Four days in and I really do like Quartz. I like the catchy categories like â€śEnergy Shocks,â€ť and â€śLow Interest Rates,â€ť and â€śModern States.â€ť I like the simple and clean look. And I like the ease of navigation on my iPad and my iPhone5 (just had to throw that inâ€”kinda like a middle school student who inserts, nâ€™est pa? at the end of sentences, because, well, nâ€™est pas?).It has its quirks and bugs to work out (some bylines show up with name and â€śToday at Invalid Dateâ€ť). It runs a tad slow compared with other sites on my devices (today). But they are smart people and will figure this out. I like how theyâ€™ve aggregated some good content (good and obscure, which is why I generally use Zite rather than Flipboard on my iPad). And I also like how there is good newly-created content. So that gets me to who is this for? David Carrâ€™s New York Timesâ€™ piece of Monday suggested, â€śThe editorial product is aimed at the front half of the airplanes that crisscross from Zurich to Sao Paolo to Singapore, serving executives who are increasingly having similar conversations no matter where they land. It was built for tablets, conceived as a mobile product for mobile people.â€ť So, since I do want to be Tyler Brule when I grow up I wonder whatâ€™s his take on it.QZ.com confirms everything weâ€™ve said in b-to-b media since the year one:Â We have highly specialized audiences that are valuable.What is fascinating about this product is that it takes on trying to appeal to a rarified slice of the world through some original and a lot of aggregated content. Will this work, or will users realize that, since this wasnâ€™t their first morning read as they hop scotched across the planet, they are rereading an FT or Reuters or New York Times piece. Might it not be more effective if one only found that content that cannot be found easily? (Note: stay tuned for such a product from Penton to launch shortly)Anyway, nice start and I look forward to sharing with all of my friends in the Delta Sky Clubs around the globe, nâ€™est pas?
My grandfather passed away many years ago at the ripe old age of 88. He left a legacy that included perpetual fruitcakes (not referring to my brother, but to a multi-year post-death pre-paid Christmas delivery of doorstop cakes to everyone in the family). Â This happening in the 1980s gave the family an annual holiday giggle and we wondered why grandpa did this (was it a six-year special or a legacy joke?). Since this was pre-Internet and, most likely, pre-credit card renewal, grandpa, likely wrote a check, mailed it and ultimately balanced his checkbook (a real book).Which gets me to 2012 and other types of legacies. How about the legacy subscription? I spent an hour Saturday morning trying to cancel my Wall Street Journal subscription on its website. It isnâ€™t because I no longer want the Journal, itâ€™s because they have offered me (by mail) a far superior offer than my perpetual subscription that renews with my credit card. As an aside, you would think that they had audience development and list managers who would de-dupe and catch this stuff.But my catching it on Saturday didnâ€™t much matter. And that is because unless I want to telephone the Journalâ€™s subscription department, there is no way to cancel my subscription on their website (or at least none that I could find). While I am not suggesting anything sinister in Murdoch-land, I am suggesting that there may be some folks trying to think of me as one of those perpetual fruitcakes.I am not picking on the Journalâ€”this is true for many publishers. I think it is time to own up to some not-so-great practices and adopt better ones. Auto-renewal is fine, but there does need to be an easier â€śoutâ€ť and an easier way to understand when you can get out without having to wait on a phone call or read endless Qs and As, particularly when you are given better offers. I do like the way some of the titles are set up in the iTunes Store. Esquire has nailed a very civilized way of getting in or out of a subscription online. So has the new Huffington. But then there is the always-elegant The Atlantic, which politely thanks me for my support for 10 issues but I canâ€™t figure out when my support began or ends.The Web should up the game for publishers and subscription management. Right?
Did you see the new Apple Newsstand magazine called Huffington.? Arianna (I donâ€™t know her but that is how she signed the introductory editorâ€™s letter so I guess we are on a first name basis) tells us that â€śHuffingtonâ€™s content will emphasize the richâ€”and richly rewardingâ€”interactions that come from uninterrupted time spent in the company of creative minds.â€ť Oh, dear. That grand statement comes after a 2-page ad for Prius V that, because as in true print magazine format, Huffington. must be read vertically (no turning of your iPad, please), we canâ€™t read the copy that goes across the gutter. Follow me? That's because there is no gutter on an app that canâ€™t be turned.Anyway, it is really pretty. There are great photos and some snappy graphics to highlight data and charts. But then it has these annoying little headlines that say, â€śEnter,â€ť which, because I assume that it is beckoning me to do so I push and push and push and all that happens is I get the table of contents (again and again and again). And then there are the similar â€śVoices,â€ť where I keep thinking Iâ€™ll find audio (love my New Yorker app issues that have poets reading their works). Nope, no voices here. There is some clever use of reader comments and a good article or two including the cover piece called, â€śObamaâ€™s perilous relationship with young voters.â€ť Â I guess the ad snafu aside, I am not appalled to be spending yet another 20 bucks for an annual subscription to something. But what is this something? Who is it for? I canâ€™t find that demo that should be so evident in a magazine. And why in a world where legacy publishers are trying to find life after print would a successful digital-first entity imitate print in the most sophisticated digital medium, the tablet? What am I missing? Are they going to sell a ton of print-like ads (note to sales team: 86 the spreads from the rate card)? Have they modeled that one percent of their supposed 80 million unique users per month will spend $20 per year? That would be a $16 million revenue stream. Hmmm. Or is this just one of those, â€śI did it because I could?â€ť
Warren Bimblick is senior vice president, strategy and business development, at Penton Media. Follow him on Twitter @wbimblick. Â
Journalists get a bum rap these days if they donâ€™t â€śwrite for the Webâ€ť in an optimized manner, or if they write stories that are too long and detailed (I still miss the twenty-page profiles of Amazon butterflies in The New Yorker from decades past).
