Add the USPS to the list of unfinished business left by the now-adjourned 112th Congress. As it muddled its way through negotiating terms for avoiding the fiscal cliff, the legislation the Postal Service was looking for fell by the wayside, prompting Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to voice his disappointment in an official statement. Even with hearings, lobbying from ABM and MPA and a raft of restructuring initiatives done over the last two years, the USPS is still in major crisis mode. And any major operational or pricing changes going forward could have a significant impact on publishers.Â
Ranks have been reduced by 60,000 carriersÂ and 70 facilities have been consolidated, but the USPS is still losing massive amounts of money, to the tune of $25 million per day. And it's already defaulted on its $11.1 billion Treasury payments and has no money left to borrow. "As we look to the coming year, we are on an unsustainable financial path," warns Donahoe. "We will be discussing with our Board of Governors a range of accelerated cost-cutting and revenue generating measures designed to provide us some financial breathing room."For the full statement, click here.
In what's become an annual tradition from Hearst Magazines president David Carey, a post-holiday letter to employees highlights some of the company's successes in the last year and points to new initiatives for 2013.While there were definitely highlights for the company, Carey noted the days of consistent performance across brands are over. This is a nod to a recognition that while the external media landscape continues to fracture, so goes the internal performance of brandsâ€”strategies that used to work consistently across the platform are now maddeningly hard to predict from one brand to another. "While in the past our businesses tended to move in unisonâ€”collectively, up or offâ€”I believe that the variability and volatility of performance is here to stay, which puts a greater emphasis on the impressive can-do spirit and creativity of our teams," says Carey in the letter.Nevertheless, Carey is continuing his push for entrepreneurial thinking within the company, noting international, digital and commerce-oriented growth initiatives. By the end of the year, for example, Cosmopolitan's partnership with jcpenney was producing $1 million in weekly sales. Also notable is Carey's claim that Hearst Magazines now has the highest number of paid monthly digital subscriptions across tablet devices in the industryâ€”at nearly 800,000. The subscriptions are generating profits and 80 percent of the subscribers are new to the file. Here's the letter in full: Dear Colleagues,Â Happy 2013! Welcome back after what I hope was a wonderful holiday break for each of you. If you were minding business at the office last week, I trust you also found it a peaceful place to be.Â As we begin a new year, I want to take stock of our companyâ€™s accomplishments in the last year and look forward to whatâ€™s on tap for the coming one.Â We have been thrilled by consumer response to the new print products we introduced, led most notably in the U.S. by HGTV Magazine and, globally, by 10 new Hearst international editions, including Esquire in Singapore and Colombia and Harperâ€™s BAZAAR in Poland. Weâ€™re also enthused by the pace at which our content is ricocheting around an increasingly mobile world. At the end of 2011, we had 39 million monthly page views on mobile devices; by the end of 2012 that number had grown to 186 million.Â But no question, 2012 will not be remembered as mellow in either media or meteorology.Â Many of our businesses soared and produced record results. Others faced challenges, and the teams behind these brands have put in place fresh thinking for 2013. While in the past our businesses tended to move in unisonâ€”collectively, up or offâ€”I believe that the variability and volatility of performance is here to stay, which puts a greater emphasis on the impressive can-do spirit and creativity of our teams.Â Whether you were doing business in sunshine or in storm, so many of you pushed aheadâ€”continuing the enormously imaginative work of expanding our companyâ€™s reach and influence. I want to thank all the teams that make Hearst Magazines great.Â The barometer of our 2012 performance marked important developments. Our core print brands were honored with a raft of prestigious awards: three National Magazine Awards, total domination of Advertising Ageâ€™s A-List, including Magazine of the Year Marie Claire and Publisher of the Year Nancy Berger Cardone, numerous Folio: Eddie and Ozzie Awards, and an Adweek Hot List nod for HGTV Magazine.Â More of our greatest brand hits last year:Â â€˘ ELLE had very strong growth in its first full year of Hearst ownership, gaining market share and becoming our second-largest business in the U.S.Â â€˘ HGTV Magazine, created in partnership with Scripps Networks, ended its first year with nearly 700,000 paid subscribers, producing average monthly newsstand sales of more than 250,000 and strong reception from advertisers. This year, the title will move to 10 issues annually.Â â€˘ Harperâ€™s BAZAAR had a perfectly executed redesign that has been a hit with readers and advertisers, and Good Housekeeping introduced a new look and feel in its January issue, a front-to-back revamp driven by extensive consumer research and testing. Now under way: a dramatic restyling of Road & Track and a new direction for Redbook.Â â€˘ Marie Claireâ€™s powerhouse publishing team delivered the most revenue ever in the magazineâ€™s 18-year U.S. history.Â â€˘ Already the No. 1 epicurean magazine on the newsstand, Food Network Magazine had a sales jump of 18 percent last year and earned the top spot for ad pages in its category. Projected FNM circulation for 2013: 1.55 million.