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 âsprucing up the home pageâ to âwhat is our mission and how should we achieve it?â 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, âIn Focusâ (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. Thatâs 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 didnât 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, âbut not, perhaps, for the reasons you may think.â 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 wasnât 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 weâre promoting 18 stories on the first screen and a half, compared to 13 before. To our eyes, at least, the page doesnât seem busier. â˘ Fight the tyranny of the âright rail.â 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 donât 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. (Weâll 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, weâre 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 Itâs been a week since we introduced our new home page. In the coming months, weâll be altering article and channel landing pages to reflect the new look out front. Of course, even then we wonât be done. In a constantly changing media environment where data and reader comments are both instantaneous, youâre never done.
By 2017, about 600 million televisions worldwide will be connected to the Internet, at least according to the Connected TV Forecasts report from Digital TV Research.
At the start of the decade there were an estimated 48 million Internet connected televisions in the United States or 45 percent of the global total. By 2017, it is expected that there will be 147 million Internet connected televisions in the U.S., which will account for 25 percent of the global total. China will have 93 million connected TVs by 2017, up from a mere 2 million at the end of 2010.
As tablets and smartphones continue to grow along with the need to diversify revenues, publishers have seen the value of extending their reach to every device available. While it is unlikely that readers will ever use their televisions to actually read content, they will likely use these newly connected devices to visit Web pages and to watch video.
The Internet can be publishersâ âside doorâ into television, so to speak, and many are already working hard to produce videos that are tied to print magazine brands.
At the 2012 American Magazine Conference in San Francisco this fall, for example, enthusiast publisher Source Interlink Media said it was turning its eye to videoâit now has a 45-person production crew and is focusing on entertainment-based streaming content.
âYouTube has allowed us to dive into episodic content and itâs evolving to be able to provide a lot of advertising content,â said Chris Argentieri, president of Source Interlink Media. Source in the digital age will be âtruly a diversified media company from a revenue standpoint,â he added.
Hearst already has its YouTube Premium Channel initiative, which includes the Hello Style and the Car and Driver Channels. Time Inc.âs This Old House is using video to power its website relaunch and has the potential to roll out about 34 years of video programming from its companion television program. TheAtlantic.com launched a video channel in August 2011 and regional title New York magazine turned a content staple, Eat Cheap, into a five-part YouTube series.
YouTube is the second largest and most used search engine on the planet, rivaling only its parent company, Google. With so many Internet connected televisions anticipated to come in the next few years, expect to see the number of users not only increase but the number of publisher-branded YouTube channels as well.
T. J. Raphael is Associate Editor of FOLIO: Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.
If your sales staff sells traditional media, understanding how paid search works is a big plus. Today, about half of all online ad dollars go to search, so it is important to understand where most of online money now goes.The first step is for media reps is to ask clients how much of their ad budget goes to search. Many are surprised at how much of the marketing plan goes to a format that started in its current form only 12 years agoâ2000 was the year Google first started selling advertising based on keywords.The year search really broke out was 2008. In that year Google indexed a trillion web pages, but more importantly, acquired web analytics giant DoubleClick enabling them to, "dramatically improve the effectiveness, measurably and performance of digital media for publishers, advertisers and agencies."Leveraging the resources of DoubleClick, Google was able to improveÂ the metrics for advertisers and offer "more precise metrics in order to judge the effectiveness of their campaigns." With improved metrics came better documentation of the effectiveness of search and and improved sales. Â Â Â Â The year 2008 was also the year b-to-b print advertising, a medium challenged with documenting results, started to falter. Coincidence? Hard to say.But let's look at the present. A recent study of b-to-b marketers from Marketing Sherpa showed budget allocation for paid search is now ahead of print advertising, no small feat for a medium where ads often cost between 30 cents and five dollars each. Think traditional media does not compete against search for ad dollars? Think again. Â Do your media reps know how to position their products against paid search? It would be best if they could.
