On Wall Street, it is often said that stocks must climb a â€śwall of worryâ€ť before they can reach new and sustainable highs. Unemployment, escalating interest rates, a poor housing market and deficit spending â€“ these represent just a few of the worries in todayâ€™s investor landscape. But if history is any guide, the next bull market is right around the corner as investors scale the wall and reach new levels of value.
The magazine industry today faces its own wall of worry. The traditional world of print is in a slow but steady decline and advertising dollars continue to migrate from print magazines to television, web, social media and other non-traditional channels. However, just like Wall Street, the publishing industry has the means to overcome this wall of worry and deliver new value. Enter: digital editions.
Weâ€™re still in the very early days, but it is clear that magazine digital editions represent a massive growth opportunity for the entire industry. But as the opportunity becomes more tangible, it is equally clear that publishing industry executives must execute against some key value drivers.
Be the Master of Your â€śDataâ€ť:
The publishing industry must take the lead in defining the performance, engagement and consumer-based metrics that will drive the digital business and build value in magazine brands. What consumers are browsing, reading or sharing; when, where and on what device; and across which titles and categories â€“ are just some of the data available. Maintaining control over this data is a critical factor in the long-term vitality of the industry and its premium advertising model. If access to data is limited by technology, distribution or other partners in the consumer value chain, our bright new digital future will most certainly dim.
Content is (Still) King:
The digital media world is full of free, on demand aggregator apps that scrape the web and deliver personalized streams of news and information 24 x 7. Many of these apps also serve as useful access points to the busy world of social media. However, it is important to remember that the foundation of a bright digital future for magazines is different; that future is founded on curated, authoritative content that people will pay for and is delivered to them by trusted brands. As such we must protect the value of our digital content and brands when considering our approach to such things as print/digital bundles, website paywalls and enhanced vs. transcribed editions.
The digital magazine platform can provide readers with multiple product and pricing choices for engaging with their favorite brands and content categories. Print/digital bundles and digital subscriptions are two areas of recent innovation. At Next Issue, we have introduced an â€śall-you-can-eatâ€ť unlimited access plan that allows readers and their families to access any of our magazine titles, including back issues, at any time, for one low monthly price. This type of offer also naturally leads to innovation around search, recommendations and personalization, which in turn, will deliver deeper reader engagement.
In many ways, the magazine industry faces a similar challenge that confronted the television industry over a decade ago with the introduction of TiVo. In that instance, for the first time, viewers and not programmers were in charge of their television viewing experience, and the industry had to adapt. And from a data reporting perspective, not only did we learn what programming and advertising were actually viewed in TiVo households, but we also knew exactly when it was viewed; for how long; and if it was skipped, rewound, liked or disliked.
Since that time and despite dire predictions to the contrary, the television industry successfully adapted to these and other technology changes to grow bigger and more profitable today. With leadership, commitment and alacrity, there is no reason why the magazine industry cannot duplicate this success and achieve its own greatness in the digital realm.
So letâ€™s climb our own wall of worry to a bigger and better future â€“ as an industry we can do this!
Morgan P. Guenther is President and CEO of Next Issue Media, the digital publishing initiative of CondĂ© Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corporation and Time Inc. Joining the venture in June 2010, he brings deep entrepreneurial, management, legal and deal-making experience in the technology, wireless and digital media industries, where he headed and advised innovative companies rooted in Silicon Valley.
In the world of publishing, it is expected that sales teams are rewarded for performance with commission; but for a long time, there was no opportunity for editors to earn outside of their base pay. â€śChurchâ€ť may be considered holier, but â€śstateâ€ť tended to be greener.
That is, until now. Recently, a few publishers began to compensate their editors based on performance. Performance is a relative term in this case: two publishers implementing this model chose difference audience indicators as the determiner of top editorial performers. Forbesâ€™ chief product officer Lewis DVorkin expanded on how his company is rewarding writers at FOLIO:â€™s March Roundtable.
