The Economist Group this week released its annual financials, ending March 31, and the numbers looked good, with revenue and profits up (4 percent and 6 percent), as well as circulation.
But while the overall circ of The Economist is at 1.6 million, says the company, only 123,000 subscribe digitally. But according to Oscar Grut, managing director, Economist Digital, that could change dramatically in the next year.
In a recent blog post, lifted from his comments in the annual report, Grut notes that reader studies have revealed that long-form content continues to be valued, especially in digital form:
"We are fortunate because tablets, e-readers and smartphones allow our readers to enjoy the ritual, lean-back, immersive experience of reading The Economist that they love in print. Many of our readers tell us that this experience is, in fact, even better than print, because as well as being lean-back, digital editions are delivered immediately and reliably (much more so than via the postal service)."
Grut adds that a majority of American subscribers noted in another survey conducted last year that print was the preferred format, but 60 percent of those respondents said by 2013 they'd likely change that preference to digital.
Grut's full post, where he digs into The Economist's broader digital strategy, is available here.
Did you see the new Apple Newsstand magazine called Huffington.? Arianna (I donâ€™t know her but that is how she signed the introductory editorâ€™s letter so I guess we are on a first name basis) tells us that â€śHuffingtonâ€™s content will emphasize the richâ€”and richly rewardingâ€”interactions that come from uninterrupted time spent in the company of creative minds.â€ť Oh, dear. That grand statement comes after a 2-page ad for Prius V that, because as in true print magazine format, Huffington. must be read vertically (no turning of your iPad, please), we canâ€™t read the copy that goes across the gutter. Follow me? That's because there is no gutter on an app that canâ€™t be turned.Anyway, it is really pretty. There are great photos and some snappy graphics to highlight data and charts. But then it has these annoying little headlines that say, â€śEnter,â€ť which, because I assume that it is beckoning me to do so I push and push and push and all that happens is I get the table of contents (again and again and again). And then there are the similar â€śVoices,â€ť where I keep thinking Iâ€™ll find audio (love my New Yorker app issues that have poets reading their works). Nope, no voices here. There is some clever use of reader comments and a good article or two including the cover piece called, â€śObamaâ€™s perilous relationship with young voters.â€ť Â I guess the ad snafu aside, I am not appalled to be spending yet another 20 bucks for an annual subscription to something. But what is this something? Who is it for? I canâ€™t find that demo that should be so evident in a magazine. And why in a world where legacy publishers are trying to find life after print would a successful digital-first entity imitate print in the most sophisticated digital medium, the tablet? What am I missing? Are they going to sell a ton of print-like ads (note to sales team: 86 the spreads from the rate card)? Have they modeled that one percent of their supposed 80 million unique users per month will spend $20 per year? That would be a $16 million revenue stream. Hmmm. Or is this just one of those, â€śI did it because I could?â€ť
Warren Bimblick is senior vice president, strategy and business development, at Penton Media. Follow him on Twitter @wbimblick. Â
Granted, thereâ€™s not many things more certain than death and taxes but I found one more: any time I started off a declaration with the phrases â€śBack in my dayâ€¦â€ť or â€śWhen I was YOUR ageâ€¦â€ť with one of my classes of Introduction to Writing & Reporting at the University of South Alabama, I could pretty much guarantee a room full of collective eye rolling. â€śIs that when you drove your Model T to school?â€ť one of the class clowns would invariably smirk.
In this particular instance I was explaining to the room of Gen Y-ers that in my first job as a newspaper reporter I went to what is known as a public library and did researchâ€¦in BOOKS! Well, they were largely unimpressed, and why shouldnâ€™t they be? For the uninitiated itâ€™s much easier to simply Google a topic or go to Wikipedia to get the information you need to write a fairly comprehensive story. The problem is that by no stretch of the imagination can that be considered â€śreportingâ€ť or â€śjournalism." At best, itâ€™s simply laziness. At worst, itâ€™s plagiarism.