After an 11-year stint as Wired's top editor, Chris Anderson is stepping down. According to a memo released late Friday by CondĂŠ Nast CEO Charles Townsend, Anderson will leave the magazine, pursuing his "entrepreneurial dream." The announcement comes about 10 days after the publication announced it was increasing its rate base for the 11th consecutive year to 825,000--a bump of 3 percent or 25,000. Below is the full note from Townsend on Anderson's departure:
TodayÂ Chris Anderson, editor in chief ofÂ Wired,Â announced that he will be leaving CondĂŠ Nast at the end of the year to become CEO of 3D Robotics, a company he cofounded several years ago.
âThis is an opportunity for me to pursue an entrepreneurial dream,â Chris said. âIâm confident thatÂ Wiredâs mission to influence and chronicle the digital revolution is stronger than ever and will continue to expand and evolve.â
Chris joinedÂ WiredÂ as editor in chief in 2001. During his tenure, the magazine received eight National Magazine Awards, including the prestigious top prize for General Excellence in 2005, 2007 and 2009. In 2010,Â AdweekÂ honoredÂ Â WiredÂ as its Magazine of the Decade.Â Â
As with every brand that challenges the current times and predicts the future,Â WiredÂ will now embark on the next phase of its quest to determine âwhat will matter.âÂ Please join me in thanking Chris for his extraordinary contributions to theÂ WiredÂ franchise. We wish him the best of luck in his new venture and look forward to naming his successor shortly.
T.J. Raphael is a FOLIO: Magazine Associate Editor. Follow her on Twitter.
Two significant industry conferences in the last couple of weeks were dominated by the question of whether print is dead. At the American Magazine Conference two weeks ago, Ben Horowitz, co-founder, Andreessen Horowitz, said this:âBabies born now will never read anything in print. At the same time, people in their 40s and 50s will never stop reading print. Face the reality that print will eventually go away.â (You may recall that Mark Andreessen and some college classmates invented the browser that became Netscape in 1994.)Similarly at the AMC, Jeffery Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC said this: âSome magazines will always remain in print. Especially those with strong design principles. However, the majority will see their print roots begin to completely break down by the end of the decade.â(Itâs worth noting that a futurist who heads âThe Center for the Digital Futureâ would probably be fired for predicting the print business model will prevail into the future.)In a fiery opening speech at the AMC, the new CEO of MPA, Mary Brener, said the old-line magazine industry can prevail if it has âchutzpah and balls.ââI love magazines and I believe in magazines. I believe that magazinesâon both print and digital platformsâhave a bright future. I am pissed that we as an industry have allowed others to hijack our story, our narrative.Â A narrative that is now dismissive of print magazines.âBut I say the whole definition of the argumentâprint versus digitalâmisses the point. It frames the question inaccurately. Of course weâre both.Berner also said, âWe are not in the printing business. We are in the content business.â That reminded me of all the times Iâve heard industry prognosticators describe the supposedly fatal error of the railroad industry early in the last century. Railroads thought they were in the railroad business, the thinking went, when they actually were in the transportation business. Well, the truth is the railroadsâwith their thousands of miles of track and their expensive, highly specialized locomotives and heavy equipmentâwere in the railroad business. And railroads got superseded by better technologies in the form of cars and airplanes. That they didnât transform was not their fault. It was unrealistic to think they could. This pattern has been repeated countless times in the history of enterprise.But: Berner is right in saying the media companies are in the content business, and as such, should not be tied to a particular distribution form. At the other conference, the ACT III Experience at Samir Husniâs Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, the keynoter, ASMEâs Sid Holt, correctly said that no one really knows what the future will bring in media. Anyone who says they do is bluffing. But we do know this: Those who say print in its current form will live on, and ignores the opportunities and threats in new technologies, are playing a risky game.There are plenty of positive statistics presented by Berner and others:â˘ The number of brands advertising in magazine mediaâ¨has increased by 57 percent since 2009.â˘ Combined unduplicated magazine media audiences, â¨across print and online, have increased by 4 percent.â˘ 91 percent of U.S. adults read magazines.â˘ 96 percent of adults 18-24 read magazines.