â€śWe had two individual contributors, not staff members, who drove one million unique visitors each and they were incentive-based. They were incented to drive audience, not incented to drive page views, and they are further incented to drive repeat users per month,â€ť says DVorkin.
DVorkin then stated that Forbes â€śdoesnâ€™t focus that much on page viewsâ€ť when quantifying successful articles.
On the other side is Vance Publishing Corporation, which launched its editorial rewards program in January. Dean Horowitz, vice president of e-media and market intelligence, details how Vance is rewarding top editors based on page views, or impressions, during a FOLIO: 40 interview.
â€śNow the editors who said they were posting and are not really posting are seeing how transparent it is, and how it affects their compensation. Initially, there was pushback: itâ€™s open on who the top performers are,â€ť says Horowitz. â€śWe have to value the people making the content more than ever before. Itâ€™s about the product, more than it is the sales story.â€ť
Vance installed an editorial audit board to keep the process fair as possible. â€śThey help make sure the editors arenâ€™t using search bait,â€ť says Horowitz.
Both of these models seem to be in beta stages, but progressive nonetheless, in leveling the publishing payment field. At first glance, there are a few hitches that may or may not outweigh the positives. What constitutes a quality article may not always make it the most popular; for those tasked with more mundane subjects in any given niche, paychecks may suffer.
Vanceâ€™s transparent model is commendable in its honesty, but may inspire an increased amount of jealousy and rivalry among employees. While a bit of healthy competition is welcome in any work atmosphere, pitting co-editors against each other for dollar reward (in the already cutthroat industry of magazine publishing) seems to be an inevitable and dangerous outcome of this system.
Of course, no new system is without flaw. Cheers to empowering editors, however publishers choose to do so.
â€śE.T.: The Extra Terrestrialâ€ť was playing at the movies, Michael Jackson had just released â€śThriller,â€ť the average cost of a home was $82,000 and gas was 91 cents a gallon. It was 1982. TIME declared the computer its â€śMan of the Yearâ€ť and CRN published its first issue under the name Computer Retail News.
For three decades, CRN has been reporting on technology news, and these advancements have certainly forced publishingâ€“an industry that had seen few substantive changes in the prior 200 yearsâ€”to rapidly adapt to new platforms, new mediums and new business models.
Thirty years ago, reporters and editors were using a fluorescent-green terminal called Atex to file stories. Today reporters use their phones to Tweet, Skype to conduct video interviews and Facebook to elicit comments or story suggestions from their followers. Until very recently those who produced the content distributed the content. Today social media and mobile apps provide a new distribution model where the producers no longer have complete control.
It would be an understatement to say that the Web forever changed publishing. Over the past two decades, business models have been disrupted, publishers have gone out of business and a new breed of online sites has entered the market. For editors, an unprecedented sense of urgency was born. In just the past few years, we have seen yet another dramatic change in journalism, again all in reaction to the incredible pace of technology. Enter citizen journalism, crowdsourcing and blogging; then throw YouTube, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Stumbleupon and others into the mix.
While technology has helped deliver the news, it also has delivered shortcomings in news reporting. Today a mistake can be corrected and a story reposted in a minute, with less consequence than in yesteryear. But whoâ€™s to notice, anyway? Todayâ€™s readers donâ€™t consume newsâ€”they sniff it, take a nibble, and move to the next item in an endless buffet of shallow dishes hastily prepared. Scroll, scroll, click. Scroll, scroll, click. On the other side of the buffet table, frenzied reporters dish out the news as quickly as they can.
But the innovations that have made us sloppy could save b-to-b journalism in the future. Tablets and the subscription-based modelâ€”as opposed to qualified circulation and the current advertising model many of us haveâ€”could force b-to-b editors once again to write content that is not only timely, but that is accurate, unique and consequential. Readers will pay for such content, just as they once had. Nondifferentiated content can remain free; differentiated content can command a price.