Google Journalism actually reared its ugly head when I was a judge for the Eddy Awards in 2010. One of my categories was association publications and I was perusing the pages of a travel associationâ€™s magazine when I came across an article on European cruises. The alleged writer of the article was clearly guilty of not picking up the phone to find out more information and it was obvious by what I was reading; the story read like promotional copy gleaned from minute upon minute of research on the cruise lineâ€™s website. Worse yet, it was terrible: it wasnâ€™t until five or six paragraphs into the piece that it stated exactly where the ships sailed to and from, pretty basic information, if you ask me. Not only was this lazy writer just Googling his research, he had never heard of our friend, â€śthe inverted pyramid.â€ť
At the risk of being called a hypocrite, I must confess to my own dalliances of Googling info and putting it into a story. It occurred when I worked at a dysfunctional publishing company where the left hand (editorial) seldom if ever knew what the right hand (sales) was doing. One of the sales assistants walked into the editorial suite and asked if one of us could write up 1,200 words on skiing in West Virginia. I stupidly volunteeredâ€”I had neither skied nor been to West Virginiaâ€”because I thought I would have the luxury of time to make some calls and do some research. â€śWhen do you need it?â€ť I asked. â€śUmmm, around lunch,â€ť was the reply. This editorial was to go around ads in a special advertising section in a national magazine so time was of the essence in order to meet the magazineâ€™s stringent deadline.
I called and emailed West Virginiaâ€™s bureau of tourism. Nada. So in order to meet my deadline I had to resort to the very practice I loathed: Google journalism. Not a proud moment but I think I was able to put the info into my own voice enough so that it would not be a direct rip off of www.skiwestva.com or whatever site I came across. In this case, it was more of a challenge as a writer to take unfamiliar material and reinterpret it in your own voiceâ€¦or at least thatâ€™s how I justified it to myself at the time.
The best stories occur when youâ€™re able to get out there and meet and mingle with people and get the lowdown on what it is youâ€™re covering. As I told my students, you need to become an expert on what it is youâ€™re writing about so that the reader wonâ€™t have any questions about the story they just read.
Google has its place, but mainly to find sources and background information. It is a crutch that threatens to retroactively cripple our industry, especially the next generation of budding journalists. Cue eye roll.
Mark A. Newman is a Senior Editor with Hanley Wood's Remodeling magazine. He has spent close to two decades in the publishing world and has been everything from Editorial Director to Editorial Assistant and literally everything in between.
Hearst canâ€™t catch a break. Shortly after the dust settled (more or less) around the Seventeen/Photoshop controversy, a new crusade against another female-centric title (Cosmopolitan) began. According to a press statement released this week, Victoria Hearst (granddaughter of Hearst Corp. founder William Randolph Hearst) partnered with Projectinspired.com founder Nicole Weider in an â€śAnti-Cosmo Mission.â€ť
The Mission requests Cosmo not change its content, but â€śtake responsibility for it,â€ť according to Weider. The magazine already caught flack earlier this year after featuring two â€śunderageâ€ť starlets (Selena Gomez, 19 and Dakota Fanning, now 18) on its February and March covers, alongside its typically racy headlines.
Now, Hearst joins Weider in her efforts to ensure Cosmo is only sold to adults 18 and above.
â€śAbout 11 years ago, I contacted Frank Bennack and the Board of the Hearst Corporation and told them that what they are publishing in Cosmopolitan magazine was pornographic. I had the support of two female psychologists and counselors who attest that this content hurts young girls. Like Nicole, I also asked that the magazine be sold only to adults 18 and older,â€ť says Hearst in the statement. â€śI never received a reply from anyone at the Hearst Corporation, but I had peace because I delivered the message. When I heard about Nicoleâ€™s campaign, I knew I needed to join in her mission to put Cosmopolitan in a bag and make sure that its pornographic content cannot be sold to minors!â€ť
A Change.org campaign (which garnered over 33,000 signatures so far) is going so far as to demand the magazine be sold in a non-transparent wrapper. Weider summarizes the goal of the campaign, â€śThat no one under the age of 18 sees the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine on newsstands or at their grocery stores, and that no one under 18 can legally buy Cosmopolitan magazine.â€ť
This is a tall order to ask of any magazine, as cover art is the only bait publishers have on the newsstand. And what about those over 18 who would like to preview the content of the magazine before they purchase it? If by some wild turn this campaign does go through (and I believe it wonâ€™t), it will certainly raise concerns about the rest of the industry.
If Cosmo is considered pornographic, what about the scantily clad bunnies on Playboy? The â€śhot sexâ€ť tips covering Men's Health? The breast-feeding antics of TIME? Surely, if one controversial magazine is bagged, the rest will shortly have to follow suitâ€”and for an industry already struggling with single copy sales, that would be one costly bag.
