In digital publishing, commerce is usually seen as e-commerceâi.e., buying on-site. And with the global e-commerce market set to hit a record-breakingÂ $1.5 trillionÂ this year, the definition isn't much of a surprise. Everyone wants a piece of that pie.
But e-commerce can be a difficult nut to crack, even for top publishers. Click-to-buy integrations aren't successful overnight. They need category expertise, technology and more to support them. Operationally, e-commerce is capital intensive, with high barriers to entry.
But commerce is more than click-to-buy, and the opportunities extend beyond a website.
Enter Webrooming Webrooming, or researching products online before buying in-store, isn't new. Yet, thanks to mobile and the rise of connected devices, it's growing like never before.
Sixty-nine percentÂ with a smartphone between the ages of 18-36 have webroomed.Â Eighty-eight percent, in general, say they've at least tried it. As a result, webrooming is set to account for nearlyÂ $1.8 trillionÂ in retail sales by 2017. The opportunity is huge.
And while brands are taking advantage by delivering new content to help consumers webroom online, third-party expert sites are really the main driver behind webrooming's adoption. This is because shoppers are more inclined to trust the buying recommendations of neutral publishers as opposed to the admittedly biased brands themselves. And, thanks to easy-to-use publishing platforms, expert sites are booming, making it simple for consumers to find relevant information from a credible source.
How Webrooming is Changing Commerce Webrooming is bridging the longstanding gap between online and offline buying, without the click-to-buy integrations. It's making online content a commerce driver for in-store transactions. Digital content is essentially marketing collateral to compel a sale.
What's changed today is that the consumer is now "always on." They're connected to the Web via tablet, smartphone, smartwatchâyou name it. This makes webrooming more convenient and appealing, broadening its usability. (It should be noted that formatting content for these different devices is something else publishers will have to get really good atâsometimes that may mean adding or subtracting content depending on the user's screen).
And this is how publishers need to see commerce moving forward. Their content is a commerce enabler that's encouraging audiences to buy. By understanding content's value in a webrooming culture, publishers can dream up new ways to more creatively and effectively monetize their strongest asset.
At our company, for example, we've invested significantly in our product reviews content over the last year, most recently adding Paul Reynolds, the first-ever Electronics Editor of Consumer Reports. Paul is broadening our reviews coverage and making it even easier for shoppers to webroom through our properties. But we're not the only ones. Everyone fromÂ Digital TrendsÂ toÂ The Wall Street JournalÂ are investing in product reviews because the opportunity is clear.
Of course, webrooming isn't perfect. Questions remain regarding performance. Publishers can't entirely quantify how many times a piece of content drove a sale.
However, though tracking the impact from online content consumption to offline sales can be nearly impossible because of attribution challenges, marketers are increasingly working with publishers to establish a performance proxyâa measurement of online activity that correlates closely to offline sales. Figuring out what those proxies are for product categories that audience shows the most interest in will enable the publisher to drive to that more measurable behavior.
The August-September cover of Organic Gardening showcases a very different approach for a gardening and lifestyle magazine. The cover is completely illustrated by Peter Donnelly, right down to a redrawing of the logotype. With its simple, bold colors and whimsical style, the illustrated cover feels more like something from a children's book than a gardening magazine, but that's just fine with me. I think it's a bright, bold and forward-looking statement, a design that sets the magazine apart as distinctive and original. Its style feels homespun and yes, organic, and just right for a magazine that has cover lines about bees, honey and sustainable wearables. I can imagine that this strikes a positive note with potential readers when they see it in the checkout aisles at Whole Foods or their local health food store or food co-op.
Still, I have to ask: What's going on here? Has Organic Gardening decided that it's the natural lifestyle version of The New Yorker? I love the magazine's recent cover illustrations, and they do remind me of some of the beautiful New Yorker covers from the 1960s and 70s, before their covers got much cooler and more topical. The past two Organic Gardening overs are so striking that they should be turned into posters.
