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Issue for September 2014

Publish Articles, Not Magazines?

Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Are we off on the wrong foot in the digital world by pushing content in a format that was a product of the print era?

By William Dunkerley

In our last issue, we floated the question, "Are you in the magazine business, the publishing business, or the content business?" We also presented statistics showing mobile device usage overtaking desktop. What this means is that more and more people are accessing content on mobile devices, mostly on smartphones.

What specifically are they doing on their smartphones? In various studies conducted over the past few years (by Pew Research and ExactTarget.com, for instance) emailing and searching stand out above all the rest.

What about reading magazines? Even if you include tablets within the definition of "mobile," magazine reading usually doesn't even show up in the statistics. Not only are people not buying mobile devices to read magazines, but once they have the devices, they've got other uses for them.

The Allure of Tablets

At one time tablets seemed to be our best bet for connecting with digital readers. But the the idea of tablets as a platform for digital magazines, with all its allure, hasn't panned out. Nor has the magazine app.

John Lund, chair of the Danish Online News Association, opined, "Dedicated magazine apps for tablets may look good, but I fear they're headed straight to oblivion." Lund pointed out, "When a magazine is organized as an app rather than as a website, its articles can neither be indexed nor searched on the Web. And even if they could, clicking the link in Google at best takes readers to an app store, not to the article itself -- cutting the magazine out of the greatest traffic driver in today's world."

Burying Content in Apps

This means if your online content is in an app, it's less likely to be found by searchers. And what is one of the most active uses of online devices? Searching! So why are we hiding our content from those who are actively looking for it? It doesn't make a lot of sense.

If a mobile user wants to find out the price of tea in China, he's looking for a search result that will provide the answer. If the searcher's curiosity goes beyond a simple statistic, she'll perhaps want to read an article on the topic. But clearly the user is not looking for a magazine. What's desired is specific content accessible through a search.

But that simple principle does not seem to be the driving force behind the efforts of many of us in developing our digital publishing offerings. Instead, we're creating replica editions of print magazines and putting content into apps.

These certainly are not worthless activities. Replicas and apps have definite value for some applications. Replica editions are a great means of sending your print magazine content quickly to foreign subscribers. And apps can be a very convenient way of supplying specialized content to existing subscribers.

For broadening our audience base, however, or for penetrating more thoroughly a specific demographic, we need to pay more attention to the proclivities of our potential readers. A conclusion of the ExactTarget study is that "consumers use their mobile devices for connectivity and content. People are looking for improvements in how they consume and experience mobile content, but many mobile experiences are still lagging far behind."

Targeting Content for Searches

To me, this all adds up to a new need in the marketplace, one that we're not adequately serving as yet. It is the need for content that is targeted to search inquiries. That might be in the form of a concise answer, such as stating the price of tea in China. Or it might be an article-length elaboration on the topic. But, in any case, the need does not seem to be for a full-blown magazine.

This now harkens back to my opening question about what business are we in. It seems to me that if we continue to conceive of ourselves as being in the magazine or publishing business in the traditional sense, we'll be losing out on the audience growth opportunities that are now before us.

Do these growth opportunities include opportunity for revenue growth, too? Indeed, how can we monetize the providing of concise answers and one-shot articles? These are extremely important questions. We'll delve into them in a future issue.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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When Advertising Meets Editorial

Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 2:30 PM

In the news: How often does editorial content reference ad sponsors?

"How Much Editorial Love Do Fashion Magazines Give Their Advertisers?" asks a recent Racked.com headline Erika Adams. The question prompted Racked to study several women's fashion titles to see how often ad sponsors were mentioned in editorial content.

The methodology, straight from Adams's article: "First, we listed all the fashion and beauty brands that advertised in each issue. (Ads for tampons, cigarettes, credit cards, various food products, etc. were left out of the calculations.) Then we combed through the pages to note every brand reference in the editorial pages. We only counted clear mentions: The text had to include the product, price, and directions on where to buy to count as a definite editorial endorsement. After that, the lists were cross-checked to see how many brands had both advertisements and editorial mentions in the same issue." Read about the results here.

Also Notable

A Surge in Indie Magazines

Vogue recently surveyed the founders of several indie magazines to figure out why niche print titles seem to be making a comeback. The resurgence in print indie titles seems to be a response to listicle and blog fatigue; readers are still hungry for more traditional content. Perhaps most surprising, according to Vogue, "the founders of these independent magazines aren't from a generation that grew upon print. Very often they're in their twenties; six out of the seven founders and editors we spoke with are between the ages of 24 and 29." Read more here.

Maximizing Video Content

More and more magazines are looking to video to boost ad revenue. The shift to multiplatform content delivery has been challenging. In a recent Digiday.com article, Robin Steinberg of MediaVest says, "[Traditional publishers] are contending with publishers outside their traditional competitive set with stronger targeting capabilities and pricing structures. Due to their traditional print legacy position in the marketplace, they have to push harder for a prime seat at the digital video marketplace table." To address these challenges, publishers are working to create and promote video content. Read more here.

Congress on Magazine Cigarette Ads

A group of Democratic congressmen has written to US Weekly, Time, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly about their use of cigarette advertising. Some magazines with a lot of cigarette-oriented ad content, Rolling Stone in particular, are widely read by teenagers. Read more about the legislative effort here.

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