Publishers have always known the foundational role content plays in engaging an audience. However, with content now playing a starring role for all digital strategies, as well as demand generation campaigns, clients and agencies are beginning to ask a lot more questions about content.
Marketing executives are looking to build their own content libraries and are turning to their publishing partners for guidance and support creating the right content, and distributing it successfully to support both their branding and revenue initiatives.
To better understand how emerging technologies and media options influence audience behavior, our DemandGen Report publication recently conducted a survey of more than 100 executives and found some interesting trends.
Here is a look at some of the study highlights:
1) Access Points: The majority of our DemandGen Report readers are business executives in sales and marketing roles, so our sample skews more towards b-to-b. Traditionally, business publishers have focused on reaching their audience in their place of work, but one of the realities of the mobile explosion is that â€śworkâ€ť is no longer confined to a desk or the four walls of an office.
When asked what device they use to access business-related content, 84 percent indicated they use a laptop most frequently, 70 percent said they use a mobile phone, and 49 percent use a tablet. Conversely, only 36 percent cited a desktop computer as their regular device for consuming content.
In looking at how their content consumption habits have changed over the past year, 32 percent indicated they prefer mobile-optimized content for access on a tablet or mobile device.
2) Setting Preferences: Given DemandGen Reportâ€™s focus on engagement trends, our survey focused primarily on content used for lead generation, lead nurturing and sales enablement.
When we asked executives which content formats they had used to research a business topic or solution, the white paper was the dominant response (88 percent), followed by webinars (73 percent), case studies (67 percent) and blog posts (63 percent).
While those content formats have been established as â€śtried and trueâ€ť for publishers and brands alike, the survey also show rapid adoption of newer formats that wouldnâ€™t have made the list two years ago. For example, 51 percent of respondents cited E-books as a top resource, 44 percent referenced videos, 38 percent selected infographics and 28 percent named interactive presentations.
3) Content As Currency: The other major trend underscored by the survey was the growing influence content now has on how customers perceive the publishers and brands that supply it.
When asked how their content consumption habits have changed over the last year, 57 percent of respondents said they place a higher emphasis on the trustworthiness of the source creating content.
There is also more openness to receiving content directly from brands, as 25 percent said they are willing to consider vendor-created content as trustworthy, and 35 percent saying they start their search for content addressing business topics directly on vendor websites.
The growing influence of peers also came through loud and clear in the study. When asked which content they give more credence to in the research process, 52 percent cited peer reviews/user generated feedback, followed by 33 percent who selected content authored by a third-party publication or analyst.
4) Share And Share Alike: Despite their busy schedules, business executives take time to share content they find valuable. While email is a primary sharing mechanism (88 percent), the survey found that more than half (53 percent) of executives share content using LinkedIn and 39 percent share via Twitter.
In addition, 25 percent indicated they are getting more content through social networks or recommendations, and 23 percent said they now start their search for content on social media.
In addition to these four key trends, the survey looked at other shifts in behaviors, such as willingness to share contact and business information in exchange for access to content, as well as asking how long an executive is willing to commit to reviewing different content formats.
Andrew Gaffney is the President of G3 Communications, Inc., a Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. firm specializing in digital media and custom contnent. G3 Communications publishes DemandGen Report, Retail TouchPoints and Channel Marketer Report. In addition to its digital publications, G3â€™s Content4Demand marketing services division creates custom content optimized for lead generation and lead nurturing campaigns for more than 100 different clients ranging from Fortune 100 firms to venture-backed startups.