Â In keeping with our UNBOUND positioning, we made impressive gains in digital media. By the end of the year, we counted nearly 800,000 monthly digital subscriptions in the U.S. across iPads, NOOKs, Kindle Fires and Android devicesâ€”the highest in the industry. Those subscriptions are now generating profits after 24 months of investment. And how exciting to see how this business is developing organically: More than 80 percent of our digital subscribers are new to our files, and their engagement levels meet or exceed the high levels we see from our print products.Â We achieved important digital milestones all across the company:Â â€˘ The number of unique monthly visitors to our websites grew by more than 30 percent. Our brands have driven an explosion in social engagement with their audiences; Hearst has 7.7 million Facebook fans, 4.7 million Twitter followers and 5.5 million Pinterest followers, including the No. 1 brand on Pinterest, Harperâ€™s BAZAAR.Â â€˘ Cosmopolitan doubled the size of its digital edit team in December, with the goal of reaching 20 million monthly unique visitors. The magazine also used a multi-pronged social media strategy engineered by iCrossing to welcome new editor in chief Joanna Coles: 18 million tweets announcing Joannaâ€™s move were sent in just a few hours. (The brand is also active on the TV front: Watch for Cosmo as a star of a new Mark Burnett series debuting in February.)Â â€˘ Jumpstart, a key asset from our LagadĂ¨re acquisition, had the most profitable year in its history. Jumpstart grew to become the No. 3 website for auto shoppers, with more than 9.5 million monthly unique visitors.Â â€˘ Innovation flows in all directions in our halls: Hearstâ€™s popular foodie destination Delish.com introduced a print special that was sold with the November editions of six titles at Wal-Mart, producing a 22 percent lift in single-copy sales.Â We welcomed new faces last year and, in some cases, rearranged places. Chief Technology Officer Phil Wiser, who joined Hearst Corporation last January, quickly became a key resource for our technology teams. In addition to Joanna at Cosmo, we named three new editors in chief: Susan Spencer at Womanâ€™s Day, Larry Webster at Road & Track and Anne Fulenwider at Marie Claire. We were also pleased to welcome Carine Roitfeld as global fashion director of BAZAAR, who, in an industry first, will create fashion editorial that will run in all 26 international editions of the magazine at the same time. This high-profile creative initiative with Carine is among my favorite rule-breakers of 2012 and paves the way for more global content sharing.Â Benchmarking industry leadership took a number of creative forms at Hearst in 2012:Â â€˘Â We created the Hearst Design Group by consolidating the editorial staffs of ELLE DECOR, House Beautiful and Veranda under Newell Turnerâ€™s leadership, bringing a streamlined, nimble, European publishing model to the U.S.Â â€˘ Again, in the spirit of not holding onto established orthodoxies, we changed the business models of some titles, including Womanâ€™s Day and Veranda, shifts that have dramatically improved bottom-line performance.Â â€˘ You will see more brand extensions this year based on last yearâ€™s success; Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Delish and ELLE Accessories will all increase their frequency in 2013.Â â€˘ From its genesis as a column in Good Housekeeping, 7 Years Younger is now a book and a website with extensive social media presenceâ€”and the launch has been a collaborative effort across our company.Â Always looking for new ways to connect with our readers, Hearst developed fresh, effective commerce initiatives last year, including ShopBAZAAR.com and the House Beautiful Marketplace, a partnership with HSN.Â After a year of close collaboration, the Cosmopolitan Collection debuted in September in 700 jcpenney stores nationwide. At yearâ€™s end, consumer sales were running more than $1 million per week. (Operating as entrepreneurs entails taking chances: Our 2011 partnerships CLAD and Gifting Grace were discontinued. There will be some swings and some missesâ€”we learn and move forward.)Â As you know, Hearst is the largest publisher of monthly magazines around the world, with 284 of our 304 editions outside the U.S. Iâ€™m pleased to report that in 2012 our international business grew by more than 50 percent. European shortfalls resulting from the ongoing turbulence in the economy were offset by the strength of earnings from our businesses in Russia and Asiaâ€”China, in particular, where ELLE has seen so much success that it moved to a semi-monthly publishing schedule.Â Our other lines of business also made bold inroads in new areas. Hearst Integrated Media had its biggest year ever in 2012, selling more than 30 custom programs.Â We welcomed new leaders, in the U.S., the U.K. and Latin America, to boost iCrossingâ€™s digital marketing leadership. In 2012, iCrossing won two out of every three pitches and signed 30 new accountsâ€”with its average deal size now 250 percent larger than two years ago. iCrossingâ€™s fourth quarter revenues were the highest in its history.Â CDS Global celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012 and successfully focused on transforming its technology to offer new digital and e-commerce services and diversify its business across industries. CDS Global is a key part of the magazine industryâ€™s tablet media infrastructure and at the same time is building business beyond mediaâ€”it ended 2012 with nearly 20 percent of its revenue from non-magazine clients.Â One thing thatâ€™s distinctive about Hearst is how important partnerships are to driving our growth, a key strategy established long ago by our CEO, Frank A. Bennack, Jr. Weâ€™re fortunate to operate joint ventures with many of the worldâ€™s leading corporations. (These ventures not only generate earnings, but also bring great talentâ€”our just-named Hearst president, Steve Swartz, originally came to the company via a joint venture with Dow Jones). Because of our reputation of being such a good partner, we regularly receive inbound concepts from media companies looking to jointly create new products with Hearst. (So donâ€™t be surprised if we test yet another new magazine by yearâ€™s end!)