Organic Gardening started running illustrated covers with their April/May 2013 issue. They've done a couple more since then, most recently on the June/July 2014 cover, which featured a beautiful illustration of a woman holding a bowl of fruit, created by Denise Hilton Campbell. That illustration was delicate and lyrical, with floating butterflies and a good deal of the logo obscured by the woman's head and tree leaves. Magazine art director Susan Eugster has shown considerable skill at assigning the art for these recent covers and designing them in a very elegant format. I score these last two Organic Gardening covers as two of the best and most original American magazine covers this year.
However, let's hope the magazine's creative team sticks with this new illustrated format. For the past year, Organic Gardening swung wildly between varieties of cover designs. Those covers have gone from full-page photographs to illustrations to a chock-a-block grid of images. And they rotate between putting all the cover lines above the logo (which I like a lot) and running one main headline more prominently. All of these covers individually are very well done and quite beautiful in their execution. But together it's a jumble, and looks like a magazine in search of an identity (or struggling for newsstand sales). It may be that we've been watching a magazine go through a challenging and experimental phase to reach what is a very holistic cover design approach.
With the exception of the New Yorker, these days it's rare to find a magazine that will use illustration on the cover this aggressively. Politically oriented publications like Mother Jones and The Nation, and even occasionally Time use cover illustrations, but they tend to be caricatures or portraits. You have to reach back to the old Reader's Digest covers pre-1970 to find something this beautiful. Of course, there was a time from the 1920s-50s that magazines almost always featured sophisticatedly illustrated covers. This latest Organic Gardening cover is a throwback to that time, although the style of the artwork is highly contemporary.
And that might be the key to this current Organic Gardening look. It feels classic, old school, rooted in tradition, and as noted before, very organic in its presentation. Yet the style of the design and artwork is very contemporary, so it doesn't feel nostalgic or retro. There's a blog on the Organic Gardening website by Maria Rodale, who is chairman and CEO of the magazine's parent company. Her blog's mission statement includes "instilling a sense of responsibility about making the world a better place, respecting nature, and doing it all with a good strong dose of love." This could very well be a mission statement for Organic Gardening, and their new illustrated cover design advances it perfectly.
If you're like me, you're always wondering why people who want to hear from you aren't giving you money. You test copy, creative, asks, offers and demos until you're blue in the face (and hopefully with a bit more coin in your pocket).
But I've also been wondering why people who originally wanted to hear from us have fallen off the map? I'm not talking about unsubscribes and opt-outs. I'm talking about âjust-hit-deleters': those people who can't be bothered to unsubscribe, but who would rather just delete you the minute your name pops up in their inbox.
How do we win back these people?
Subscriber inactivity is usually a symptom of email fatigue-you've sent too many emails, and the subscriber just doesn't feel special anymore when they see your email arrive. Your brand has a numbing effect on their emotional engagement. It's not only a problem for business emails; it pops up for editorial emails as well, which is arguably worse. It's important to keep a close eye on regular opt-out rates. Establish a baseline for your email stats, and watch it closely.
For all emails, someone should be coordinating traffic for the entire company and keeping an eye on the company email calendar. Your company must establish rules for its list usage, wheres/whens/hows, and someone needs to be tasked to police this. It's not a glamorous job, but it's necessary. Ideally, this someone will have no vested interest in the email content (business v. editorial, for instance) and will call balderdash when the guidelines are being abused.
Still, people have short attention spans. Every six months, I find myself unsubscribing from every email list imaginable, thinking I'm so over this. But inevitably I go back. What makes me go back? Sweet deals, simple content and nothing too wordy. I want my content emails to be quick and clean. WNYC has a great Morning Brief newsletter that I can't live without. It gives me everything but not too much: weather, cleverly-written headlines, breaking news and story highlights ("Does Anyone Really Want to See Sharknado 2?" Duh, YES!).
But I'm a rare breed: an âunsubscriber' rather than a âjust-hit-deleter.' It seems that people stop opening our emails much more than they opt out-they just stop engaging with us and hope we get the passive-aggressive hint that reeks of "it's not you, it's me."