Remember Quark? Not so long ago, when InDesign was just a rumor, it would have been unthinkable for a publisher to design and create a print magazine without QuarkXPress. Those who clung to PageMaker were scorned as being hopelessly behind the times. Even some at Adobe were privately worried that Quarkâ€™s hegemony could not be challenged.Fast forward to the print/web/mobile/tablet/whatever era. InDesign rules in many publishersâ€™ minds and budgets. Quarkâ€”both the company and its productsâ€”are disregarded, even disdained. â€śThatâ€™s just the way it is; some things will never change,â€ť as the song goes.Nothing is permanent, least of all in publishing technology. On Tuesday, Quark announced the acquisition of Mobile IQ, the UK-based developer responsible for PressRun. The latter is an app-creation environment very similar to Adobe DPS, WoodWing and Mag+, giving page designers the ability to add rich media and publish to the App Store or Google Play. (In fact, PressRun uses InDesign as one of its starting points. XML-based Content Management Systems are another. The most awkward moment of my interview with a Quark spokesperson followed a question on whether QuarkXPress and its App Studio feature would be part of the PressRun workflow. Quark has not announced any such plans, but did not rule it out.)Where the story gets interesting involves the companyâ€™s attitude towards dedicated apps versus browser-based (but still app-like) publications. Mobile IQ has plenty of experience building custom appsâ€”notably the BBC News app for iPhone. Both its custom and PressRun-based apps use a robust HTML5 presentation layer, and officials from both companies expressed the view that tablet publications will break out of the constraints of proprietary reader apps in the fairly near future.Others share this view, of course. Many publishers would like to break free from Appleâ€™s constraints, and still more are not convinced that the print page metaphor is the best model for an engaging mobile/tablet app. With that in mind, Quark is about to beta test a mobile publicationâ€”based in HTML5â€”that is purportedly more flexible than the page-like apps weâ€™ve come to expect.For now, consumer magazines may still want to stick with the more design-intensive world of InDesign page layoutâ€”in which Quark is now, perhaps ironically, a player. For b-to-b, howeverâ€”an area where Quark has increased its focusâ€”the situation is not as clear-cut. Mobile IQ has a strong play with STM and other structured publications, where managed content is a strong component. Business publishers may want to broaden their search for tablet publishing platforms that integrate well with a CMS. Neither Quark nor Adobe have an absolute lock in that respect.Who knows? Publishing technology seems to follow another song lyric, â€śbig wheels keep on turninâ€™.â€ť
Â Former Seybold editor John Parsons is an independent publishing analyst, based in Seattle.Â
Itâ€™s sad but true, Virginiaâ€”less than half of IT decision makers consider the marketing content they receive from the vendor community to be of any use. How do we know this? We polled them of course! Surveys never lie, but thereâ€™s reason to believe that this one was particularly accurate. For one thing, the sample was quite sizeableâ€”over 860 corporate IT buyers. For another, its conclusion is supported by droves of anecdotal evidence: Literally dozens of formal interviews, casual conversations and email exchanges that weâ€™ve conducted with corporate IT managers during the past year echo this view. (A survey and whitepaper, â€śTech Marketing Best Practices: The Complex Purchasing Processâ€ť can be downloaded here. )So how do we get on the right side of this equation and ensure that the content we deliver to this audience is both useful and well received?If you chat with an IT executive, and ask what sort of content he or she finds useful when researching a new project or purchase, that executive will generally mention three things:
1. The information has to be credible. In other words, it has to be derived from information sources that are recognizable, verifiable and respected.2. The information has to be relevant. More on this in a moment.3. The information has to be accessible. In other words, if your prospective buyers canâ€™t find it quickly and easily, it doesnâ€™t matter how relevant and credible it is; itâ€™s just not going to do them any good.Of these three concerns, the second is the most pivotal. After all, if an IT decision maker isnâ€™t interested in the topic youâ€™re discussing, then he is not going to care whether he can locate the information or trust its source. So the more closely your marketing content is aligned with the immediate needs, concerns and perspectives of the prospects, the more relevant they will find it.In our experience at UBM TechWeb, the chief reason so many IT buyers are turned off by vendor content is because the material is presented from the vendorâ€™s point of viewâ€”not the IT buyerâ€™s. This is a very easy sort of error for a marketing department to fall into. Companies, like people, get caught up in their own dealings and end up seeing the world through their own prism. It may be a perfectly valid viewpoint, but it tends to reflect your bossâ€™s prioritiesâ€”not the buyerâ€™s.Instead, tech marketers, or any other brand marketer for that matter, need to develop content that deliberately and explicitly addresses the buyerâ€™s viewpoint. Here are some key things to consider:â€˘ Are you speaking to the right audience?Different segments of buyers in a market vertical look at the same issue differently. For instance, in the IT market, itâ€™s often much easier for small to medium businesses (SMBs) to outsource certain services, since they have smaller IT departments and fewer legacy systems in place. Enterprises, on the other hand, often have much higher thresholds for governance, regulatory and security requirements that have to be met. Your content should reflect the concerns of the group you want to target.â€˘ Are you answering your buyerâ€™s most important question? Nine times out of ten itâ€™s this: Why is the product or service being promoted important to the prospect? In other words, what business benefits will the buyer receive from the offering? Do a good job of answering this and the contentâ€™s relevancy goes way up. â€˘ Are the prospects' most important concerns being addressed?Whatâ€™s the current business environment like for the target buyers? What are their biggest challenges? What opportunities are they trying to seize? Addressing these questions puts the message in a context that really matters to the prospects. â€˘ Are you providing data and analysis your audience canâ€™t easily get someplace else?This is a great way to provide unique value that will engage prospects. Conducting a survey is one way to get this kind of information. It gives a report credibility and the opportunity to collect data thatâ€™s specific to a target market.If you want your content to be useful, it has to pass the buyer-perspective litmus test. Once it does, then youâ€™ve taken an all-important step towards attracting and engaging with your target audience.