â˘ The top driver of Web search is print magazines.But for every stat along those lines, there are other, unclear signals:â˘ Magazine ad pages for the first half of 2012 are down 8.8 percent, according to PIB, following declines in consecutive prior years. â˘ Ad spending on magazine media is declining. â˘ Spending on marketersâ own Web sites is dramatically increasing. â˘ Technologies have emerged that connect buyers more directly to sellers, meaning the role of traditional media must evolve. At the ACT III conference, Bob Sacks said the loss of dominance doesnât necessarily equal death. But the truth is, sometimes it does equal death. New technologies frequently totally replace older ones. Has anyone bought a typewriter lately? Or a word processor? Horses supplied human land transportation for 6,000 years. They donât anymore. Have you bought an LP lately? Or film for your camera?And transitions can take a long time. Johannes Gutenberg gets credit for inventing the printing press, but the Phaistos Disk, discovered on Crete 104 years ago, is the earliest known printed document, dating to 1700 B.C., 3,100 years before Gutenberg. Why didnât printing take hold earlier? Because the technology was not enough of an improvement on existing technologies to cause people to change.And Nikolaus Otto built the first internal-combustion gas engine in 1866. But it wasnâtât until the third decade of the 20th Century, nearly 70 years later, that cars became ubiquitous. And you can bet that at annual horse-and-buggy conferences and trade shows for every one of those 70 years, prognosticators were insisting there would always be a role for the horse and buggy. Bob Sacks is right. Weâre in an era of realignment. And realignments can take a long time. In the meantime, we can better understand our customers, innovate, iterate and reinvent our businesses before someone else does for us.
I recently had the opportunity to attend an Intel conference where blockbuster film producer, executive and bestselling author Peter Guber spoke. In his speech, Peter emphasized the importance in business of being fully committed to an opportunity, and evoked the metaphor of Spanish conquistador HernĂĄn CortĂŠsâ famous order to âburn the boats.â Upon arriving in Mexico and facing the warriors of the entire Aztec nation, CortĂŠs knew the only viable exit strategy was to move forwardâas the alternative would have meant utter failure (climbing back in boats and retreating to safety).As I think about the opportunities and challenges mobile represents to the media/publishing world, it strikes me that these organizations would do well to follow the same strategy.According to many sources, mobile platforms (smartphones, tablets) now account for more than 10 percent of media consumption. If you speak with publishers that produce rich content today, traffic to smart device platforms is approaching levels closer to 25 percent. Most of this audience engagement has come with little commitment on the product side to truly exploit the usage shift that is taking place. Publisher monetization on these device platforms is even worse, capturing barely 1 percent of ad spend.The mistake publishers are making is simply not dedicating the resources and commitment required to effectively optimize these new business opportunities. Publishers continue to manage the emerging platforms as extensions of current print, broadcast or digital businesses. While âmobile specialistsâ are found embedded within these organizations, there is virtually no commitment to full, standalone teams of content, audience marketing, technology and product specialists solely focused on growing these ânew businessesâ and effectively cannibalizing the legacy businesses before somebody else does it for them.A look back at the transition to desktop web illustrates an informative history. Most publishers pursued the same path of managing initial digital efforts as a part of existing business activities and fell hopelessly behind as new brands charged forward with the benefit of focus and clarity on the new market opportunity from a purely digital position.I worked at one of the only traditional media companies that took a different path. Ziff Davis set up its first interactive business (ZDNet) as its own, standalone business. It had its own executive, content, sales, marketing, technology and product teams. These teams could not fall back onto the safety of market-leading print business. The mission was to succeed online or fail tying. The boats were burned. It was a bold move executed by then-CEO, Eric Hippeau, that let to ZDNet establishing itself as a $100 million business and an early top-ten most-visited property as the Internet media market got rolling.Ironically, many of the very digital brands that took advantage of the unwillingness of the print market leaders to go all in, are now repeating the same mistake as we transition to mobile. As such, itâs a new crop of mobile pure-plays that have assumed market leadership in key areas of audience footprint and advertising/monetization.The publishers that have established content brands, audience relationships and advertiser history are positioned to succeed wildly, but only if they burn the boats and put dedicated businesses, people and platforms in place to grab the opportunity. If they donât, history will surely repeat itself. The opportunity will quickly become a glaring liability as the majority of audiences and advertising dollars shift to mobile in the coming years, and marquee digital media brands die, as did many of the generation of print brands before them, who failed to make this vital transition.