Enter: The Mighty Reengagement Email.
Like a lost love letter found tucked into a notebook, a reengagement email should reignite a subscriber's passion for your brand. It should simply remind them that they loved having you in their life, and they miss you enough to want you back. Excite them about your content, and you'll be well on your way to increasing your delivery statistics, reducing your opt-outs (which can jeopardize delivery with major ESPs) and optimize the value of your list.
By all accounts, there are 3 major steps in a proper reengagement strategy:
1. Identify the recipients. Establish a threshold to define "lack of engagement." Maybe it's low opens. Maybe it's low clicks. Maybe it's low orders. Set a timing threshold: 90 or 120 days or something else-think about what makes sense for your brand. Do you want to start reengaging people after they haven't clicked through to a story in the past 120 days? That's four months of inactivity. Remember: People's attention spans are short. If they haven't interacted with you in four months, they've probably forgotten you. Soon they're going to forget why they ever cared about you. Remind them.
2. Use completely new creative. These are people who don't open what you're already sending-so send something new. Do something gutsy and different. Don't be cluttered. Send Smarter had a great round-up of reengagement creative, but if you find yourself stuck, any Google or Pinterest search will do. Acknowledge that they've fallen off your radar, but don't whine about it. Instead, try to win them back: offer discounts, sneak-peeks or even freemiums. Show, don't tell, subscribers what they may have missed: new writers, content, art or design. Make the ask specific (perhaps you want them to confirm their email address-then build a landing page that allows for this).
3. Stop fooling yourself. Some people just won't respond. They're done with you (remember: four months). You should consider getting rid of these inactives permanently. By all accounts, keep them somewhere in your ESP, so they can reactivate with you via an old email, and if they do, you can keep their history. But moving them to a permanent inactive list and NOT mailing to them will help your delivery rates and CAN-SPAM compliance (I predict ESPs are going to be more vigilant in the future, much like Google took it upon itself to sift through spam).
Reengagement emails shouldn't take forever: you don't want to loop them into another round of endless communication. Send four emails, over the course of 4-6 weeks, and then tell them you're ending the relationship. Tell them that they're welcome back at any time, but that you get it: they don't want to hear from you.
Don't expect huge conversion rates. Good reactivation rates vary anywhere from 2-5%, based on a variety of email marketing references. And don't forget: Open rates are going to increase automatically. Don't consider a campaign successful based on higher open rates alone.
Once you have a reengagement campaign in place, consider automating it for the future. Test timing and creative. Don't let people fall off in the future. Keeping them involved and excited about your brand will help your email delivery and performance, your social media presence (people engaged with you on email are going to engage with you in other outlets) and, ideally, fatten your wallet.
Are you accepting bitcoins yet? And, should you?
A bitcoin is not a physical thing, it is a virtual currency; you cannot toss it to start a football game, roll it for illegal drug activity or fold it into a paper plane. Bitcoin owners keep their bitcoins in a wallet and when they use those bitcoins to purchase items, they just transfer the cost from their wallet to the seller's wallet and that is pretty much that. Since bitcoins are not physical things, you cannot send half a bitcoin, but you can transfer any percentage of a bitcoin.
Since I started to research this article, the value of one bitcoin has fallen from $621.37 to $578.59 - I'll let you know what the value is when I finish this article, but the point is bitcoins are subject to fluctuation.
I very much doubt anyone reading this has an expensive product they are selling so fluctuations would not be a major factor, but remember you keep your bitcoins in a virtual wallet, and let's says your wallet has ten bitcoins in it. These would have been worth $10,686 last November, now their value would be $5,786.90, Look at it this way, last November you could have brought 10,686 of your favorite friends a $1 cup of coffee each, but now, only 5,786 friends would get a cup of Joe. If however, in a real wallet you had $10,686 last November, today you would still have $10,686 - and 10,686 friends!