In my May article,Â Creative Suite 6 and the Bottom Line, I described Adobe's new Creative Cloud (CC) approach-licensing its applications under a subscription model as an alternative to a traditional shrink-wrap license. Benefits include convenience, early access to incremental releases of Creative Suite (CS) applications, as well as access to newer applications not part of CS. What was discussed but not fully defined was the concept of "team licensing."
In a nutshell, CC team members have the same access to Adobe applications as individual CC subscribers, plus additional benefits, including more online storage, increased access to the Typekit Web font library, greater access to one-on-one technical support and troubleshooting, as well as mutual file sharing and collaboration. These benefits are described in the company'sÂ Creative Cloud Team Ready offer. However, as of this writing, many of the team program's particulars-contrasted with individual CC licenses-are still unclear.
Perhaps the most important aspect of CC team licensing is the ability to transfer a license or seat from one authorized team member to another. Whatever the other advanced features of CC team licenses may be, transferability of seats is a huge benefit for large organizations with a fluid freelance component.
That brings us to the issue of price. An individual CC subscription costs just under $50 per month, while a team subscription will cost just under $70 per month per person. When asked, Adobe spokespersons asserted that the additional benefits of a team subscription (e.g., collaboration features) would be worth the $20 difference. This is an untried assumption, to say the least, given that the full feature set for team subscribers has not been clearly articulated-much less tested for ROI.
When pressed, Adobe officials gave assurances that volume discounts would be part of CC team licensing for large enterprises-including publishers and agencies. Indeed, Creative SuiteÂ volume licensingÂ is already a practice for traditional CS licenses. The unanswered question-still-is how large a team must be to quality for Creative Cloud team licensing discounts, and how steep those discounts will be.
The Team offering is scheduled for release this fall, so we expect to see more answers to these questions. Untl then, however, publishers and agency CFOs would be well advised to wait and see.
Jason Pontin, editor of MITâ€™s Tech Review, recently announced that, after much pain and expense, the Tech Review is abandoning native apps for the iPad and other mobile devices. Describing the publications experience with app developmentâ€”which involved spending $124,000 on software development and selling only 353 iPad subscriptionsâ€”Pontin reports that, â€śLike almost all publishers, I was badly disappointed. What went wrong? Everything.â€ť
It didnâ€™t have to be this way. Tablets like the iPad offer rich possibilities for telling engaging stories that take readers well beyond the print experience, with the portability to enjoy that experience anywhere, anytime. But to fully realize that potentialâ€”without the high cost and frustration seen by Tech Reviewâ€”publishers must think more holistically about their long-term strategy for delivering a fresh, high-quality experience across all mobile devices. A few simple rules can guide you to the right strategy for your publication and readers.
Rule 1: Remember the business youâ€™re in. Publishing is supposed to be about contentâ€”not code. If you find yourself hiring separate development teams or agencies to create your HTML website, iOS apps, and Android apps, then something has already gone wrong. The right digital strategy will allow you to focus your resources on creating great experiences for your readers, not paying an army of developers to replicate those experiences in different languages for different form factors.