All of this, of course, has begun to happen with digital subscription-based models and Appleâ€™s Newsstand feature. Thatâ€™s where CRN finds itself after 30 yearsâ€”offering even more targeted content to give our readers a better perspective.
But, where will CRN and b-to-b publishing find themselves in 30 years? Artificial intelligence and data mining will enable even more precise data on what readers are interested in. Contextually relevant audiences will find us. And new companies that arenâ€™t in existence today will force us to rethink how content is delivered. Never again will we have 200 years with basically the same model. Disruption will be the norm.
Kelley Damore is vice president and editorial director for CRN.
For 35 yearsâ€”mostly living in Manhattanâ€”I have owned a car. This past weekend I gave up my car at lease-end and did not replace it. I realized that in four years I hadnâ€™t driven 9,000 miles and the cost and annoyance of owning was not worth it. I could rent when needed.I decided to use the cathartic experience to think of what else I donâ€™t need (another glass of wineâ€¦wellâ€¦). Could I give up magazines? Iâ€™m a magazine junky (I've had a New Yorker sub since 12). I counted. I get 28, mostly monthlies, meaning likely 300 issues in my mailbox each year. Itâ€™s staggering and impossible to get through.Then I thought about my day and what I do. My iPad is always in my hands and Iâ€™ve prepared two icons to sort my magazines (plus those that annoyingly insist upon going into the â€śNewsstandâ€ť). They range from some highly unsatisfactory replicas of print to some innovative replicas (The Economist) to very robust offerings that have expanded my love of a brand (my favorite is The Atlantic).
I do still read many magazines in print, but far fewer than I used to (indeed, it is often the ads that turn me to print over digital). My tablet content has become my first place to read while many magazines have become coffee table decorations. To me, the future belongs to the media companies that get out ahead with the technology and really understand how audiences are consuming their content and serve it up to individuals in the manner they want it. Yes, individuals. At Penton, we are meshing metrics and asking subscribers about what experience they want. We thenâ€”sometimes not easilyâ€”develop product around it. Moving the revenue dial is going to be about moving with the users and coming up with the experiences that will make them need youâ€”wherever that is. It is where that triumvirateâ€”publisher, editor and audience developmentâ€”need to come together and solve user experiences.Clever serving of content can be about pushing the needle on print, too. This Sunday morning, New York experimented with delivering this weekâ€™s issue to my front door testing a â€śVIP hand delivery service.â€ť Now thatâ€™s brilliance. This wasnâ€™t about technology, it was about strategy and figuring out the right time to reach me. And, by the way, they got me to re-up, too.
Warren Bimblick is senior vice president, strategy and business development, at Penton Media.
Thereâ€™s been a lot of chatter on the Web this past week about the impact the new iPad (with its retina display and four times the pixels) might have on digital publications like those created on Mag+ or Adobe DPS, which render most of the content as images to present a pixel-perfect design experience, since this approach creates â€ślargeâ€ť files.
Thereâ€™s no question that higher resolution images take more space, but in tests with our plug-ins, weâ€™re seeing closer to a 2x or less increase. And since most of our issues are 150-200mb, weâ€™re only talking about retina issues of around 300-400mbâ€”smaller than many non-retina magazines and far smaller than, say, a half hour of TV.
That last comparison is, I think, an apt one. Because while no one likes to sit around and wait for a file to download, far more important than the physical size is what that file offers. In other words, itâ€™s not about megabytes, itâ€™s about value.
"The Walking Dead" is the top selling TV show on iTunes. The HD version is not only more expensive than the SD version, itâ€™s 2.5x the file size: 1.8GB for a 62-minute show. Try keeping a whole season of that on your 16GB iPad. Weâ€™ve seen in surveys that more than 40 percent of digital subscribers spend 60 minutes or more with an issue (80 percent spend 30 minutes or more). One of the most successful apps of 2010 was the book â€śThe Elementsâ€ť from Theo Gray (a PopSci columnist), which cost $13.99 and takes 1.7GB of space. Whatâ€™s an hour of a great experience worth in bytes?