Most publishers will, at some point, want to balance the books and disclosing the value of your wallet is an easy enough thing. Turning the bitcoins into currency that you can toss, fold or fly is not as straightforward as you would think. There are basically three ways, two of which rely on your offering your bitcoins for sale and hoping someone buys them. There are other ways, but if you are really considering offering bitcoins as a form of payment, the above selling method is your best bet. What you cannot do is just cash them in, someone has to want them, and at an acceptable price.
Many years ago The Economist used to publish at annual review of how much items cost by the number of Mars bars you would have to hand over. A cup of coffee was one Mars bar in 1972, in 1977 it was three Mars bars etc... sound sort of familiar?
What if you have to make a refund on a subscription paid for by bitcoins? This could be interesting. It is quite conceivable that a customer could cancel their subscription and the refund for the "unused portion of the subscription" actually has a dollar value of more than was originally paid. Finance departments around the world will quake in their boots.
Bitcoins certainly have a value, but whether their value currently applies to subscriptions seems doubtful. Since I have been typing this article, the value of a bitcoin has dropped by $6.00, but since it is all virtual, should I really care?
The FOLIO: 100 is now open for nominations. In case you don't know, the FOLIO: 100 is the magazine and media industry's best-known and most prestigious list of innovators, entrepreneurs and market shaker-uppers.Nominate a colleagueâeither at your company or at another oneâthat has made a quantifiable impact on a product, group, company or even the industry at large."Quantifiable impact" is important to emphasize. Vague explanations about why a person deserves to be on the list won't cut it. The FOLIO: 100 represents just about everyone on the org chart, but a nomination has to include measurable results.Also, the FOLIO: 100 is equal opportunity. It's not reserved for senior executives. There's plenty of innovation and influence on the front lines, so be sure to give recognition where it's due. The more the merrier.From editors to sales, audience development, design, production and digitalâthe FOLIO: 100 intersects consumer, b-to-b, regional, enthusiast and association publishingâbig and small. Click here to fill out our easyâand freeânomination form. Nominations are due August 15.Â And here's last year's FOLIO: 100 to get you in the mood.The list-makers will be featured in the October issue and feted at an awards luncheon at MediaNext on October 21.***Additionally, FOLIO: is also taking nominations for its 30 Under 30 list, our list of some of the brightest individuals under the age of 30 who are executing on some of our industryâs most innovative ideas.The deadline for 30 Under 30 nominations is August 15. Click here to enter your nomination.
Michelle Obama has become a top magazine cover celebrity, arguably the top celebrity in terms of breadth and frequency of appearance. I can't think of anyone else who makes such a stylish splash every time she appears on a cover, and who also appears on so many different types of covers. I'm sure Baby Boomers who still adore Jackie Kennedy will disagree, but for my money Obama is by far the all-time leading First Lady in terms of iconic magazine cover appearances.
The August 2014 cover of Essence features Obama on what is her fifth cover for the magazine. The photograph is by Kwaku Alston, who has shot a number of her covers for various magazines, including the October 2011 issue of Essence, which is one of my favorites of the First Lady. On this cover, designed by Essence creative director Erika Perry, Obama is wearing a dress by the young American designer Azede Jean-Pierre. Alston's experience photographing Obama shows; she is relaxed, engaging and her smile jumps off the cover. Magazines struggle to get the kind of relaxed intimacy from celebrities that Obama consistently exudes in her cover shoots. And this cover exemplifies that.