Â Finally, a sad note and a heartfelt tribute: Helen Gurley Brown, the Hearst magazine editor who first made Cosmopolitan famous and single women proud to be smart and sexy, died on August 13 at the age of 90. She led Cosmo for more than three decades, leaving an indelible, personal imprint on several generations of womenâ€”and their men. Helenâ€™s re-creation of Cosmopolitan produced profits that were quickly reinvested into a diversified set of businesses that helped build the modern Hearst Corporation.Â Which brings me to 2013: Every member of the team has the chance to make a Helen Gurley Brownâ€“level contribution, one that can have a long-lasting, positive impact on our company and colleagues.Â Many are hard at work on achieving exactly that.Â Esquire Editor in Chief David Granger and Publishing Director Jack Essig will soon announce a bold new partnershipâ€”an initiative that will dramatically expand the Esquire franchise. The brand also has big plans in the works to celebrate its 80th anniversary this year.Â Our consumer marketing colleagues are collectively rethinking how we bring our titles to market by striking new partnerships with retailersâ€”as they cast aside the â€śsame old wayâ€ť of doing businessâ€”and building world-class digital marketing capabilities.Â The companyâ€™s digital leadership team is working on plans to â€śfuture-proofâ€ť our digital business models for a world where more than 50 percent of our traffic will be on small screens, and our readers will demand fresh, high-quality content from our brands around the clock.Â The team at Hearst Magazines International is readying another dozen launches in 2013, from France to Australia.Â And thereâ€™s so much more.Â Iâ€™m also pleased to announce that in 2013 we will put greater emphasis on the training and development of our team. In the last few weeks weâ€™ve had the good fortune to welcome to Hearst Tower inspirational executives like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and HSN CEO Mindy Grossman to talk about how they are managing change at their companies. In 2013, we will significantly step up these programs and our exposure to some of the business worldâ€™s smartest minds. We will also invest more in digital training of all kinds.Â Regardless of the headlines, change in GDP or cyclical trends, our teams are pushing ahead to create a successful 2013. This is the spirit that has put Hearst at the forefront of the industry.Â Like you, I get a lot of e-mail newsletters. A few months ago, one contained an especially insightful passage that succinctly sums up the opportunities for our company and industry:Â If one thing is clear, itâ€™s that over the next 20 years the shortest distance from A to B is going to be anything but a straight line. To survive, much less to thrive, will require being both clever and smart. Clever means a willingness to try new thingsâ€”be scrappy and make bold bets, even if they may not pay off. Smart means keeping your eyes on the year-2032 prizeâ€”be ready to cut off the experiments that arenâ€™t working and cultivate your willingness to let go of the legacy as the time comes.Â I am so proud of all the talented and smart men and women at Hearst who work to empower, educate and encourage our readers, advertisers and partners. In picas and pixels, you are simply the best, through all kinds of weather. And I know you are not aloneâ€”supported by family and friends who encourage you to do your best work and reach for the stars.Â Thank you, again. I wish you a new year filled with personal and professional success and happiness.Â Sincerely,Â David CareyPresidentHearst Magazines@CareyAtHearst
After an acquisition, some staff turnover is expected. But when that acquisition also means moving the brand halfway across the country, you'd better be ready to do some significant rebuilding of personnel. This rings especially true when a magazine relocates from, say, New York to Wisconsinâ€”as happened with Discover magazine after Waukesha-based Kalmbach bought it. Privately-owned Kalmbach, an enthusiast, craft and hobbyist publisher with titles such as Astronomy, Model Railroader and Cabin Life, among others, picked up Discover two years ago from private equity backers WallerSutton and Sandler Capital Management. At the time, Discover had revenues of about $14 million. Less than a year later, Kalmbach outsourced the sales operation to James G. Elliott, Co., a partnership that's still in place. Which left the edit team (production and back office operations were already set up in Waukesha) still in New York. In August this year the company finally announced that it was closing the editorial offices and moving operations to Wisconsin. At the time, about 20 edit and design staff were faced with the decision on whether to move. All opted outâ€”except former editor-in-chief Corey S. Powell, who was with the brand for 15 years and will continue as editor-at-large and columnist, and executive editor Pamela Weintraub, who remains in a consultative role. Today, Discover announced a completely rebuilt edit and design team. The magazine has hired 13 new staff members.The magazine's new editor-in-chief is Stephen George, who was last with Reader's Digest at the Greendale, Wisconsin branch as its executive editor in the book and special publication group. Former managing editor of Kalmbach's Trains magazine will take the same title at Discover. From there, two senior editors, a photo editor, four associate editors, a senior graphic designer, staff writer, editorial assistant and copy editor have also come on board. Still open is a design director spot, says vice president-editorial and publisher Kevin Keefe.