And I think itâ€™s important to remember that great experience matters in this space, especially if you expect people to pay for your app. The iPad (and certainly the retina iPad) is a vessel for premium content, and youâ€™re not just competing against other magazines hereâ€”youâ€™re competing against games, TV shows, 200,000 other apps and the Web. If you donâ€™t offer a packaging and presentation of your content that wows people, it wonâ€™t matter if your magazine is 50mb or 500mb; people will find something better to buy and spend time with.
A real-world example: Popular Photography+ is indisputably a niche publication for camera and photo geeks. Most of the information thatâ€™s in it you could find on the Webâ€”there are no shortage of photography and camera-review sites. And yet, PopPhoto has 30,000+ paid digital subscribers on the iPadâ€”thatâ€™s 10 percent of its total rate baseâ€”and is adding hundreds more every month. And its digital business has been profitable for a long time. People are finding value in a curated experience optimized for that canvas and the magazine is making a real business from it.
Thatâ€™s an indication that premium curated content has an audience here, but it represents only a tiny slice of whatâ€™s possible. For instance, why not instead of just delivering "Walking Dead" as a video file, make it an â€śissue.â€ť In it, you could have interviews with the actors, slideshows of behind the scenes photos, an interactive game, a live feed of news from the show AND the actual episode itself, playable in full-screen and over AirPlay. And because itâ€™s a â€śpublication,â€ť you could subscribe to it! The total file size would be 1.82GB and it would probably see more downloads than any single issue or a magazine.
The retina iPad, with its print-like resolution and rich backlit color is giving an industry whose value proposition is built on beautiful imagery, careful design and readable text the most amazing platform itâ€™s ever had for all of those things. Its introduction should not be a cause for fretting about the death of an experiment thatâ€™s just begun on the altar of file size, but a moment to ask ourselves: what are we doing with it?
Mike Haney is the chief content officer for tablet solution provider Mag+.
Last fall, at the American Business Mediaâ€™s Executive Forum, I joined IDG Enterprise CCO John Gallant and SourceMedia EVP/CCO David Longobardi on stage for a panel about the future of content and editorial and, much to my surprise, my introduction of the â€śbrandividualâ€ť concept turned into a lightning rod for subsequent hallway conversation (see FOLIO:'s blog on the topic here).
When was the last time you saw a billboard for one of your local news programs? Have you ever stopped to think about how those billboards essentially subjugate the brand of the station to the brand of the news team? Thatâ€™s because the most important currency that any media property can spend for audience is its credibility. And, like or not, with few exceptions, the trust relationship is really between the audience and the newscaster.
Brandividualism is nothing new. The brandividualized billboards have been around for decades. But prior to the arrival of social networks, the media brands themselves got to be the sole arbiters of brandivdualism. There were no other practical ways to keep in touch with your favorite newscaster, weatherperson or columnist other than to tune into the media brands that employed them. How else were you to follow Peter Jennings other than to watch ABCâ€™s World News Tonight?
Then along came Twitter and Facebook: two services that have not only up-ended the media industry in well-chronicled ways, but ones that have also reinforced the principles of brandividualism.
In a double-whammy, not only are Twitter and Facebook disintermediating media brands as the sole channelers of the trust relationship between audience and brandividuals, theyâ€™ve become the platforms upon which new independent but highly trusted brandividuals have risen. The latter phenomenon and its potential to dilute audience is the more oft-discussed challenge to modern day media. But the former should be just as interesting to us students of the media.
At the time this article was written, ESPN had 3,335,412 followers on Twitter. However, Erin Andrews, one of ESPNâ€™s most popular commentators had 1,200,905 all to herself. By the time you read this, CNN will have more than 3,980,000 followers. But more than 2,304,000 people will be following one of CNNâ€™s biggest brandividuals â€“ Anderson Cooper. In perhaps the closest margin, without having even tweeted one tweet, Brian Williams has 93,786 followers. Meanwhile, the show that he anchors --- NBC Nightly News --- has 104,786.
