Early versions of digital magazines got a bad rap, thanks to static facsimiles and awkward reader tools that did little to improve the reader experience over print. However, digital editions have been evolving, becoming more seamless with online and offering new opportunities with search and archiving.
They may even show some promise as revenue generators. In a recent Folio: Webinar called Digital Edition Revenue Generation, part of a three-part Digital University Series sponsored by NXTBook Media, three publishers talked about how they're seeing financial returns with digital editions. Hearst Electronics Group created a custom digital edition called Project Analog for one sponsor, while UK-based Graduate Prospects phased out its decades-old print product for digital-only and is profitable.
ITEM Publications' Interference Technology started launching digital editions for the Asian market, publishing Interference Technology Japan six times per year with a 5,000 circulation. All ads from the print product are featured in the book (paid or not) and advertisers pay a 12 percent optional premium of the print cost for the digital edition.
Putting all ads, paid or not, into the digital edition saves time for the art director, and lets non-paying advertisers know what they're missing (paying advertisers are included in search results and receive reader tracking results).
In 2007, ITEM Publications saw $180,000 in digital publishing revenue and $70,000 from optional digital ad revenues. "It's not huge but it's not a difficult sale to make and it comes with high margins," says publisher Graham Kilshaw.
To access the Webinar, go to http://www.foliomag.com/webinars/4038.
I interviewed Kristy Kaus, Active Interest Media's research director, for a story I wrote in the January issue of FOLIO:. Kaus has been doing cover research for a number of AIM's enthusiast titles, and her program has provided a measurable boost in newsstand sales. The research is done via online surveys-a method that puts cover testing well in the realm of small to mid-sized enthusiast publishers that otherwise wouldn't spring for a full-on, focus-group or direct mail approach.
The testing is performed through a proprietary Web-based survey platform developed by Kaus, and can be executed with a 36-hour turnaround. If you're feeling skittish about using an online-based testing group, don't be. Kaus notes that readers are typically online anyway, and backtested her groups just to be sure their opinions matched performance. "We tested a past poor performer versus a past top performer. With every control on the online survey the top performer won. So that was enough to validate the program for us, that it's effective. And it gave us enough assurance that moving forward was a smart idea," Kaus told me.
I suppose it's a more guerrilla approach to cover testing, and perhaps not as hermetically sealed as a formal, live version, but Kaus' numbers speak for themselves: "For every test that I have done, the sellthrough has either stabilized with the same issue month the year prior or it has increased, and in some cases increased pretty substantially," says Kaus. Southwest Art jumped 12 percent in singlecopy sales, and Vegetarian Times increased 21 percent, for example.
Not too shabby.
Great FOLIO: cover story this month on Glam.com and its pink-leaning founder, Samir Arora. The company is still somehow under the radar, despite its absurd traffic growth (25 million unique visitors a month across its network of 400 sites) and rank (ComScore places it among the top 25 Internet media companies).One point that didnât make it into the article but came out during a video shoot we did with Samir for FOLIOmag.com this week: heâs not looking to flip the company. At least, not yet. From rough notes I took during the interview:
FOLIO: Iâd imagine, given all the success youâve had in a relatively short period of time, you get approached a lot by some of this traditional media companies youâre kind of competing with.ARORA: Yes, we do get approached, every month ... nothing serious ... but that wasnât the goal. We want to create a great brand ... one that will have tremendous value in the marketplace.
If traditional publishers continue to miss the site network strategy, as Arora says, Iâd expect that line of âapproachersâ to start looking like the runway at JFK, probably sooner than later. And when it does, itâll be a fun exercise in valuation.
Architectural Recordâs contributing editor Robert Campbellâalso a Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic for the Boston Globeâtakes a sophisticated jab at the Hearst Tower, which opened in October 2006, in the magazineâs January issue.He writes that the building, designed by UK-based Foster + Partners, looks like a âmisplaced missile siloâ, âa cage for a single massive objectâ, maybe even âthe carton the real tower came in.â Itâs like a delinquent teen, he writes, that thumbs its nose at its older companionâthe six-story Art Deco building from the 1920s that the new tower sits upon. The waterfall with the neighboring escalator that you see when you enter is âthe kind of clichĂ© youâd expect to find at a Hyatt convention hotel,â he writes. âThe three-story shell of the old Deco building surrounds you on all sides, but nothing is done to dramatize the experience of yourself as new wine in this old bottle.â (One thing Campbell doesnât mention, surprisingly, is the âgreennessâ of the building, the subject that seems to come up most in reference to the tower. The Hearst Tower is New York Cityâs first building to get Gold LEED certification, the U.S. Green Building Council's highest.)
