuest or EBSCO? This might help making more money if you're not doing it already.

Unless you're publishing it in self contained file (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344033)

for example as a PDF, I don't think you have to worry too much about it. It really is convenience of pirating vs the cost. I don't think anyone is pirating Wall Street Journal. You should also consider whether making the articles publicly available with ads is feasible.

Go to an open model (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#44344085)

Magazines can charge subscription fees to the extent that there is value in the content. Magazines can sell advertizing to the extent that people see the content. There is a spectrum here, a slider (if you will) that you can set anywhere between two extremes.

You're currently betwixt those two extremes. If you move to a model exclusively one way or the other, then the answer is obvious.

A printed magazine is inconvenient to duplicate, so can survive on subscription fees for content. An online magazine costs nothing to duplicate, so subscription fees for content is unworkable.

Drop subscription fees altogether and get all revenue from advertizing. Your reader base will skyrocket, making the publication a better value for advertizing.

Baen Books posts their older books for free on the net. Surprisingly, this increased hard-copy sales and opened their publications to a much wider audience. Eric Flint's explanation [baen.com] is a good read.

(And many of the free online Baen books are a good read as well.)

Note that I'm expounding the virtues of Baen Books to this website read by hundreds of thousands each day. Your magazine could do worse than be one of the handful of well-respected companies whose product is based on customer value.

And for reference, count the myriad websites that give value to the user and survive on advertizing alone. XKCD [xkcd.com] and Hackaday [hackaday.com] for example. Not websites that rely on users that add value, but websites that actually have value that the user wants. Randall Munroe lets others cite and copy his work virtually everywhere so long as it's not for money.

Transition to an open online model and throw it out to the world. Become a respected product of value.

I have a suggestion for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344109)

Just die. As a company, I mean.

No really. Your model is outdated, you are a dinosaur. It is time to go extinct.

Change your business model (1)

Maudib (223520) | about a year ago | (#44344113)

Piracy will help your business model. Just put your content on your website and update it regularly.

If the content is truly technical you should get a CPM of many dollars.

Subscription fees (1)

gte881s (1011765) | about a year ago | (#44344125)

Two separate points: First, It is easy to say that survival depends on subscription fees, but the reality is that many people today choose either to pay for subscriptions or to view ads. For a technical magazine, it might make sense to make the content more open and attempt to increase subscribers and, through that, increase ad revenue. This might not be a viable model, but it serves your purpose well. Second, sadly, even without piracy, tech articles can be easily duplicated, rewritten, or otherwise usurped. Tech articles have a short lifetime and I see very little value in print articles. Once the article appears online, I typically skip the later print versions. Relating this to piracy is simple: by the time someone has pirated the average tech article, it is old news. Dozens of aggregation websites exist that point people to the original article immediately. If it is "breaking" news, ads are the primary means of revenue generation. Frankly, most technically interested readers skip subscription serveries because they are becoming irrelevant in the tech news world.

sampler (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344141)

Provide a free low quality pdf as a sampler.

Elektor magazine (1)

Seairth Jacobs (2991639) | about a year ago | (#44344163)

I am on the "DRM is more bad than good" camp. As an example, I point out Elektor magazine, which provides non-DRM PDFs of their magazine (in addition to the print version). My (admittedly limited) impression is that its made their "product" much better, and more valuable. I can treat the digital version just like my print copy (yes, even lend it), and that's a good thing. The valuable part of a magazine is the ideas in it, not the medium it's printed/rendered on. I feel that Elektor has done an excellent job of making the value of their product center around the information they provide, which easily justifies paying for it. And one way they've done that is to *not* argue that the medium is part of that value.

Adapt or disappear (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44344177)

You and your company seem not to understand how the Internet works and what users want (no DRM, fair prices, and quality... but that doesn't mean none will download a copy, deal with it)

You didn't even publish anything on the Net and managed somehow to start copywrong-trolling

Piracy = the act of breaking into a Network/computer by bypassing security/protection systems
Stealing = the act of taking things from other people without their consent = substraction
Copying = multiplying files, the way the Internet and the Web work (cached memory)
Multiplying = subtracting = breaking into computers/Networks ? Are you on acid ?

Adapt by getting over it, there's NO proper and effective wat to control data diffusion on the Net, it's a damn public network, not some fucking sci-fi military high-security network... there's always a way to bypass DRM
Your profits DON'T justify DRM (= consumers ripping-off), and privacy-invading or repressives technologies/laws
Don't like it ? then just disappear or don't even even try to publish anything on the Net, none forces to do it

But stop using newspeak, and stop bitching about the Internet... just like you're not bitching about scanners and photocopiers !

Look at Home Power Magazine (1)

microcars (708223) | about a year ago | (#44344179)

www.homepower.com [homepower.com]
They have a print version, but have been offering a PDF version (no DRM) for many years.
The PDF used to be available for free download from the main web page, that seems to have changed so it is now available to subscribers only.
I do not know what CMS (Content Management System) they use but it seems to work for them.
Each subscriber gets a unique download url so I don't think it can be shared.

Alternatively you could just create a FUDL (Fake Unique Download URL) like:
www.example.com/5tsQ7ghs/issue3-2013/
and send those out to each "subscriber", telling them it is for their use only and change the name of the directory to some other goofy name for the next issue.
of course this does not really provide PP (Piracy Proof) content, but I think that has been commented on enough already and I think you should just let that part go.
Make it easy for people that want to pay to get the digital version but make it just a little bit hard to figure it out if you are not a subscriber.

Give good value, the only thing that works. (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44344181)

Any technical attempts to prevent "piracy" are doomed. They will however decrease the value of the product to the customer and increase the cost of making it. So, if you want to kill your product, load it with DRM, make copying impossible, etc. You customers will show you the same respect you show for them.

Also, your benchmark for success is not how many times your product gets copied without permission, your benchmark is how many times it sells. The "one copy pirated equals one sale lost" rhetoric completely wrong and utterly stupid, and this has now been shown by several scientifically sound studies. If you do not have enough sales, then it is because your product sucks.

You may also want to look at the experiences Baen books made with publishing online without DRM. Hint: Their sales went up.

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