We received this e-mail from the Joss Group on Monday, as the hurricane was about to hit. Not only did they take a shot at our decision to postpone the MediaNext eventâwe didn't cancel it, we postponed until Januaryâbut they also made hurricane jokes. For the record, Joss Group, here's some of what Hurricane Sandy did: â˘ Caused 51 deaths.â˘ Knocked out power for 7.5 million people.â˘ Caused the cancellation of 16,000 flights.â˘ Caused unprecedented flooding on New York's 100-plus-year-old subway system.â˘ Left much of Manhattan in darkness, with Lower Manhattan flooded.â˘ Caused the New York Stock Exchange to be closed on consecutive days, the first time since 1888.â˘ Destroyed scores of houses in fires in New York City. So you can market your event by making light of the impact of a hurricane, and you can offer hurricane pricing, and mock our decision to postpone our event. But don't expect everyone to think it's clever.
Arguably, publishing is quickly heading toward digital dominance. Strategies for the migration are way past overdue. However, some of the strategies that ruled print media are being abandoned for digital media, and thatâs a mistake. It still should be about reaching the right customer at the right time with the right message. With digital marketing and the data it generates, publishers can be more accurate about the right time and message. Publishers can use customer information to improve their content and sales quality. Here are four ways to improve yours.1. Analyze and Optimize Premium Inventory: Digital publishers spend too much time worrying about the valuation of their remnant inventory, who sells it, and who gets a cut of it. Remnant inventory can be just as valuable as premium if you put it in perspective. You should be looking at all of your inventory holistically and assigning true values to each ad slot instead of differentiating between premium and non-premium (remnant) like we have done for the past 10 years. That means measuring the value of ad slots by content relevance, brand safety, and viewability. Learning to differentiate inventory is a complex task. âPremiumâ shouldnât just be the homepage and a page with a user cookie. Learn to accurately evaluate all of your inventory based on quality, actionable information about the pageânot just old-school cookie data.2. Get Information, Get Data: The best way to value digital publishing real estate is to get the best data on who visits it, what they do when they get there, how long they stay and how your content relates to the audience and creative. In short: customer engagement. There are literally dozens of exchanges and RTB companies that will be happy to track that and store that information. But itâs the publishers who need it. Itâs the publishers who donât have it. You need customer engagement metrics to compete for the best advertisers and the highest revenue. We see a lot of great digital publishing companies with brilliant content that are not getting paid what they deserve because they donât have enough data to prove the true worth of their inventory. 3. Ease Common Concerns for Advertisers: Quality inventory will avoid some of the pitfalls that advertisers are generally concerned with. Publishers need to make sure they automate to guard against suspicious activity. At AdSafe, for example, we can analyze and score the risk that a website is associated with suspicious activity on a 1-1,000 rating scaleâspecifically including click fraud, which occurs in pay-per-click online advertising when a person or program imitates a legitimate user of a Web browser; and impression fraud, which occurs in CPM advertising when a person or program imitates users by repeatedly loading a page or advertisements on a page for the purpose of generating higher fees. Buyers of online media are able to purchase inventory informed by AdSafeâs risk score, while sellers of online media are able to better manage their inventory by eliminating fraudulent activity if discovered. This also means eliminating the concern of ad collision by having the data and tools to make sure brands are on pages that arenât crowded with other ads.4. Redesign for Viewability: Like the doctor said when you got your first tetanus shot: âThis is gonna hurt a little bit.â And it will. But many publishers will need to optimize yield only after they reposition their content and ad positions to be viewable and valuable. Currently several industry organizations are working on viewability standards. If an ad is not in view when the page loads, or never comes into view during a user session, basically, a publisher isnât going to get paid for it. That pushes premium positions toward the top of the page. It will probably reduce a publisherâs viable amount of inventory. And as stated, it means you will need to charge more for each ad. In the end, the goal is to meet brand goals and objectives, whether they center on sales, marketing ROI, awareness, brand lift, or conversions. If publishers bring data quality back into balance with quantity, publishers will be well positioned.