Rule 2: Donâ€™t settle for static pages. Like many publishers, Tech Review began with the approach of replicating its print edition page by page in PDF form. The whole point of digital media is to do things that arenâ€™t possible in print, using interactivity, rich media, social sharing, and other web-like capabilities to engage readers more deeply. And what reader wants to sit around waiting for an entire 96-page PDF to download before they can start exploring its content? As with a desktop website, publishers should curate their content for mobile engagement and focus on delivering the right experience for the right device at the right timeâ€”instead of trying to turn tablets into a paper delivery device. Tech Review realized their error and have since taken the PDF replicas off of their app and now have live streaming articles.
Rule 3: Donâ€™t chain content to design. Editors shouldnâ€™t have to deal with design code or the mechanics of layoutâ€”especially when that layout will have to change depending on the device a reader uses to access an article. Instead, designers can create templates in standard web protocols that allow editors to choose whatever layout they want, without the risk of breaking the design. This allows editors to focus on editorial, and designers to focus on design, while providing unlimited flexibilityâ€”and creativityâ€”to present each article in the best way for each platform.
Rule 4: Think about the day after launch. A digital edition is never truly â€śput to bed.â€ť A mobile app needs to be updated constantly with fresh content, enhanced usability, and new features. How will you get this done and who will do it? If you hired a development firm to build your app, then will you have to keep paying them for every change? If you build it in-house, will your editorial team be constantly at the mercy of your IT departmentâ€™s workload? Find a simple, cost-effective way to flow your content everywhere your readers want to experience it or youâ€™re likely to find yourself sharing in Tech Reviewâ€™s misery.
Rule 5: Make friends with the cloud. The platform-independent nature of the cloud is a precious gift for publishers. Instead of having to create, update, manage, and analyze separate apps for iOS , Android, and HTML5 apps in addition to their mobile website and desktop website, a cloud-based strategy makes it possible for content to be published once, and then enjoyed on any device. Similarly, updates can be performed once in the cloud, and propagated automatically at the same time across both smartphones and tablets. The same is true for monetization and analytics, which are unified in the cloud rather than being fragmented in platform-specific silos. The cloud could have saved Tech Review a lot of time and moneyâ€”and saved its native apps from their impending demise.
The iPad and other tablets were supposed to be a boon for the publishing industry, giving content creators new ways to connect with and engage readers. This potential still existsâ€”in fact, itâ€™s stronger today than ever. By learning from the mistakes of the first wave of PDF replicas and development-intensive app strategies, publishers can find the mobile success theyâ€™ve been looking for--in the cloud.
PJ Gurumohan is the co-founder and CEO of cloud solution provider GENWI.
Journalists get a bum rap these days if they donâ€™t â€śwrite for the Webâ€ť in an optimized manner, or if they write stories that are too long and detailed (I still miss the twenty-page profiles of Amazon butterflies in The New Yorker from decades past).
There are just too many rules about writing, these days. We have all of the Twitter-pated editors and publishers spewing out 140-word stuff, which is sometimes nonsense (I am guilty of this, tooâ€”felt kind of dumb last weekend, so I tweeted about the weather).
So I guessâ€”as a businessperson with a J-degreeâ€”I pity the journalist who is being bombarded with figuring out ways to make a buck. It used to be that they could write smart things and the sales folk would sell blank pages. Agencies demanded far forward or negotiated being opposite something; it didnâ€™t much matter what was on the blank ad pages. Audience relevance was assured because the editors filled up the edit well with relevance, and there was a BPA audit that assured they got to the right people (disclosureâ€”I am on the BPA board). Now, they have to be contextually relevant and all that jazz.
Then they have to tweet, Facebook and Link In (out?) to the community that isnâ€™t necessarily the community that they used to write for; who took an annual subscription to the magazine but have been acquired through SEO, nurturing and mollycoddling but are, alas, anonymous. That is, until you convert them to register, which they are loathe to do as they found you by mistake. But they can be counted and even audited, and even though they wonâ€™t mail IN a bingo card, they fill OUT bingo cards (you hope) online. And then, Gadzooks, you have a lead that someone has to follow up on, but not by a salespersonâ€”but by a technological something or other.
Which gets back to the LEAD (not the lead)â€”that journalistic introduction to 200 words or 20,000 words.
How about a new kind of lead that can be repurposed to social: The combined Twitter and Haiku lead. Perhaps a Twitku?
Warren Bimblick is senior vice president, strategy and business development, at Penton Media. Follow him on Twitter @wbimblick.