I was part of a team that photographed her for the cover of Reader's Digest back in 2011. I've talked with a number of art directors who have photographed her for covers, and their experience seems to be universal. You get the option of setting up in a handful of rooms in the White House, including the First Lady's office. There's no advance notice of what she is going to wear, and her personal team handles her styling and makeup. No one gets more than a half hour with her (and often less). In fact, during the Reader's Digest shoot I kept a stopwatch running on my phone that I kept flashing at her assistant every time they tried to wrap up the shoot before our promised half hour. Still, within those parameters she's a gracious, cooperative subject who definitely knows how to work the camera and create brilliant cover images. That's one of the big reasons she's had so many smart and diverse magazine cover shoots. Obama's list of magazine covers in the past five years includes Vogue (twice), People, Reader's Digest, Parade, Parents, Good Housekeeping, AARP, CondĂ© Nast Traveler, More, Glamour, Ladies' Home Journal, Prevention, Ebony and Better Homes and Gardens. The list is nearly endless. She's even been illustrated on the cover of The New Yorker. And she rarely seems to repeat the same clothing designer, which is quite a feat!The most challenging part of the Essence cover is that it was shot in front of a brightly backlit window. The result, as anyone who has worked in this kind of situation knows, is uneven lighting, false colors and shadows in the wrong places. On this cover the photo ends up with an oddly faded-out section on Obama's lower arms and handsâjust compare them to the rich color and texture of her upper arms. That said, while the blown-out background does not help Obama, it provides the perfect backdrop for a set of nicely articulated cover lines, all of which work to good effect. The editors and creative director manage to cram in a healthy amount of cover lines without overwhelming the photo. Arguably the very elegant thinness of the type in the "Head to Toe Skin Care Guide!" circle is a little too delicate for its usage here, and I would have avoided the unfortunate collision created where the "Education Special" pink nugget that appears to be poking the First Lady in the back and creating unnecessary visual tension. Still, those are minor quibbles. This is a tight, bold, modern, engaging-looking cover that works well both on newsstand (I bought a copy) and online (where it first grabbed my attention). Like its subject, this cover has an incredible sense of style.
Essence deserves credit for referencing children so directly on this cover. Cover lines about children are rare on women's magazines. When I was the creative director at Real Simple we had a guiding principle that children were rarely mentioned and pictured, and certainly never on the cover. I think the feeling was that it would take away from the escapist and aspirational aspects of the magazine. I haven't done a scientific survey of contemporary women's magazines on this subject, but my casual surveillance at the newsstand this week corroborates this.
Obama has mastered the art of creating iconic magazine cover images. There's not another person in politics who conveys such a sense of power, style, grace, beauty, intelligence and sex appeal, except of course, her husband Barack. While Barack Obama, as with other Presidents, has aged considerably with the job, Michelle looks even better and more energetic than she did in 2008. I would go so far as to say that I don't see any celebrities of any kind who have been able to create such a powerful set of cover images in such a short period of time.
Obama has dozens of solo magazine covers to her credit, and that doesn't even include the ones she's been on with Barack, or teamed up with other people, including her mother and Jill Biden. Even more impressive is that this unbroken string of successful covers has come during a time of fierce and heated political opposition to the politics of the Obama Administration, and by extension, to Michelle Obama. This cover shows, once again, that no one commands a magazine cover like Michelle Obama.
It used to be in creating promotional work, a company would hire a copywriter and a designer unless they were fortunate enough to have these experts in-house.This changed slightly when computer programs like Quark, In Design, Photoshop etc. became available, but being able to use the software did not turn us all into designers, merely people who could use design software. With the explosion of websites, apps and all things digital, plus the move from managing circulation to developing audiences, even more programs became available to make designing easier. Suddenly promotions were being judged not by the results produced, but by how knowledgeable the keyboard operator was, how quickly they could be deployed and most importantly, in many instances, by the number of people who viewed the promotion.The thing is, just because something looks good or can be deployed quickly or is viewed by a million people, unless you get orders, your promotion has failed.No matter how adept one is at using a computer to design promotions, you still need the knowledge to know whether something will work, and sometimes ugly can be beautiful.I knew of one publisher who produced an 8.5 x 11 letter/order form combo that was green and pinkâto say it was vile is being kind. Covers were scanned in, one green, one pink and universally the promotion was hated, the publisher hated it, the designer hated it, the printer threatened to go on strike if they had to print it, yet it got the best requalifcation response of any promotionâever. No test ever beat it. It worked year, after year, after year. An advertising agency came in to bid on designing promotions, took one look at the package, said, âthat will have to go straight away,â and the publisher threw them out of the office. A knowledge of and experience in using what is considered to be sound direct marketing technique is invaluable and not dependent upon software or the latest technology.Â Â But remember, as time goes by things can change, it used to be deliverability on text emails was better than html, by and large this is no longer the case. Times change, people change and your market may well change. This means what did not work in the past, may now actually work, and what used to work may no longer do so. However, all of this is governed by producing good copy and good design. Simply because you may not like the way copy reads, or how the design looks, does not mean to say it is bad. This is why you test everything, and if a test beats the control, it becomes the new control, and then you try and beat that.
