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Looking for the future of magazines

Archive for March 2012

It’s that Specialist Media Insights time of year again

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Specialst Media Show Insights Research 2012I just filled out the Specialist Media Show’s annual Insights survey. It only seems like a couple of months since I last completed it to be honest, but no it’s a whole year.

This year’s survey questions focus on mobile, social media, pricing, live events and long-term strategies for growth – pretty much all the things that keep magazine people up at night. Things like:

How are you currently charging for online content?

Which mobile devices do you have an app for?

Are you publishing to e-readers?

What proportion of your total website traffic is driven by social media?

Which of these live events do you run now or plan to launch in next 2 years?

The survey is a joint initiative between the Specialist Media Show, Wessenden Marketing and InPublishing. Last year’s research drew on the experiences of more than 200 niche publishers, showing that:

  • 33% were already charging for online content and 15% were planning to
  • 22% had a mobile app or were about to launch, and 15% planned to launch in the next year
  • 42% planned a tablet edition
  • 53% planned online video content
  • 63% were planning webinars

Maybe I’m just nosy, but I really like to know what other publishers are up to and, as always, willing participants will receive a copy of the findings. You can find out more and take the survey here.

Once upon a time at Pub Expo

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Pub Expo 2012, Pic by @digitalhelderI opened my presentation at the Pub Expo in London last week with a little bit of a fairytale.

Once Upon a Time, not so long ago, there was an editor who served only one master… a monthly magazine. She worked hard, but found time for research, writing and occasionally even a long lunch. Then one troublesome day the magazine decided it wasn’t happy just being a magazine, it wanted to be a Brand…

I only had 15 or 20 minutes so I couldn’t really finish the story – the Earl’s Court audience will never know if everyone lived happily ever after. What I really wanted to highlight was the idea that while a full-blown multi-platform magazine brand has the potential to be a fairytale opportunity for the commercial team, the demands for content imposed by multiple platfoms can be a nightmare scenario for editorial people.

Let’s be clear, a brand is a far more powerful commercial proposition than a magazine. Think about Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition for a second. It was introduced in Winter 1964 to try to spark up a moribund post-holiday ad market. It was a nice idea and made great money for a single issue. Fast forward almost 50 years and the Swimsuit issue is no longer just an annual print edition, it’s a multi-platfom franchise making money in print, digital, broadcast and merchandising.

However, one thing brand evangelists tend to ignore is the stone-cold fact that brands on multiple channels have way more deadlines than magazines.

Magazines, by definition, are periodic, most monthly, some quarterly, a few weekly. Brands are happening all the time: you have  an annual conference; magazine editions in print and digital; newsletters weekly, sometimes daily; your website is refreshed daily at least; your blog goes a couple of times a day;  and your community and social media – they never, ever end.

So what’s a poor put-upon editor to do? Here are a few ideas from my presentation. They wont take away all the pain, but they might just keep you sane. Please add any other tips you have to the comments section below.

  • Recyclye – use content in more than one place and in more than one form. Slice it, dice it, chunk it up. Remind readers what is buried away in your archives.
  • Love the process – tell the story of the story. Ask your readers to contribute questions. Share your research. Podcast interviews. Don’t wait for publication day.
  • Don’t be precious – you are not the only person that can write. Work with partners. Find experts to write for you. Curate other people’s content. Don’t dismiss advertorials.
  • Be promiscious – share your content with everyone that cares. Make it easy for your audience to share your content through social media. Always link back to your website.
  • Join the dots – make sure all your staff know what you’re trying trying to achieve. Plan with them. Help them make the most of the processes and technology that you have.

My last tip… Forget long lunches. Those days are long gone.

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