On May 12, TIME managing editor Rick Stengel spoke at Indianapolisâ€™ Butler University graduation ceremony. While such a large media presence likely excited the recent grads at first, some of what Stengel said must have left the crowd a bit...perplexed.
As FOLIO: sister publication min points out, one quote shows promise for an insightful speech, as Stengel reflects on the difference between information and knowledge: â€śInformation is data; knowledge is understanding. Information is statistics; knowledge is insight. Information is foreground; knowledge is background.â€ť
But then he quickly takes a strange turn as he says, â€śInformation is everywhere, and itâ€™s largely freeâ€¦[knowledge] is scarce and valuable â€” and you might just have to pay for it.â€ť
The paid content jabs donâ€™t stop there, as seen in the following quotes:
â€śInformation feels like itâ€™s free because it comes to you in a frictionless way with a click on your keyboard. But the information â€“ the knowledge you get from a TIME story about the Middle Eastâ€”comes at the cost of keeping correspondents in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Jerusalem. Thatâ€™s not free. And those people are often risking their lives to bring you that information and knowledge.â€ť
â€śA comment on a blog is free. But you will have to pay for the insight of [TIME columnists] Joe Klein or...Fareed Zakaria, for there is a deep investment that has been made in their experience, their talent, their contacts, their perspective. Thatâ€™s worth a lot."
While getting consumers to pay for content is a hot button issue in the publishing industry, I wonder exactly what Stengel was hoping to accomplish by broaching the subject during his speech. Were his intentions to convert graduates to subscribers? Perhaps Stengel should have saved his paid content woes for an op-ed, and used this platform instead to demonstrate what actually makes TIME worth paying for: wisdom from a trusted, researched source.
Sadly, this marks a missed opportunity for Stengel, TIME and the magazine industry overall. Educated youth should be enticed to become readers of legacy media brands, not guilted into a subscription purchase.
Piano playing cat viral videos, engaging TedTalks on renewable energy, killer blogs and real-time information feeds are creating a transformational shift that continues to redefine the boundaries of advertising. Agencies today are actually spending money in the hopes of creating the next cheap-looking viral video, as shown in a recent episode of The Pitch on AMC. But these are short term tactics, with an inherently short shelf life in many cases; one that can be quickly replaced by the next viral video. These strategies donâ€™t build a cohesive brand or identity â€“ something that you want to be remembered for.
At UBM TechWeb, we share many of the same challenges most marketers face. But we are in a unique position in that we have to satisfy two audiences: business technology users who consume our information, and our marketing customers. Our clients are looking to create deeper engagement with prospects that can be measured, beyond clicks and views, through innovative products like lead nurturing and thriving communities. Our audiences are seeking practical, intelligent information to make smart decisions. The question reveals itself: how do you engage a mass audience, create greater brand loyalty, while also working toward and fulfilling the goals of your clients?
At UBM TechWeb, we have found that the optimal way to engage the audience for the long term is by exciting the user intellectually by giving away educational, intellectual pieces of unbiased, premium content that only we can produce. These pieces of content can take weeks to create given the careful research that goes into them and has monetary value attached to it. We decided to create an annual budget for the creation of these special reports and give it away as a reward to our audience. Our engagement trends are more promising than ever before.
How do we do this? A typical scenario goes like this. The user, weâ€™ll call her Lisa, is presented with an email offer that is relevant to the types of content she consumes and actions she has taken. We know Lisa is a cloud professional who routinely attends our cloud webcasts, frequently downloads our whitepapers on the subject and has also attended a live event dedicated to the topics a year ago. As we reward our audiences for their loyalty to our offerings, it has become apparent that Lisa would be more interested in a premium report that we would offer for free, like the â€ś5 Steps to building the Private Cloud,â€ť priced at $99.00. By offering Lisa a report at no cost, one that is directly relevant to her, we have constructed an opportunity to create an even deeper and more loyal relationship with her.
As publishers, what is it that you can do to reward your audience intellectually and emotionally to make them more loyal to your brand? Is there valuable content that only you can produce, that your audience will cherish? There has to be, and if there isnâ€™t, you have not thought hard enough. Remember this: only your company is able to create and share expert content like no one else. If you donâ€™t have that talent, seek that talent and start producing now.
Imran Suleman is a digital marketer and content strategist for technology companies looking to evolve their brand and products into world class entities through the power of astute content marketing.