NEW YORKâ€”At MPA Digitalâ€™s Social Media Summit Thursday, Ethan Grey, vice president of digital with the association, revealed results from its latest study slated to be released in January.
The data, which was conducted with Gfk MRI and surveyed 796 adults aged 18-plus who owned a tablet, shows that in general, tablet owners prefer to buy yearly subscriptions to digital magazines. About 56 percent of respondents prefer to purchase a one-year subscription, 31 percent prefer to buy monthly subscriptions, 11 percent normally buy half-year subscriptions and just 2 percent prefer multi-year subscriptions.
When asked about the type of digital magazine content they prefer, more than halfâ€”55 percentâ€”say they read current and back issues. The remaining 45 percent prefer to only read the most current issues.
â€śThis is an avenue for increased dollars in revenue for magazines,â€ť Grey said.
Additionally, respondents find the price of digital magazines to be fairly reasonableâ€”about 49 percent said they â€śagree somewhatâ€ť that pricing of digital magazines is fair.
When it comes to bundling, 34 percent of respondents â€śsomewhat agreeâ€ť that they are only interested in a digital subscription if it comes with a free print subscription. The second highest group of respondentsâ€”30 percentâ€”â€śsomewhat disagreeâ€ť when asked if they are only interested in a digital subscription if it comes with a free print subscription.
Many respondents (44 percent) say they â€śsomewhat agreeâ€ť that the automatic downloading of their magazine subscriptions is convenient. About 36 percent â€śstrongly agree.â€ť
When it comes to loading times, 59 percent say they â€śsomewhat agreeâ€ť that the time it takes to download a magazine app is reasonable, with 27 percent saying they â€śstrongly agree.â€ť
The all-you-can-eat magazine model of Next Issue Media, said Grey, could become more popular, at least based on this data: 27 percent of respondents â€śstrongly agreeâ€ť when asked if they like having the ability to pay a flat subscription fee for a large library of magazines. About 46 percent â€śsomewhat agree.â€ť
When rating five digital newsstands, respondents thought most highly of Apple, with 90.8 percent saying the Apple Newsstand is excellent or good. When it comes to a browsing experience for new titles, Apple tied with Barnes & Nobleâ€™s Nook at 81 percent.
More information on digital magazine reader preferences will be released this January by the MPA.
Dwight D. Eisenhower said, â€śIn preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.â€ťÂ He could have been describing todayâ€™s publishing landscape. We work with many publishers, and are continually reminded of the importance of sales planning. There is no final answer:Â The situation is fluid and plans must be updated, revised and, sometimes, jettisoned.
There are more ways for a publisher to generate revenues today than ever before. There is much more for salespeople to learn and remember, and far more ways to go wrong in areas only tangentially related to traditional publishing. It is unclear which will be the winning strategies as magazine brands extend beyond the printed page to websites, mobile media, events and social media communities. What is clear is that salespeople are responsible for learning, forecasting and planning in new areas.
Because my companyâ€™s responsibility is to turn publishersâ€™ plans into revenues, we find out very quickly what works. Every one of our salespeople creates an annual plan for every sales territory; we have found that rapid, monthly course corrections and revisions to plans are essential.
As we talk with publishers, we frequently see a pattern of issues like these:
â€˘ Slow, methodical annual planning with quarterly reviews, in our view, is ineffective. Reviews must be accelerated.â€˘ Many publishing organizations lack any real experience in identifying appropriate partners and then in executing a relationship with those new partners.â€˘ Hiring one-dimensional salespeople who do not have the proper skills to adapt to a multimedia environment puts magazines at a disadvantage.â€˘ Failing to recognize that just because people may be comfortable with digital technology does not necessarily translate to the ability to sell that digital technology. They may not have the skill set to sell anything.â€˘ The realâ€”and troublingâ€”rise of technologically-driven processes like Real-Time Auction advertising models commoditizes and diminishes the role of publishers and traditional agencies by replacing considered opinion with algorithms.â€˘ Failing to properly train salespeople in all new product offerings means they often do not try to sell the products, which results in lost business.â€˘ Failing to provide adequate sales and demonstration tools (including mobile tools for mobile products) and proper collateral can reduce the impact of investments in new products.