When I was just starting out in publication design, I worked at a small monthly left-wing newspaper in Washington, D.C. We used to joke that we wanted the paper to be the National Enquirer of progressive politics, and even designed a tabloid-style logo. Years later in the early 1990s, when I became art director at The Village Voice, I played those ideas out further, using big screaming headlines, loud primary colors and graphic photo treatments. So it warmed my heart when I saw the July/August cover of Mother Jones, which gives a jagged, shouting tabloid treatment to a story about right-wing bogeymen the Koch Brothers.
The parody, designed by creative director Ivylise Simones, is spot on, with just the right mix of funkiness and visual chaos. The design holds nothing back, right down to the Mother Jones logo, which was redesigned for this issue to reflect a tabloid feel. The result is a cover that is fun, engaging, provocative and viral-ready. It takes a strong partnership between the editors and the visual team to create this kind of high-level, sophisticated cover design and it works brilliantly, crafting a set of images that work on so many levels.
Conventional wisdom is that a magazine's logo is sacrosanct, a critical part of the brand that should never be messed with, and I'm sure the Mother Jones logo change will confuse a few readers. Yet, what the magazine gains is a dynamic, comprehensive graphic approach that not only jumps off the page, but is destined to work quite effectively online and across the magazine's multiple platforms. Apparently altering logos to fit stylized covers has become a trend, because it's been done recently to great effect by both Bloomberg Businessweek (who have done it at least three times over the past year) and The New Republic.
For a recent cover story on Jeopardy TV host Alex Trebek, The New Republic designed itself to look like the famous Jeopardy game board, altering its logo to mimic the show's distinctive trademark. In early June, Bloomberg Businessweek published a story on progressive economist-of-the-moment Thomas Piketty designed to look like a teen fan magazine, complete with a bubble gum logo and small photos of both Justin Bieber and Karl Marx. Both covers take complicated, unsexy topics, but with graphic stylization they turned them into dynamic, pulsating covers, and the same is true with this Mother Jones cover. Of course, there's a long history of magazines designing covers to look like LP covers, posters, books, product packaging and more. It's very exciting that magazines that cover topics that are generally not considered flashy and cool (politics and business) are creating some of the liveliest, hip and memorable covers.
Lately there has been a true renaissance of cover design at some of the most notable liberal magazines. In addition to Mother Jones, The New Republic (creative director Dirk Barnett) and The Nation (creative director Robert Best) have all been turning out exceptional covers. Each have their own unique style: Mother Jones is polished and provocative, perfectly designed to be spread around on the internet; The New Republic is thoughtful, stylish, cutting edge, and very contemporary; The Nation, with its limited budget and weekly publishing schedule, has a funky, homemade, gonzo feel like many of the altweekly newspapers. There's a powerful energy and passion that runs through all three designs.
That raises this question: Why do liberal magazine covers look so much better and smarter than their conservative counterparts? While many liberal mags are having a design renaissance, two of the most prominent conservative publications, the National Review and The Weekly Standard, look dated and uninspired. The lefties have enthusiastically embraced a wide array of graphic techniques, modern illustration and typography and just flat out coolness, whereas the conservative magazines tend towards very crude and sophomoric illustrationsâstuff that often looks one step above what you would see in a college newspaper (and sometimes not even that good!). The design of the National Review and The Weekly Standard covers looks straight out of the 1980s. Given that both publications wax nostalgic for the days when Ronald Reagan was President, there's certain logic to their resistance to enter the 21st Century in terms of cover design. The irony is that the National Review created brilliant covers in the 1960s and 70s; smart, edgy, graphic, nicely illustrated and very cool for their time. Also, given the fact that the National Review has a very vibrant, up-to-the-minute website and social media presence, their lack of a modern cover design is even more baffling.