Oxford, MississippiâMagazine publishers from a broad cross section of the industry spent two days presenting their best practices and innovative ideas for an era of transition during the third annual ACT III conference at the University of Mississippi.
Like at the AMC in San Francisco last week, the underlying theme of the event was whether print media's best days are behind it. And if it is, the question was how long the decline will take, and how far down print will go. And like at the AMC, there was no broad agreement. In fact, said opening keynoter Sid Holt, executive director of the American Society of Magazine Editors, no one really knows what form the business will take in the years ahead.Â And in the meantime, publishers described how they're innovating and iterating to serve the changing needs of their communities.
The conference, organized by Samir Husni, founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center here, featured an eclectic mix of speakers, from Rebecca Darwin, CEO of the acclaimed Garden & Gun, to Michael Capuzzo, publisher of Northern Pennsylvania's Mountain Home, and author of the best-selling real-life shark thriller, "Close to Shore." There were 145 attendees at the event, which also featured tours of the historic city and a visit to the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of blues music.
Because it's held in an academic setting, the event included students as attendees and sometimes participants, and many speakers geared their remarks to the next generation of journalists as well.
Even as individual magazine operators and entrepreneurs told their own stories, the state of the industry was summed up in a presentation by Bob Sacks, the newsletter publisher and chronicler of the state of the magazine industry.
"We're in a period of what I call the great realignment," Sacks said. "We're going from being primarily print-revenue based to one that's primarily digital. But for print, a loss of dominance does not equal death. There will be hundreds of billions of dollars to be made in the reading industry."
Sacks also urged publishers to reinvent themselves before someone else does, and from the tone of the presentations, the attendees and speakers at ACT III are busy doing just that.
For example, in 2009, when it was in danger of being shut down, Garden & Gun set itself to developing new ways to connect, Darwin recalled. "I really always envisioned that this would be a national magazine that was about a region and a lifestyle," she said. "But during that time, the four "P's"âpaper, printing, prepress and postalâkept coming. And at the same time the advertisers were paying late. So I got the staff together and said, 'We have got to come up with something that will generate some revenue. We created a club. We came up with the membership levels ourselves. We came up with the names, and now we have a very loyal audience and the club is working well."
And Kevin P. Keefe, vice president of editorial at Kalmbach Publishing Co. described a variety of spinoff business lines in his company's markets, which focus on railroading, model railroading and other enthusiast markets. Included in these products are track plans for modeling enthusiasts available for sale online, railroad maps that tell different stories about the industry, and DVD archives of back issues of print magazines.
"These are the most profitable products we've ever produced,â Keefe said, crediting Sue Roman of Taunton Press for the idea. "It's insane how popular they are."
Two speakers, Keefe and Jim Elliott, president of The James. G. Elliott Co., noted that apps have not played out as well as many publishers had hoped. "[The] Apple Newsstand hasn't been quite the bonanza we were hoping for, but it still has been a positive," Keefe said.
Perhaps the most passionate speaker was Capuzzo, who summarized the true value of the industry: "It starts with the writer," he said. "One of the things I wanted to talk about was content. At Mountain Home, we've suffered for something, and I hope this is it."
Paraphrasing Oxford native William Faulkner, Capuzzo said, "Journalism, at least on the newspaper side, has been a utopian venture, except they are aiming it at a tragic species."