There are just too many rules about writing, these days. We have all of the Twitter-pated editors and publishers spewing out 140-word stuff, which is sometimes nonsense (I am guilty of this, tooâ€”felt kind of dumb last weekend, so I tweeted about the weather).
So I guessâ€”as a businessperson with a J-degreeâ€”I pity the journalist who is being bombarded with figuring out ways to make a buck. It used to be that they could write smart things and the sales folk would sell blank pages. Agencies demanded far forward or negotiated being opposite something; it didnâ€™t much matter what was on the blank ad pages. Audience relevance was assured because the editors filled up the edit well with relevance, and there was a BPA audit that assured they got to the right people (disclosureâ€”I am on the BPA board). Now, they have to be contextually relevant and all that jazz.
Then they have to tweet, Facebook and Link In (out?) to the community that isnâ€™t necessarily the community that they used to write for; who took an annual subscription to the magazine but have been acquired through SEO, nurturing and mollycoddling but are, alas, anonymous. That is, until you convert them to register, which they are loathe to do as they found you by mistake. But they can be counted and even audited, and even though they wonâ€™t mail IN a bingo card, they fill OUT bingo cards (you hope) online. And then, Gadzooks, you have a lead that someone has to follow up on, but not by a salespersonâ€”but by a technological something or other.
Which gets back to the LEAD (not the lead)â€”that journalistic introduction to 200 words or 20,000 words.
How about a new kind of lead that can be repurposed to social: The combined Twitter and Haiku lead. Perhaps a Twitku?
Warren Bimblick is senior vice president, strategy and business development, at Penton Media. Follow him on Twitter @wbimblick.
Itâ€™s 6 p.m. on a typical Monday and my office e-mail box has logged in 110 e-mails today. As is true of most workdays, about 20 percent of them were from people or businesses I knew or people or products I want to know. The rest were solicitations or introductions from those who shall be know as the â€śdeleted mob.â€ť
Iâ€™m not complaining, mind you . . . I can tie a chunk of my own compensation to efficient and targeted e-mail as can most modern day publishers. We live by the marketer who wants to use our qualified readers to target, often in some sort of adjacency to content. But does anyone else think itâ€™s just gotten out of hand?
Here are just a few of the things that some publishers are doing today that really irritate me and, I think, help us devalue our brands and our relationships with our readers:
Letâ€™s be chums: Why do publishers think it is okay to personalize e-mail blasts to, among others, â€śDear Warren N,â€ť or â€śDear W,â€ť or â€śDear (insert name) or â€śWarren?" Iâ€™m a formal kind of guy so, â€śDear Mr. Bimblick,â€ť is fine for me. Or if you really prefer the familiar, â€śYoâ€ť works for me more than these just plain wrong salutations.
The sneak attack: Thatâ€™s those publishers who run webinars that I donâ€™t sign up for and then email me â€“ â€śYou missed our client-sponsored webinar on a topic.â€ť Only problem is they donâ€™t always tell me the topic.
Speaking of webinar pitches: â€śTop 15 reasons why . . . â€ś or â€śA free checklist of the 7 things . . .â€ť Couldnâ€™t the marketers of these things be more original. How about, â€śYour business will self-destruct unless you listen to tips on how not to do email?"
Lousy house ads: So many e-letter published populate their e-letters with house ads for subscriptions or events that are clearly picked of from somewhere else. You canâ€™t read the date of the event. Or, there are nine typefaces crammed into a tiny space. And the clip art.
Anyway, time to go home and get through my personal e-mail box.
Warren Bimblick is senior vice president, strategy and business development, at Penton Media.
For 35 yearsâ€”mostly living in Manhattanâ€”I have owned a car. This past weekend I gave up my car at lease-end and did not replace it. I realized that in four years I hadnâ€™t driven 9,000 miles and the cost and annoyance of owning was not worth it. I could rent when needed.I decided to use the cathartic experience to think of what else I donâ€™t need (another glass of wineâ€¦wellâ€¦). Could I give up magazines? Iâ€™m a magazine junky (I've had a New Yorker sub since 12). I counted. I get 28, mostly monthlies, meaning likely 300 issues in my mailbox each year. Itâ€™s staggering and impossible to get through.Then I thought about my day and what I do. My iPad is always in my hands and Iâ€™ve prepared two icons to sort my magazines (plus those that annoyingly insist upon going into the â€śNewsstandâ€ť). They range from some highly unsatisfactory replicas of print to some innovative replicas (The Economist) to very robust offerings that have expanded my love of a brand (my favorite is The Atlantic).
I do still read many magazines in print, but far fewer than I used to (indeed, it is often the ads that turn me to print over digital). My tablet content has become my first place to read while many magazines have become coffee table decorations. To me, the future belongs to the media companies that get out ahead with the technology and really understand how audiences are consuming their content and serve it up to individuals in the manner they want it. Yes, individuals. At Penton, we are meshing metrics and asking subscribers about what experience they want. We thenâ€”sometimes not easilyâ€”develop product around it. Moving the revenue dial is going to be about moving with the users and coming up with the experiences that will make them need youâ€”wherever that is. It is where that triumvirateâ€”publisher, editor and audience developmentâ€”need to come together and solve user experiences.Clever serving of content can be about pushing the needle on print, too. This Sunday morning, New York experimented with delivering this weekâ€™s issue to my front door testing a â€śVIP hand delivery service.â€ť Now thatâ€™s brilliance. This wasnâ€™t about technology, it was about strategy and figuring out the right time to reach me. And, by the way, they got me to re-up, too.