New Yorkâ€“On Tuesday, a capacity crowd gathered at The Museum of Jewish Heritage to listen in as disruptive business leaders from various industries discussed how they are confronting an ever-changing landscape. Wired's BizCon was a daylong event that tied together a common themeâ€“how technology and design intersect with business.
The day's speakers were a mixed bag, including brand leaders like Tumblr's founder David Karp, Twitter Amplify's founder Glenn Brown, UNRULY CEO Sarah Wood and several others. Few stones were left unturned, meaning that everything from social media to gaming, robotics and even experiential theater was covered. Catherine Mohr, senior director of medical research at Intuitive Surgical put it best when she stressed the importance of "looking into adjacent fields to find solutions in your own."
This was a Wired event, so naturally the solutions were often steeped in technologyâ€“and with good reason, given the rapid evolution happening all around us. In essence, technology is presenting both challenges and opportunities for every business leader, which is why merging thought leadership in various disciplines is a chance to rethink strategies and best practices.
For media brands, some of the new challenges discussed were not brand new, however the paradigms are shifting. Take for example social media, which both Brown and Wood discussed. The sizes of your followings and vapid engagements are no longer in focus. Now it's more about staying in and in front of the bigger conversation.
Brown admits that Twitter Amplify tapped into more than they expected when they launched the product to tweet instant replays. That is, the company discovered they could use objects to tweet messages in real time as conversations develop, enabling Twitter to keep up real-time and offer a valuable second-screen experience. He also tipped his hat to magazines for being out in front of this trend. "Magazines knew early on that it's a lot to ask readers to always go to the newsstand or wait for their hard copies," he said while reviewing the importance getting out in front of trending topics.
Wood concentrated on the importance of sharable contentâ€“specifically video. She dispelled a couple of myths that have surfaced about video, 1) it's done easily and, 2) it's unpredictable. UNRULY has the data to show that viral content can be predicted, but there is something brands must keep in mind: "It's hard to compete with friends and family," she said. And added, "for bands that are serious about video, paid media is the solution; don't post and pray."
Karp's Tumblr platform purportedly is a hub for brands that wish to share their content through the viral Web. Remarkably, sponsored posts average around 10,000 reposts versus an average of 14 reposts from a common user. But Karp confesses that it is the smaller number he takes the most pride in because "brands are some of the most capable content creators," and his platform complements that attribute. But for the common user, that multiplyer offers the potential to tap into a new audience, which is paramount to what Tumblr is all about.Â
Wired has been at the forefront of the design movement. In fact, even at its Data|Life conference, design surfaced as an essential element for progressing the healthcare space. BizCon further supported that thesis, and extended it outward to all industries.
What was once considered an aesthetic element is now becoming the basis for brand identity and user experience. So whether it's the architecture of a building, an immersive theatrical production or the user interface for a mobile game, design determines the experience.
Welcome to the first edition of Face Up Online.
If you're a reader of our Magazine then you're familiar with the concept. But if you're new, it's simple: Designers from around the industry critique various magazine covers. The critiques are often highly technical and aim to help designers consider certain practices before they go out and plan their next package.
Face Up in print does have a few hitches though--timeliness, frequency and sometimes space. There are so many great covers being produced week after week, but we only get to focus in on a dozen or so each year. Face Up Online gives us the flexibility to start conversations about more covers on a regular basis, and in some cases, when it matters.
We didn't want the online version to look like a magazine replica. Print allows us to slow the story down and speak with a multitude of creatives, and tell the tale behind the cover from a magazine's perspective. Here, the objective is to extend the franchise but shake up some mission-critical elements by adding historical context, cross comparisons, emotional response and insightful storytelling.
Design vet Robert Newman will be teaming up with us and every other week to offer his expert opinion. To kick things off we showed him a handful of covers to consider and he quickly narrowed it down to Arizona Highways' January issue.
Here's his take:
This is a solid, well-done cover, featuring crisp easy-to-read typography, understated, tasteful color and of course a powerful image. Arizona Highways is known for spectacular scenic photography, but even by their high standards this picture is a great one. I've looked at the magazine for decades, and I'd rank this photo of "The Wave" as one of their all-time best.
Arizona Highways' current cover format engages the readers with headlines and teasers much more than it did in the past, and creative director, Barbara Glynn Denney, is very skilled at integrating type and graphics while leaving plenty of space for the cover photograph to breath and luxuriate. There's a strong attention to detail and positioning as well; an obviously keen eye is assembling the parts and polishing them into a very elegant package.
That said, I think the main cover headline, "10 Rare Opportunities," is a head scratcher. I think if you're going to put a headline of that size over a picture with that kind of impact, it really needs to be a lot more direct and engaging, instead of sitting there thick and dense like a big old slab of petrified wood. Imagine this headline attached to an online story or a tweet, and how little attention it would attract. It seems to me that a main cover headline should captivate and promise as much magic as the photograph it accompanies (and the story it's representing). This headline does not come close to doing that.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly old school, I wish that Arizona Highways could return to something of the graphic flavor of their covers from the 1960s. And yes, I know that classic logo of theirs that I love hasn't appeared since Nixon was President, but there was something about it that gave the magazine a very specifically Arizona and Western flavor, something that is lacking in the current slick but place-unspecific design. A number of regional magazines, including Los Angeles and Atlanta, have created very characteristic logos with a hand-crafted feel, that help give them a dash of local flavor.