Many problems can be traced to the cost-cutting measures in the face of the recession and uncertainty due to the very turbulent times in which consumer and b-to-b magazines have found themselves. As Warren Buffett so aptly says, "Capital outlays at a business can be skipped, of course, in any given month, just as a human can skip a day or even a week of eating. But if the skipping becomes routine and is not made up, the body weakens and eventually dies."
In my opinion, leadership must come from the top. Just as salespeople need to be trained in the nuances of new media platforms, or at least platforms new to them, so does senior management. Too often, top managers running publishing companies don't have enough experience in understanding the nuances and the differences that exist between different media and how they can be packaged together. I think this is a big issue today.
Placing publishing executives into the media department of an agency for a week would be the best training. That experience would bring incredible insights to top managers, not only regarding the differences in various media, but also in understanding the way ad agency media buyers really purchase media. Because this solution is impractical for most executives, the next best thing is for them to go on fact-finding tours at agencies with the objective of learning. Selling will come later, based on understanding the buyersâ€™ needs.Â
There is no end in sight for new media platforms, and disruptive innovation is the rule. The only sure thing is that failure to stay current will have negative results.Â From here on out, we all must keep on learning.
James G. Elliott is president of James G. Elliott Co., Inc., an independent advertising sales firm. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The U.S. Postal Service appears to be gearing up for an entrance into the magazine retail market, according to meeting notes from theÂ Mailers' Technical Advisory CommitteeÂ (MTAC) quarterly meetings over the past year. Traditional newsstand sales have been discussed, as well as digital options via USPS.com and mobile devices.
A summary of the group's most recent November gathering--first mentionedÂ this weekend on the blog Dead Tree Edition--notes: "The USPS is moving forward on a plan to offer magazine subscriptions for sale on USPS.com." And later adds: "The USPS and mailers are developing a plan to have posters in retail sites with QR codes and other ways of linking to magazine subscriptions."
These notes come on the heels of anÂ August meetingÂ where Kelly Sigmon, USPS VP of Channel Access, gave an address entitled "Magazines at USPS Retail" and indicated the Postal Service "is open to a test in 25-50 locations."
SimilarÂ mentions--overwhelmingly positive--have appeared in meeting notes since February.
The response from publishers seems to be less enthusiastic though.
Slides from aÂ product development presentationÂ given at the meeting available on the MTAC website hint at trepidation, saying: "Implementation and economic challenges limiting interest with Publishers."
Several related parties, including Sigmon, declined interview requests, and, after multiple denials the project existed, a USPS spokesperson admitted the program had not progressed beyond "the idea phase."
Another industry source confirmed thatÂ Synapse, a large-scale magazine distributor with ties to major publishers including Hearst, Time, Conde Nast and Meredith, had been involved in the project but was unsure of where it stood at the moment. Synapse also declined comment.
Right now, it seems clear the USPS wants in.
It's just up to publishers to open the door.
Michael Rondon is an associate editor for FOLIO: Magazine. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Â and follow him on Twitter @Mike_Rondon.
Media companies, and especially those in the b-to-b space, are increasingly reliant on events as a vital way to diversify a portfolio. Yet, as reported by FOLIO: today, even growth in the events sector seems to be slowing.
However, harnessing the power of social media is one way that media companies can hold the attention of customers and consumers beyond the week or month a magazine is on sale--or an event is in session. That was one takeaway provided by Eric Ly, the co-founder of LinkedIn and keynote speaker at the International Association of Exhibitions and Eventsâ€™ annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. on Wednesday.
â€śWe werenâ€™t cool enough to create Facebook,â€ť said Ly. â€śSo we tried to create something useful instead.â€ť
Ly, joined onstage by Rick Calvert, moderator of the address and head of New Media Expo, was speaking to a crowd of about 400 professionals as the CEO of another startup nowâ€”matchmaking provider Presdo. Ly discussed the role of social media in the face-to-face industry.
â€śI used to go to a lot of tech events,â€ť he said. â€śPeople want to get together, they want to socialize and have really important business relationships and friendships come out of that experience. I would go to those events andâ€”I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m alone in experiencing thisâ€”you walk in and see a room full of people really not knowing who you should meet.â€ť
â€śIn face-to-face, and especially events, itâ€™s really about connecting people,â€ť he added. â€śThat actually turns out to be really hard to do.â€ť
Ly noted several times that he sees social as a compliment to face-to-face interaction howeverâ€”not a replacement. While it can be a useful tool in matchmaking and extending relationships beyond the time and space limitations of an event, social is not an answer in itself.