Tony Silber is the general manager of FOLIO: Magazine.
ABM, which is wrapping up its Executive Forum being held in Chicago this week, voted nine new companies into membership at its board of directors meeting Monday.Media members include Editorial Projects in Education, InsuranceNewsNet.com and new international member Beuth Verlag GmbH.The association also added six associate members, including Adobe Systems Inc., bXb Online, LiveIntent, MagToGo, Tout and WeiserMazars LLP. "These new membersâranging from traditional and international media companies to progressive businesses focused on app development, social media, virtual event technologies and digital monetization solutionsâsupport ABM's initiative to represent the wide range of platforms and models leveraged by business information and media companies," said ABM president and CEO Clark Pettit in a statement. Meanwhile, news out of the Executive Forum includes a bit of research ABM did in partnership with Outsell that examined mobile content and business models. B-to-b executives responding to the joint survey, it seems, are not in it for the moneyâyet. Instead, brand enhancement, content delivery, serving advertisers' needs and creating a superior digital experience were the top mobile objectives, with 64 percent, 60 percent, 60 percent and 52 percent of responses, respectively. At the bottom of the objectives list were "new revenue from mobile users (29 percent) and "enable mobile e-commerce" (24 percent).Additionally, only 20 percent of respondents indicated they have a formal mobile strategy in place. The majority of respondents (56 percent) say their mobile strategy is somewhere between formal and ad hoc. A quarter, or 24 percent, say mobile is on an ad hoc, project or case-by-case basis. Given that objectives aren't quite standardized and that 40 percent of respondents expect to break even with their mobile investments and 48 percent expect a negative ROI, mobile initiatives are clearly still in the experimental phase.For more results from the study and the slide deck on the ABM/Outsell presentation from the Executive Forum, click here [pdf].
I got quite a few phone calls this past week from fellow circulators concerning the article that was posted on Audience Development's website last week on action code response rates exceeding direct mail rates.I am not going to say who called me in this article, let them get their own fame, but the best call was from someone who simply said: âWhat the hell is an action response code?â Actually she used another word instead of âhell,â but I donât want to be censored in my first month on this web site.Some of the figures were pretty astounding to be sure but direct marketers have always said the less the people have to do to respond, the better the response will be. And here, all you have to do is scan a code with your phone.These codes have increased in usage over the past year and will continue to increase although be careful where you use them. I saw one on a billboard high above the West Side Highway in New York and many drivers were driving and trying to scan the code on the billboard at the same time. Action response codes are really good on the page ads in your magazine as this means people no longer have to rip out a page to take action. Letâs be honest, how many subscription orders were ever gained from space ads? Now, however, a quick scan and you have an order.Codes can be used on all manner of things; I would love to run an insert card that is quite simply a response code just to see what happens. Generally I think it is a good idea to inform people what will happen when they scan the code, but if anyone has ever run a card with only a code printed on it, I would love to know how it worked.The beauty of these codes is they are so adaptable. You can use them in renewals linked to the subscriberâs record, on invoices, for new subscriptionsâthe possibilities are endless. Perhaps we should all have these scans tattooed on our foreheads which would make getting through airports so much easier, but I digress; this is 2012 not 1984.If you have not experimented with action response codes, it is worth your while to investigate using them. I do not have an iPad which I know makes me pre-historic, and I do not have an iPhone but I do have a mobile phone that I am just about able to switch off and on, and one of the few apps I have downloaded is a QR scannerâand if I have one, you know itâs serious.There is one caveat to all of this, the article started âdigital action codes have become the most-responded-to form of print marketingâ but at no point was it ever made clear what people were actually responding to, so an expectation of huge increases in new subscriptions and renewals may be unrealistic but these action codes are going to be around for a little while so exploring their possible usage is, as Martha Stewart would say âa good thing.â
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.