Good cover design does not stem inherently from any particular political ideology, although I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of art directors, illustrators and creative magazine makers in the New York/Washington publishing scene lean to the left. Still, there are several conservative publications (most notably The American Conservative) that have crafted some smart looking covers. (Full disclosure: I helped create the initial design of The American Conservative when it launched in 2002). Political blogger Andrew Sullivan has popularized the concept of epistemic closure to describe the bubble that the right-wing media and many of its supporters operate within, shielded from other opinions and data-based facts that might upset their belief system. What's notable about the Mother Jones tabloid-styled cover is that's it's an attempt to expand the magazine's voice and reach beyond its traditional readership, and also an acknowledgement that there's a place for modern approaches in cover design for political publications.
We all come up with good ideas for marketing and promotion, but in all honesty good ideas can vary from being very good ideas indeed to not so good.Whenever you have ideas it is always good to run them by the one group of people that usually will be affected, yet often get ignored in the thought processânamely the fulfillment company.The wise circulation professional or audience developer will always include the fulfillment company in initial planning because very often those are the people at the back end who have to make your ideas work. Involving them at the front end will save a great deal of heartache later on.Not so long ago a publisher produced a print magazine on a regular frequency, and that was pretty much that. Now there are digital versions, websites, apps, feeds, white papers, Facebook, Pinterest, tweets, pings, pokes and also audio and video content, newsletters, and anything else that can be thought of to engage people.Some publishers can engage their audience in person by running trade shows or seminars, as well as webinars. All of this takes thought and organization but very often the people who are to process all the information and disseminate materials are not even asked if they can handle the requirements. All too often it is just presumed the fulfillment company can handle whatever crazy ideas we have thought up, but truth be told, by including the fulfillment company from the outset, very often their questions and ideas will solve many a potential problem, and may well save you money in the short and long term.Most fulfillment companies have email capacity, which you can control yourself if required. Many, but not all, have in-house lettershop services to help in sending out items via snail mail. They also have customer service staff. Unlike many publishers, customer service operates with hours that start in the Atlantic time zone and finish when the sun goes down in the Pacific time zone. Like publishers, fulfillment companies have also had to adapt and who is to say you have to use one fulfillment company for everything? The way our world is interconnected provides opportunities that past audience and circulation developers used to dream of.There are very few new ideas today. It may seem like there are, but they are all variations on what marketers have been doing for years with the added advantage of new technology. And, it was ever thus. Now of course ânew technologyâ comes more quickly and faster than ever before.Â The way we use things may be continually changing, but in most cases there is still a requirement for fulfillment services to interface with all the things we do, and the savvy professional will not exclude the good folks who end up making our crazy dreams and ideas come true. Though many ideas are new to us, the way they are executed is not.Â As the great lady herself might say âfulfillment companiesâtheyâre a good thing!â
After several difficult weeks, many of the former Source Interlink retailers have begun to transition their business to Hudson News, to TNG (formerly The News Group). The two big players that remain have begun a rapid and disciplined process of creating distributions for some of the copies that have been languishing on docks and for copies being printed and shipped now. As part of that process, TNG is âaskingâ publishers for return of signed copies of what we laughingly call an âagreement.â Covering several hot-button issues that have perplexed many of us in the past, such as what a Pay-on-Scan business might look like, this agreement begins to outline how this business will run now that a single wholesaler calls the shots. The choice to the publisher seems to be: Do you want to play? Or do you want to take your bat and your ball and go home?A few publishers are going gentle into that good night, lambs to the slaughter. Others are going kicking and screaming. Some, as they make their choices today, are defaulting to a Niebuhr-esque approach, seeking to parse what is necessary and what is not, taking on the things that might be changed and letting go of the things that canât. But Catherine Lee, the Founder and CEO of Discovery Girls magazine, is looking to the future.