â€śI think that face-to-face is never going to go away,â€ť he said. â€śWe are humans, we want to be in contact with other people, we want to develop trustâ€”and those kinds of things are really hard to do online.â€ť
Calvert also broached LinkedInâ€™s own potential as an event provider. Despite shuttering itâ€™s proprietary events app in late-November, the social mega-site could still be poised for a head-on collision with the industry.
Admittedly theorizing, Ly suggested the move could simply have been the closing of an unsuccessful product, or perhaps, a hint that LinkedIn was going to get into the events business itself.
While that prospect may be daunting for many in the event industry, Ly doesnâ€™t think it would work.
â€śThereâ€™s so much value in face-to-face interaction, itâ€™s an industry of $200 billion,â€ť he said. â€śThose kinds of abilities, skills and talents I donâ€™t think are going to be replaced any time soon by a Silicon Valley company.â€ť
Michael Rondon is an associate editor at FOLIO: magazine.
Whenever you do a promotion, it is always worthwhile building in a testâ€”you can learn so much from testing and there are so many different things you can try.
While $60.00 can sound like quite a lot of money, expressed as 60 cents per 100 issues can somehow seems far cheaper. How do I know this? I recently got this offer from The Economist and I subscribed straight away. In fact, my eyes were so focused on the â€ś60 centsâ€ť when I got to the check out page and saw the amount of $60.00, I had a moment of panicâ€”but I subscribed all the same.
If you cannot test a price, test a termâ€”$60.00 for one year or $35.00 for six months. A test of this type will tell you lots about your readers and if the test fails, well, actually no test fails, you just learn and move on to the next test.
â€śPay in Advanceâ€ť as opposed to â€śBill Me Laterâ€ť is a good test to try. If your magazine is not well known, â€śBill Meâ€ť is often the stronger offer. I will always try out a â€śBill Meâ€ť offer to review a publication but will think twice about having to pay some money up frontâ€”even with a money-back guarantee.
Remember, you can only really test one thing at one time. If you test price and term together as outlined above, and the test wins against your control, you will not know what made it winâ€”price or term. So, test price or test term, not both together.
Testing used to be far more expensive than it is now, mainly due to the invention of email. By sending out emails on a regular basis, you can test yourself silly if you want and learn a great deal. However, what works in one medium may not work for another. If you test a â€ś50% Off The Cover Priceâ€ť offer in an email and it wins, then for email this would become your new control. But, donâ€™t then turn to direct mail, phone or fax with the same offer and expect the same resultâ€”it probably wonâ€™t happen. What you need to do is take what you learned from one medium and then test it in another medium and see what happens.
You can test design and copy as well, but remember just because you do not like the creative does not mean it should not be tested. We used to mail out a really bad re-qualification effort for a client that was a lurid pink matched with a green (the effort, not the client). It was so bright it used to make us all feel ill just looking at it. Have you ever seen a black and white cover of a magazine that is shaded pink? The trouble was it got the best response ever. Every yearâ€”year in, year outâ€”we tested something against this stripy pink and green abomination, but the abomination always won. We even had a rival company come in and look at all the efforts we sent, and the first thing they said was, â€śThis has to go, it is awfulâ€ťâ€”and they were right, but it got the most orders and at the end of the day, that is what it is all about.
So build in some tests, you will learn a lot and it does not have to be expensive. Remember that when a test wins, it becomes the new controlâ€”and then you start testing against that. Who said life is a circle?
Roy Beagley is Director of Publishing Services for Tyson Associates Inc. Roy started his career at The Economist and then The Spectator in London. He moved to the United States in 1992 and since then he has worked with Tyson Associates handling many controlled and comsumer publications. He is editor of Circspot.com, a website for circulation and audience development professionals.