I was idling around the newsstand at lunch and was surprised to see the December issue of Hemmings Motor News sitting there, weighing in at 696 pages. Hemmings is basically an antique car and car parts directory. Looking for an antenna for that 1964 Corvair? Find it in Hemmings.The curious thing is why the print publication is still thick as a phone book. If ever there was a publication to become disintermediated by the Internet, this is it. Hemmings is a place where you go to find things you are looking for, not for random discovery. And, in fact, it has a robust Web site, claiming to be the âworld's most comprehensive and informative web site of its kind, featuring over 30,000 searchable cars-for-sale ads, 10,000 Car Club listings,â etc.
Maybe itâs because car collectors are old and donât use the internet. Nope, we know that all age groups are active users of the Web. Maybe the Hemmings brand is so strong that they can REQUIRE classified advertisers to use print if they want to advertise online. Not soâyou can advertise online exclusively. I just donât get it. Why is their print edition so robust? Any ideas?Leave 'em in the comments section below.
Good got some bad reviews on its December cover from panelists in this monthâs FOLIO: Face Up, but letâs not ignore the positives: Laura Wall says it is âcontemporary and compositionally interesting.â Unlike Paul Lee, who doesnât get the monochromatic look, Anthony Ficke thinks the use of a limited color palette âgives the image a chance to stand on its own.â Ficke also likes the profile shot and thinks the use of the equation is a âcreative use of text combined with design.â On the negative side, Wall says at first glance she couldnât even understand what the magazine was aboutââa real problem if you are trying to attract a newsstand readership.â It could be. But it took time for Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, the game theorist featured on the cover who uses math to predict the future, to gain respect from much of anyone. Now, his work has been used by the CIA, Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. Department of Defense, according to Goodâs article. Maybe, in a way, it's just harmony of subject and form.
What do you think?
Click here to take the quick Face Up poll for a chance to win an iPod Shuffle.
When OK! publisher sent a note to advertisers reminding them that the story that had America in a tizzyâBritney Spears' 16-year-old sister Jamie Lynn's pregnancyâwas theirs, I criticized him for a misguided, blatant attempt to cash in on a teenager's apparent troubles ("OK! Magazine Breaks 'Intimate,' 'Exclusive,' 'Major' Pregnancy Story"), and a desperate ploy to stave off the cannibalization of a global scoop at the newsstand.
Well, Morrissy is at it againâthis time, though, he has a point. Sort of. It appears his evil plan is working:
From: Tom MorrissySent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 9:45 AMTo: [REDACTED]Subject: You Heard It Here First!
Ask yourself this question: Over the holiday week, how many times did I see news coverage of the Jamie Lynn Spears story, which OK! Magazine broke exclusively? Did it come up in conversation with friends and family at least once? If so, you've experienced the buzz that OK! Magazine has been so successful at creating with our major news stories this year.
We're proud to announce that this buzz helped propel OK! Magazine sales to well over 1 million copies at newsstand for the first time! In fact, this issue sold so well, we literally had to go back to press to satisfy the demand. We project a newsstand sale of 1.3 million for a total delivery of close to 1.7 million for the week! This caps a 2nd half in which the magazine averaged 947,055 copies on our 850,000 rate base - a bonus delivery of 11%.
But OK! isn't only breaking news... we're making news! Our surge in growth and overall awareness is such a phenomenon that the New York Times featured OK! Magazine on the cover of its business section. Click here.
So, as we finish off an extraordinary year of news-breaking exclusives, we want to thank all of our advertisers for their support. We finished the year with a 46% increase in pages (+187 pages), which is the biggest increase in the weekly market and the 4th biggest increase in publishing overall.
Stay tuned for more OK! exclusives. Happy New Year to all!
Tom MorrissyPublisherOK! MagazineNews. Access. Style.475 Fifth AvenueNew York, NY 10017Office: [REDACTED]Fax: [REDACTED]Mobile: [REDACTED]Email: [REDACTED]
When I was kicking around the Manhattan in the 1990s, I was stupefied by some of the attitudes of the folks doing the hiring. For example, let's say I had an interview with the trade magazine Recliner Retailer Monthly.* The editor-in-chief or whoever was interviewing me would be concerned that I didn't have enough "recliner editorial experience" but was impressed by my freelance articles for Armchair Enthusiast* and Couch Aficionado.* I would do my best at convincing the interviewer that as a generalist, I could easily adapt to whatever subject I was dealing with. However, the mechanics of the ins and outs of a magazine were the same.