For their November/December 2012 issue, the editors and creative director at Mother Jones decided to do a split run cover, with a completely different cover story and image for subscribers and newsstand buyers.Subscribers get âNo Way Out,â a long-form investigative piece on solitary confinement in California state prisons written by Shane Bauer, who himself was imprisoned in Iran for 26 months, six in solitary, when he was picked up on the Iraq border in 2009. The cover image is a realistic illustration by Tim OâBrien of a tormented man in a prison cell.The newsstand cover story is âSweet Little Lies,â a story by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens about the sugar industryâs 40-year long campaign to cover up evidence about the bad affects of the sweet stuff: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and its addictive nature. For that cover, also an illustration by Tim OâBrien, thereâs a pitcher of Kool-Aid with a grinning skull superimposed on it.Â (Note that on the newsstand the issue is simply dated December 2012.) By Mother Jones standards this is considered a lighter, more accessible story!âNo Way Out is a great story, but we felt that it might not sell that well on newsstands, where the potential buyer is not as familiar with our magazine,â says Mother Jones creative director Tim J Luddy. Early last year Mother Jones did another split cover for similar reasons. Editors Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery wrote about their decision for the January/February 2011 issue to put a story about gang rape in Haiti on the subscriber cover, but deliver a newsstand cover story that highlighted the pot business: âAs compelling as all that is in a story, itâs a tough sell on the newsstand. Even assuming that anyone tempted to buy this magazine probably isnât expecting cheerful (our joke is that the Mother Jones tagline should be âItâs Worse Than You Thinkâ), rape gangs are pretty heavy stuff to hit a new reader with on our first encounter.â That both current covers were illustrated by Tim OâBrien was more by chance than design, says Luddy. âI did a separate set of conceptual sketches for the Sugar and Solitary covers. Once we decided on final ideas, it just happened that Tim was our top choice for each image.â The actual cost for producing and printing two separate covers for Mother Jones is minimal, since they already print different covers with a UPC code and a subscriber address. And Mother Jones does its own in-house proofing. As Luddy says, âThe only additional cost is the extra wear and tear to the creative director and editors,â along with the additional fee for the illustrator or photographer.How does Mother Jones handle the covers on other platforms? On their website, or for any online editorial use, they rotate between the two. For their Zinio app or other digital versions that require a cover, they use the newsstand version. For development and fundraising, they use the subscriber cover, since according to Luddy, âThatâs the kind of story our donors like to support.â For circulation (blow-in cards, etc.), however, they go back to the newsstand version.Are split covers worth the effort and is there a payoff? Thereâs a long history of entertainment magazines like TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly doing multiple covers. But they usually promote the same story, albeit with different cover images (like doing a separate cover for each cast member of Lost). Itâs much less common to take the Mother Jones approach, although idiosyncrasy for a smaller independent title can work to its advantage.When I was creative director at Readerâs Digest we tried a similar split cover strategy for several issues, but found that it confused readers, and got us plenty of complaints. It also didnât pay off at the newsstand; in fact one of the covers was the worst-selling of the year. And Luddy reports that last yearâs Mother Jones split cover was also one of their worst-selling issues for 2011. So why bother? Newsstand sales are only about 10 percent of Mother Jonesâs total paid circulation, so featuring a âsofterâ story at retail is a strategy thatâs aimed at luring in new readers rather than one thatâs designed to materially boost single copy sales. Nevertheless, I wondered whether the strategy had any downside for the brand overall. Liz Gettelman, Mother Jonesâs public affairs director, put it this way:âThe game has changed when it comes to print magazine covers. In the print era you would rarely see a logo separate from a cover image. But now, the logo is a much more prominent feature, since that alone (without cover art) is usually a publicationâs branding image on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and on websites. The split covers signal to readers that we are versatile and robust enough to be able to highlight various types of coverage. So long as they all feel like Mother Jones stories, then we are actually staying true to our brand.â
Tuesday, December 09, 2014 -- Join this upcoming Folio: Webinar to discuss the survey findings, and to learn
how one publisher, Advanstar, streamlined their process to intensify the focus
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