An essay by Craig Mod has been making the rounds lately among media watchers. It's a terrific read. Mod, a current independent writer and former Flipbook employee, touts what he's calling the Subcompact Manifesto, which places a premium on a minimalist approach to digital publishing. His manifesto emerges out of one of the main criticisms 'traditional' publishers have received for their tablet magazines and apps: They're unwieldy, hard to use, have too many bells and whistles and take up too much room. But most importantly, they're tied to print production schedules, design and pricing. In other words, tablet editions are not exploiting the medium in the open, nimble, socially-forward way they could and/or should be.As Mod says: So why do so many of our digital magazines publish on the same schedule, with the same number of articles as their print counterparts? Using the same covers? Of course, they do because itâ€™s easier to maintain identical schedules across mediums. To not design twice. To not test twice (or, at all).Unfortunatelyâ€”from a medium-specific user experience point of viewâ€”itâ€™s almost impossible to produce a digitally indigenous magazine beholden to those legacy constraints. Why? Not least because we use tablets and smartphones very differently than we use printed publications.The key here, for Mod, is the "indigenous magazine"â€”a product born exclusively for the mobile-digital platform, free of any print production and pricing frameworks. He goes on to highlight The Magazine, created by Marco Arment, as a perfect example of the digitally indigenous magazine. It's short (four or five articles), it's design is breezy and open, it's file size is small, it's cheap and easy to snack on.This all may be true, and there's probably an audience for The Magazine and future brands just like it. But what's wrong with publishing a tablet magazine that's full of print magazine design and rich media content, that's $4.99 for a single copy and might take all night to download to Apple's Newsstand? Nothing, really, because there's room in the market for the digitally indigenous magazine and the digital magazine that's married, for good or bad, to its print namesake. I understand that with digital comes an expectation of disruption and re-invention. And not just an expectation, but actual disruption. But it's also a world where all sorts of business models live and play.I don't think Mod is necessarily saying all publishers need to drop their old-school, print-legacy-based digital magazines and start producing $2, 4-article, scrolling mini-apps. He does say though, that publishers are balking at producing products like these because they're not based on a familiar model and they're not likely to produce immediate and significant returns. Funnily enough, neither have the full-blown tablet magazines, for now. What will be interesting to see is how much the subcompact model informs or influences the sedan version of digital magazinesâ€”or simply rides next to it.
Business-to-business marketers are underutilizing social media and its potential, according to new data from Eloqua, a marketing automation company. Of 548 b-to-b marketers surveyed by Eloqua, about 40 percent say they are not yet using social media marketing. Additionally, about 25 percent of respondents say they donâ€™t know how their company plans to use social media marketing in the future.
Although many departments may contribute to social media, respondents say that social networking platforms are most often managed by a public relations department (26 percent), followed by a variety of departments (23 percent) or a website team (11 percent). Still, about 23 percent of respondents say that social media is not under the control of any one department.
About 43 percent of respondents say that their company has no strategy in place for incorporating social media into demand generation. About 20 percent said a lack of tools prevent them from using social media for lead generation and another 33 percent say a lack of strategy is attributed to an unclear understanding of the value of social media.
Business-to-business companies that are using social media platforms for a variety of reasons:
In the future, b-to-b companies expect a variety of benefits from social media, with most respondents (50 percent) saying it will help to increase reach and brand awareness. About 35 percent say driving inbound leads to increase revenue will be a benefit of social media, with 28 percent saying social networking will benefit their company when it comes to measurable impact on demand or revenue.
This data reinforces the notion that b-to-b marketers still need help when it comes to the social networking spaceâ€”something that content producers can assist them with. Publishers should look to expand marketing services groups to have a strong focus on social media, which will help publishers position themselves as a unique solution to a need in the marketplace.
T. J. Raphael is Associate Editor of FOLIO: Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
Media buyers who buy the products publishers sell now divide the media they manage into three categories:
But consider the emotional message these labels send.
"Owning" your own media makes marketers feel great and in control. Owning is good!
Everyone loves to "earn" free exposure on social media platforms.
But who really wants to "pay" for exposure they might be able to get for free through social media? Â
Of the three media categories, only "paid media" is named for a negative characteristic.
How did this happen? These category names came into common use around 2008 when social media was being added to media budgets. With the need to contrast social media with traditional media, the social media centric thinking of the time renamed traditional media as it contrasts to social, suddenly we became "paid media." This label casts a negative implication every time it is used.
There is a fix. Publishers need to work to change the label from "paid media" to "third party media," which is more descriptive and offers a significant benefit. While earned and owned media are highly effective at reaching existing customers, third-party media is far more effective at reaching non-customers. Current customers are much more likely to visit a company website or subscribe to a company newsletter. Non-customers, less so. Current customers much more likely to participate with a company Facebook page or subscribe to a company Twitter feed. Non-customers, not so much.
Third-party media, reaches customers and non-customers alike.
But it is no secret that marketing budgets have seen a big shift in the last few years. While marketing budgets have remained flat for the past few years dollars have moved out ofÂ third-party media (paid media), and into owned and earned media. This trend may have gone too far. Â In a study my company did earlier earlier this year that measured the marketing effectiveness of 34 companies in a B2B market and foundÂ that marketing was effective with an average of 55.6 percent of current customers, but only with 10.6 percent of non-customers.