This attitude was not as prevalent in the world of not-for-profit or association publishing. After a two-year stint with a medical association working on its monthly and quarterly medical journals, I was deemed A-okay to be the associate editor for another publication at a trade association. In this case, the executive director had the foresight to know that there weren't that many people in the market with association experience, despite the fact that my experience wasn't exactly the same, topic-wise. Yet he knew that I could adapt to the environment within a not-for-profit a bit easier than someone from a strictly trade or even consumer background. (P.S. I got the associate editor job and became the magazine's editor eight months later.)
This is all to say that the efforts of the generalist should be praised, not buried. The first article I ever published in my professional careerâwhile still in collegeâwas with Marching Bands & Corps.-how's that for a specialty publication? I wrote another article for them before the magazine went belly up, but those first pieces (along with articles in Delta SKY, Alabama Alumni magazine, and Convenience Store People) got me interviews when I landed in New York City in 1990. In fact, I had more interviews my first month in the Big Apple than I did my entire life up to that point.
When I was hiring recently at Southern Breeze, the candidate at the top of my list had similar experience with another regional publication. She interviewed well and did great on the editorial tests (see my previous post, "Hiringâand FeedingâCompetent Editors"). Guess what? She quit after four days because it wasn't EXACTLY what she had in mind even though I vetted all the interviewees better than Congress does with a Supreme Court nominee. But it worked out for the better because she did not exactly function well under pressure, a must-have ability as we juggle 40+ annual publications here!
So for those of you paying attention, I did not take my own advice, but live and learn.
In 2001, I became the managing editor of a trade publication published by one of the big New York trade companies. The EIC was smart, sharp as a tack, funny, and knew her industry backwards and forwards. Almost her entire work experience, however, had been at this one trade publicationâan internship in college, hired as editorial assistant upon graduation, then progressed to associate editor, managing editor, executive editor and, finally, editor-in-chief. This rise took place over 15+ years or so and there was no denying she was one of the experts in her field.
Then, guess what happened? Exactly: The company folded the magazine after almost 30 years in print. Three editors were out of work. (By the way, the companyâwhich had openings throughoutâmade NO effort to place us at other magazines. Some gratitude considering we received a Jesse H. Neal Award for Outstanding Business Journalism the previous year. But I'm not bitter ... much.) I went on to work as managing editor with a website that is now a highly-revered monthly business magazine before moving back to the trade realm as the ME of two monthly design magazines. My former EIC is now a consultant, and from what I understand, doing pretty well.
The point is that since I had a varied and sundry background, I was never out of work in the magazine world. Others whose experience was concentrated in a single industry more or less left publishing completely. Is it survival of the fittest? Not necessarily. But it helps if you have clips/experience from as many different fields as possible. Plus, you get the chance to learn and prove yourself time and time again and believe me, that is a very good thing no matter how old you are!
* All magazine titles are made up. If they exist, I apologize ... and am very surprised.
When youâre a magazine like Parade, you donât tend to scoop anybody. Unless the interview you did with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in November, slated for a January cover, becomes chillingly prescient when she is assassinated in a suicide attack more than a week before the article is scheduled to be published.
As FOLIO: reported, the magazineâs decision to immediately post the interview on Parade.com paid off in record-breaking traffic for the site. The writer, Gail Sheehy, appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Larry King Live, CNN's The Situation Room, the CBS Early Show and ABC Radio to talk about the interview.
The print version, which arrived on Americaâs doorsteps this weekend, made no mention of the assassinationâreferring to Bhutto as âAmericaâs best hope against Al-Qaedaââand has subsequently drawn criticism. One FOLIO: commenter wrote:
Any journalistic outlet that publishes in newspapers ONCE PER WEEK would have made every effort to change the story to reflect the assassination. To allow those copies into print was tasteless and lazy, regardless of whether it went to print or not.
I wonât pretend to know what any journalistic outlet that publishes in newspapers âONCE PER WEEKâ would do or not do. But I do know that if I were the publisher I wouldâve demanded the production team either create a sticker to be placed on the issue explaining my decision to publish, or pull it out entirely.