âThis is an opportunity for us all,â she said when I made that tough callâthe one in which I had to tell her what her options were. âWe have endured, as an industry, so much over the past year, two years, five years. Now itâs time to pick up and go forward.âI had called her with the expectation of a very different response. Catherine, like most independent publishers, has been challenged by the increasing demands of the business, the dropping revenue, the slipping efficiencies. Would she, I privately wondered, even want to stay in the game? And if she, and many other publishers, were to choose not to, what then? What happens to the newsstand distribution business? What happens to consumer magazines? What happens to print?âWe need to turn this into an opportunity,â Catherine told me. âAn opportunity for channel partners to get together and help each other. We need to be successful, and the remaining wholesale groups need to be successful. We need to work with them, and to make the best of this.âWith wholesalers representing over 40 percent of the business exiting within the past nine months, and the rest desperately looking for ways to survive, how could this be viewed, I wondered, as an opportunity?âThe forces in the market are bringing us together,â Catherine responded. âIt is important for us to stand together to meet the future. We need to get together with TNG, with Hudson News, with everyone still out there, and create a platform for success for all of us.âEvery remaining channel partner, I suggested, was still trying to navigate this transition and keep their heads above water. Would anyone be ready to begin those conversations, to figure out what comes next?âOur wholesaler partners need our magazines to sell,â Catherine said. âWe need our wholesaler partners to distribute our magazines efficiently. We canât sink into a black hole. We need to make things better. We need to get together with the players, to start brainstorming, to start creating our future. Weâre going to figure this out. It needs to start somewhere. âThis is the first time in a long time that Iâve been excited about our industryâs prospects,â she concluded. âThe first time in a long time I could begin thinking that things are going to change.â
According to some publishers, programmatic is just a way for agencies to commoditize ad inventory and make sales teams irrelevant. The truth is, software has mostly replaced travel agents, and it will replace some ad salespeople and media buyers too. The benefits to advertisers are too compelling for this not to happen. Amex has already announced it is going 100% programmatic, and others will follow.
So hoping it will just go away if you do nothing is not a healthy option.
If you sell display sponsorships with an effective CPM of $1,500 and agencies aren't pushing you to demonstrate ROI, then go ahead and keep milking it. But start working on a plan B now, because as programmatic expands, you'll have fewer places to hideâwhether you choose to participate or not.
Many publishers still equate programmatic with low-quality remnant inventory ad networks notorious for "black box" programs that are rife with fraud. That is not the reality of programmatic now. Amex isn't going to buy crap audiences. They want the most efficient way to reach great audiences. Programmatic is starting to deliver that, and it's getting more efficient as competition and participation grow.
If you're already delivering performance-based campaigns and your audience is valuable and engaged, programmatic could theoretically deliver higher CPMs than you're getting now. Programmatic will almost certainly improve sell-through, meaning fewer unsold impressions every month. Forbes is generating 30 percent of digital revenue from programmatic selling already.
A lot of the fear and confusion comes from the singularity-like speed with which the industry is evolving. That pace will only accelerate. If you are delivering demonstrable value to your advertisers now, it's time to get working on your programmatic strategy.
FOLIO:'s annual Eddie and Ozzie Awards are coming up quicklyâdon't let this early summer lull fool you. In fact, the final deadline to enter is Friday, June 27.
So after June 27, that amazing November-issue cover your creative director built, or the blockbuster feature package your editors labored over, officially won't get industry-wide recognition if you miss the deadline.
And this is an industry of fan boys and girls. We're all watching what everyone else is doing. So the Eddie and Ozzie Awards, which feature an army of 300 judges who pour over more than 2,000 entries, is the best and biggest forum to get your hard work recognized and honored.
I can't tell you how many times my team and I have heard the phrase "it's all about quality content" when we're talking to publishers about a new initiative. And it's true. Technology may change, new trends emerge, but at the end of the day, it's the content and its design that matter to the audience.
The Eddie and Ozzie Awards are your chance to let our industry know your brand has one of the best teams behind it.
Good luck and enter here.