There is a real case to be made for the benefits of third-party media. The more important winning new customers is for marketers, the more important third-party media becomes. I we can reposition what we sell from being "the media you have to pay for" to being "the media that best communicates with NEW customers" our media sales job will get easier.Â
For much of the last year, my colleagues and I have been working through a redesign of the home page of our flagship site, TheAtlantic.com. From whiteboard sketches and Google docs to Dunkinâ€™ Donuts and the occasional conference-call squabble, we completed the project thanks to the standard tools of 21st-century workplace collaboration.What was surprising, though, is how quickly the undertaking turned from â€śsprucing up the home pageâ€ť to â€śwhat is our mission and how should we achieve it?â€ť Midway through the process, in fact, we sought to avoid referring to the project as a redesign at all. That seemed to trivialize it, suggesting a facelift or a fresh coat of paint. The goal, we realized, was more strategic than aesthetic.As it should be. A lot had changed since we last revamped the home page in early 2010. Perhaps the biggest difference was the size of the audience, which grew from 3.8 million monthly unique visitors in February 2010 to 12.5 million in October 2012 (Omniture). Likewise, we have about three times more daily visits to the home page than we did back then. For all the side-door social and search referrals (which are by far the major drivers of our audience), the home page still claims between 15 and 20 percent of our daily page views. Now that it was attracting nearly 300,000 visits a day, we needed to serve those readers better.The goals we set out to accomplish, listed below, are hardly unique to The Atlantic. But familiar growing pains are not necessarily any easier to soothe. We tried, quite deliberately, to use the design process to fix problems and improve user experience. The mission included:â€˘ Give the home page more visual oomph. We went with a larger lead photo and lead headline, and allocated more real estate to promoting our visual features, â€śIn Focusâ€ť (our photo section) and video. We also adopted new typefaces and a cleaner look. I may sound confused; I just said a few paragraphs ago that the mission of the project was strategic, not aesthetic. Thatâ€™s true, but one strategic goal was to flex some visual muscle â€“ to reflect the more visual nature of the site, to keep pace with other sites that publish much larger home page photos than we do even now, and to ensure the focus of the page didnâ€™t shift too far toward ever-more sophisticated and visually emphatic ads.â€˘ Drive readers to the interior pages of the site. Six months ago, I wrote in this space that the home page matters, â€śbut not, perhaps, for the reasons you may think.â€ť The argument was that the home page is critical for conveying the sensibility and values of a site, for serving as a statement of the brand. So the page mattered even if it wasnâ€™t triggering very many clicks, at least relative to social and search. True, but why not optimize the page (and all our pages) to drive depth? With the new design, we have introduced skyboxes on all pages as well as what we call the Belt on the second screen of the home page. Now weâ€™re promoting 18 stories on the first screen and a half, compared to 13 before. To our eyes, at least, the page doesnâ€™t seem busier. â€˘ Fight the tyranny of the â€śright rail.â€ť The clickstream data shows that the standard right column of a page has become easy for readers to overlook. That long gutter is a line that eyeballs just donâ€™t cross. Unhappy about giving up 40 percent of our page, we decided to reclaim that real estate as a place for compelling content. To do that effectively, we got rid of the gutter.â€˘ Make the bottom half of the page more dynamic. In the 2010 redesign, we tried to make the top of the page look sharp. But we failed to require the same ambition of the rest of the page. One exercise we've been going through in the last year: call up a site, scroll down one or two screens, and then ask ourselves, How does that look? More and more we came to admire those sites that put real effort into the second, third, and fourth screens down. So we've tried to bring strong design to the whole page, not just to the top.
â€˘ Reflect the important role of social media. The Most Popular box tells readers what stories others are reading. Our social strip at the bottom of the page goes a bit deeper, indicating which stories are popping on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon. (Weâ€™ll be adding more services as our analytics permit.)â€˘ Give more of our on-staff writers regular presence. Our new Writers module promotes the latest posts from a fuller range of journalists on our team. â€˘ Create a higher-impact experience for advertisers. For both the edit and sales teams, clutter is the enemy. To cut down on the noise and give the ads more impact, we reduced the number of spots on our home page from a banner and two boxes to one box and one high-impact pushdown unit. In some circumstances, the page features only one standard ad.Â At the same time, we built in flexibility to test new native promotions that will allow us to surface custom advertiser content, labeled as such.â€˘ Promote our sister sites better. Since early 2010, we have added a new site to The Atlantic portfolio (The Atlantic Cities) and to our parent Atlantic Media Company portfolio (Quartz). With the new home page, weâ€™re allocating space, when editorially appropriate, to teasing stories from those sites, as well as creating a footer that features top stories from all our sites at all times.Â Itâ€™s been a week since we introduced our new home page. In the coming months, weâ€™ll be altering article and channel landing pages to reflect the new look out front. Of course, even then we wonâ€™t be done. In a constantly changing media environment where data and reader comments are both instantaneous, youâ€™re never done.