The design of Arizona Highways, separate, of course, from those wonderful cover photos, feels like it could be from Oregon, or Philadelphia, Vermont, or anyplace else. Those 1960s Arizona Highways covers feel very contemporary to me, reminiscent of some of the very polished and elegant indie magazines that have been sprouting up in the U.S. and U.K. At a minimum, perhaps Arizona Highways could do a split run cover, and give their subscribers a version with minimal cover lines, and a photograph presented in full, unobstructed glory. -BN
Robert Newman was most recently the creative director of Reader's Digest. He has been the creative director of Real Simple and the design director of Entertainment Weekly, New York, Details, Vibe, Inside, The Village Voice, and Guitar World. He was also the editor of The Rocket, a music and culture magazine based in Seattle. Visit his site and read his full bio and follow him @Newmanology.Â
It's no secret that social media has become a bastion for sharing content. But what's interesting now is how shares are allocated from platform to platform, category to category and channel to channel.
The infographic below was created by MAZ Digital Inc., and the data was collected form 124 newsstand magazine apps to determine how users are sharing magazine content on their tablets. It's evident by the results that when it comes to shares, content categories and channels mean everything.
New York--WIRED magazine rounded up some of the most elite healthcare professionals on November 5-6, to discuss how technology--and more specifically, data--will change our future at its Data | Life conference. This is the second installment of the conference and WIRED's second gathering of thought leadership in 2013, following its Think Bigger business conference in May.
Data | Life is another indication that the brand is looking to be more than just a techie-lifestyle magazine. Of course, with so many industries leveraging technology the question from a business perspective is: why healthcare?
The Connection Between Data and Design
Since Scott Dadich took the reigns as editor-in-chief, he has been committed to rethinking the design of WIRED. Throughout the conference he and his team of editors made it clear that design goes beyond the layout of a magazine or website.
"Design is about aesthetics, but at its core it's also about solving the problems people live with everyday," says Cliff Kuang, senior editor of design. And of course the latter can also be said about data.
Dadich weaves it all together when he says, "At WIRED we get to think a lot about the future, and we get to report about the progress enabled by momentum of technology and design. But nowhere is that progress more profound, and that change so exciting, than in the fields of health and healthcare."
The day's first speaker, professor of Medicine and Engineering at the University of Southern California David B. Angus, MD concurs, "We [healthcare professionals] use almost every technology first, because we have to."
In other words, many technologies that people use on a day-to-day basis now--both personally and professionally--were likely designed, developed and tested with healthcare in mind
Thought Leaders Start Conversations that Shape the Future
The event's content was a mix of more than a dozen healthcare and tech speakers. Topics included genetics, fertility apps, sensors and several other data applications that leverage information to improve the quality and length of life. And a packed room of over 100 invitation-only healthcare thought leaders listened in.
"The quantified-self movement has exploded," says WIRED's vice president and publisher, Howard Mittman. "Personal data capture--whether its apps or wearables--is sparking conversations and driving ideas." He also attests that the movement is important no matter what your industry.
Why It Matters
The conference's core theme is an important in that data tells the most accurate and vital stories and has the ability to predict the future. So whether you're looking to learn more about the health of your body or uncover who your who your audience is, data is the best portal for discovery.
The objectives of a healthcare professional may be drastically different from that of a publisher, but the modes for collecting, analyzing and making data actionable are similar. Thus, publishers who talk about leveraging "Big Data" should be keeping one eye on what is happening in the health space, because it could forecast their own future.
At the end of the day, publishers should find comfort in a shared challenge--there is too much data out there and filtering it efficiently and effectively will be an ongoing endeavor for everyone.
October is a big month for American Express's Travel + Leisure. Actually, 2013 is shaping up to be a big year for the luxury travel title.
Sure, ad pages are up 28 percent in October year-over-year. And, yes, the aggregate count is up 7 percent compared to 2012--impressive figures when considering how many publishers are looking at red ink this year. But the real cause for celebration in October, and 2013 for that matter, is that editor-in-chief Nancy Novogrod is celebrating her 20th anniversary at the helm.
20 years is a big milestone, and one that's ordinarily recognized by employers and colleagues. However, the celebration and recognition for Nancy at American Express has been anything but ordinary.
Earlier this year, Travel + Leisure's publisher, Jay Meyer, knew he wanted to do something special to honor an individual that he believed defined the brand. What he introduced was an almost yearlong celebration, one that is capped off in October's issue with a 20-page feature tribute and 18 customized ads from the brand's loyal travel partners.
"I'm happy to say it was my idea," Meyer says. He admits that it didn't take long for him to understand what Novogrod meant to the brand and, to the travel industry as a whole, until he had the opportunity to attend a trade show with her in France.
"Walking into that show with Nancy was very Hollywood-like," he says. "People were coming out of their spaces to say hello, and ask her to sit down or if she'd like some coffee or had time to chat. She introduced me to probably 20 people in less than 5 minutes, it was really a special moment and very eye-opening in terms of what these travel partners think of her, what she does and how she supports the travel industry."