And, call it the Jamie Lynn Spears rule, but I wouldâve also done little in the way of publicizing the âcoupââwho watches the Early Show anyway?âand certainly wouldnât have put out a press release touting a âbeyond the graveâ interview.UPDATE: Publisher Randy Siegel told the Associated Press that the only
option other than to run the outdated article would have been asking
newspapers not to distribute the magazine at all. "We decided that this
was an important interview to share with the American people," he said.
Will 2008 be the year CDs disappear like vinyl, cassettes and 8 track tapes (ugh)? It is inevitable. With MP3 players getting smaller and cheaper, there is no real reason for CDâs to exist. Yes, I know some people still like CDs. Some people still like vinyl. Some people wear Lederhosen but it doesnât mean they will come back into fashion anytime soon. Technology rarely returns to its roots; it evolves, gets cheaper, faster and more malleable. For audiophiles, there will still be FLAC files and other technology to keep the integrity of the sound.We still put CDs in our magazines (Relix, Global Rhythm, Metal Edge). Readers love them and itâs a great way for us to share the music we write about. I still play CDs but I prefer to download them to my iPod. I have 8,000 songs in my iPod. Try carrying 8,000 CDs around town. We also need a new shopping experience for music. Discovering new music alone at home is kind of depressing. Music is meant to be shared. Thatâs why concerts are held in venues and not over the Web. I want to meet people that share my passion for music and can turn me on to new bands.Imagine a world where you go to a music store, head over to the section you like (rock, jazz, classical, etc) and instead of standing in an aisle flipping through CDs, you can sit on a nice comfy couch and sip a latte with others who share your musical interest. There will be an expert host to tell you about new music coming out and recommend albums or songs. If you want to find things yourself you can scroll through a list of titles and listen to tracks on headphones. When you decide what you want you can either download it to a memory stick or directly into your iPod. The store will keep your titles on file should your MP3 player get lost.
This is the future, a combination of Amoeba Records and Starbucks. I would l spend all my free time there. When it happens look for me in the jamband sectionâI will be the one wearing Lederhosen.[EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out our video Q+A with Steve here ...]
The emergence of the âpay-what-you-wantâ subscription offerânow known affectionately as the Radiohead modelâraises an interesting question: Will people pay for something they can get for free?The answer, time and time again, seems to be an overwhelming and resounding âNo.â Early online content providers tried the âtippingâ modelâasking readers to support them so they could maintain the sites and continue to provide free material. Iâm not certain of the exact number of sites that succeeded with this model, but I think âzeroâ is a fairly safe bet.
Magazines canât be looking for how to get consumers to pay more for their content; thereâs simply too much competition and free content. That would be simply asking people to buy the proverbial cow.
Radioheadâs moderately successful tip model (based on assumed numbers) was only so because of the diehard fan base dedicated to the band and its music. As a sheer numbers game, Radiohead only needed a small percentage of its millions of fans to offset those that didnât pay.
(As an aside, I love how the term âThe Radiohead Modelâ has become so commonly used in relating new business notionsâIâm looking forward to when weâre all discussing the âHuey Lewis & The News Business Paradigm.â)
In addition, the idea of tipping is simply not a reliable source of income for the publishing industry, especially when done anonymously. We all tip waiters and the occasional barista at Starbucks, but thatâs because theyâre right in front of us. Moving forward, success for the publishing industry will come to those seeking non-traditional revenue streamsânot from those looking how to get more money from their readers.
For magazine editors covering politics, itâs been Huck-O-bamania since the candidatesâ surprising Iowa Caucus wins last week. Newsweek chose Obama as its cover subject this week. Newsweek editor Jon Meacham explains why:
A word about the decision to put Obama on our cover. Weekly magazines like ours have traditionally worried about looking stale or out of sync if the candidate we are featuring loses a different primary early in the week we publish. We suffered from that perennial concern until Thursday night. Then, when Obama's victoryâ 8 points over John Edwards, and 9 over Hillary Clintonâbecame clear, so did the cover decision. Barack Obama has made not only news but history.In an election to choose a successor to an unpopular incumbent at an hour of danger, an African-American candidate for president convincingly won a state that is virtually all white; a 46-year-old first-term senator defeated two more seasoned national politicians; an insurgent is roiling the stately party establishment Bill Clinton built as the first two-term Democratic president since FDR. No matter what happens going forward, in New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond, the Obama winâa vote for a viable candidate of color in a nation in which the issue of race has been called simply "the American dilemma"âis a new chapter in our long national story.
Check out the video of Meachamâs explanation here âŠ