Meyer says the pitch to advertisers wasn't a hard sell, "The general response was â€˜yes, of course we want to celebrate Nancy.'"
And likewise, the concept was well received in the C-suite. "As we made our way through producing these custom ads, I had a catch-up meeting with our CEO, and he--in a way I hadn't seen in a while--was blown away, primarily because the custom creative that you see within the section was just so heartfelt," Meyer says. "And you could see the time, the energy and the thought that went into the messaging."
Generating excitement for advertisers on a paper medium has been tricky lately, to say the least. But it seems American Express has tapped into a something many have lost sight of--the importance of relationship building. Not only that, but it's also a reminder of how editorial can impact business.
Transactions have changed in every industry. And more and more the relationship between buyers and sellers is being left on autopilot in order to promote efficiencies. While that isn't necessarily a bad thing, the problem is that sometimes it's human exchange and human voice that pushes a buyer through the funnel and sustains business.
The clients who bought ad space in October's Travel + Leisure weren't buying space in a magazine; they were buying an opportunity to thank an individual they developed a quality relationship with over two decades.
Obviously Novogrod's situation is unique, and not something very many publishers can leverage themselves (at least not overnight). Still, there is an important lesson at play here--people are your most valuable asset.
Image: courtesy of American Express Publishing
Lately almost everyone in publishing has been talking about native advertising. Right? Well, the Federal Trade Commission wants to join in on the conversation, too.
On September 16, the FTC announced that it is holding a workshop on December 4 to "explore the blurring of digital ads with digital content." In an official release the FTC stated the following:
Increasingly, advertisements that more closely resemble the content in which they are embedded are replacing banner advertisements-graphical images that typically are rectangular in shape on publishers' websites and mobile applications. The workshop will bring together publishing and advertising industry representatives, consumer advocates, academics, and government regulators to explore changes in how paid messages are presented to consumers and consumers' recognition and understanding of these messages.
A conversation between the FTC, publishers, consumer advocates and academics about transparency guidelines gives native advertising the legitimacy it needs to become a new standard. What that means, however, is that publishers and advertisers have to work together to create dynamic advertorial content that is not deceptively presented as editorial.
Self-Regulation Still Rules
Some skeptics are viewing the workshop as a doomsday prophecy for native advertising, despite history showing the FTC's actions have put the public's best interests in mind. Goverment intervention has been historically minimal when it comes to media. That is, there has always been a great deal of freedom to self-regulate. But advertising is a different story, largely thanks to the rise of crooked radio ads in the 1920s, which lead to programs like FTC. In other words, advertisers were getting it over on consumers, but that's not how native advertising should be planned or perceived.Â
The government's reputation to initiate effective policies and actions has certainly waned in recent years. But the FTC has not proposed any plans to draft legislation that will upheave native advertising. On the contrary, instead it is looking to focus in on exactly what native advertising is.
Let's face it, even media "experts" can't quite define native, agree on what it should be called or, in some cases, identify it when they see it. So maybe it's time everyone was on the same page?
A July study by the Online Publishers Association revealed that 75 percent of its membership leverages native advertising, and even more plan to do so in the near future. What that means is this isn't an intermediate fad for generating more revenue; it's arguably the most important forward-looking trend in publishing. Therefore, figuring it out sooner rather than later is crucial for seamless adoption and scalable appropriation.
Regardless of history, some may still find government intervention as meddlesome. However, Pam Horan, president of the Online Publishers Association, maintains that the FTC's workshop should be embraced and viewed as a good opportunity. "The FTC regularly convenes workshops like these to identify industry best practices," she says. "And they typically use these workshops to act as a learning tool for their staff as they are thinking about what their role is, and ultimately how they may want to think about developing some form of guidance."
Horan points to recent similar workshops the FTC held which resulted in helpful industry guidelines that ensure everyone is playing fair. Specifically, with Search Engine Advertising Guidance, Dot Com Disclosures and the Endorsements and Testimonial Guides. Horan says, "These identify a set of best practices for the industry and really help establish what the FTC defines as unfair or deceptive practices, because that is what their role is."
Given that, the OPA doesn't view the workshop as a disruptive probe, but rather a necessary action to learn more about native advertising and how publishers can work together to self-regulate. Horan refers to the process as "a natural evolution."
It's All About Trust
Fearing how the FTC could transform native advertising implicitly suggests that publishers are once again engaging in deception. So here's the bottom line: if publishers believe in native advertising, and believe they are presenting dynamic ads that can be clearly identified, then they have nothing to worry about.
Conversely, if publishers are knowingly getting away with taking advantage of consumers, the FTC should step in. It's a case of basic ethics, in that no matter how successful something is, it should be changed or stopped if people are mislead or cheated.
Horan says that for publishers, "trust is at the foundation of the relation between consumers." Therefore, if native advertising is going to be one of the new standards for generating revenue, then publishers and advertisers must adhere to basic guidelines and best practices while maintaining transparency. Otherwise it will become nothing more than digital snake oil.