The good news, as can be seen from some of the follower counts to the media brands exemplified above, is that the media brand still counts for something. The challenging news if youâ€™re a media brand is that your audience is also taking its trust relationship with your brandividuals into channels you donâ€™t control.
Many media executives are naturally driven to perceive this brandividual independence as a threat; not just to their brand, but, as if theyâ€™re pimps, to their way of life. However, the risks of resisting or ignoring the realities of this new, brandividual-led world are greater than if you embrace them. Embracing brandividualism in a socially networked world is not only about supporting the idea, but driving it to new levels.
First, make sure you have the right brandividuals; journalists or bloggers who are domain experts, whose expertise and reputation engender trust and loyalty, and who understand the importance of immersing themselves into the social networks that matter.
Second, donâ€™t be shy about leading your online editorial product with your brandividual(s). If you visit two of UBM TechWebâ€™s sites for IT professionals --- DrDobbs.com and BYTE.com --- you will notice how both of those sites are graphically and spiritually led by the editors in chief of those sites (Andrew Binstock and Larry Seltzer, respectively). They arenâ€™t just front-in-center on their the websites. Theyâ€™re also front-in-center in the periodic email newsletters for both sites.
Third, in addition to providing the necessary buttons and icons for connecting to your media brand over social networks (you do have that, donâ€™t you?), be sure to offer all of the available means for your audience members to connect directly with your brandividuals .
As ludicrous as these ideas sound, the goal is to heavily promote trust in your brandividuals so that that trust will eventually lead to more readership. Or, you can try swimming against the tide and see how far that gets you.
David Berlind is the chief content editor at UBM TechWeb.
In between last weekâ€™s DMA Circulation Marketing Day and the upcoming MPA Digital: Swipe conference on March 20, I thought it may be appropriate to reflect on a pattern forming in the magazine publishing industry. It doesnâ€™t require expert sleuthing skills to deduce how much the industry has changed over the past year; a massive shift in focus is evident.
Digital used to occupy a session or two at any given conference, though the open Q&Aâ€™s at the end of panel discussions showed this is where audience concerns really lie. In 2012, by hosting and participating in a plethora of digitally focused events, publishers are confirming digital is not an add-on or afterthought, but a necessary part of strategy (albeit a frustrating one, as publishers attempt to pin revenue models on the slippery suckers called apps).
I donâ€™t think this means that print is doomed in 2012, as the rest of the world is predicted to be. What I do think it means is that print is a medium the magazine industry has more or less mastered, and peers are looking outward for guidance in the new digital terrain.
And one of the biggest concerns is digital revenue. At Circ Day, Meredithâ€™s chief digital officer Liz Schimel explained her companyâ€™s app portfolio is a mix of paid and free offerings.
â€śWhere they are free: we believe that getting scale to platform is most important, rather than monetization upfront. We monetize through advertisers, upselling packages and sampling for our magazine,â€ť says Schimel. â€śWeâ€™re looking at contribution to circ, advertising details and discreet paid content. Getting out to the broadest possible audience is the main driver, rather than getting the most money up front.â€ť
Katelyn Belyus, circulation fulfillment manager of The Nation, says their app is available to subscribers for an additional $10. She says the publisher is considering creating another paid non-replica app, but explained, â€śWeâ€™re not convinced apps are the future.â€ť
Nina LaFrance, vice president of consumer marketing at Forbes, broke down Forbesâ€™ current digital strategy. â€śOur digital strategy is different than the rest of the community. We donâ€™t have a tablet app for the magazine. The apps we have in market are free apps designed to support Forbes brand content,â€ť LaFrance said. â€śWe have to decide which platforms will be paid or free. With the size of our audience, we canâ€™t drive them through a paywall. The question is, is ad revenue high enough so Forbes Web content can remain free?â€ť
What may be more interesting than current rev models is the uncertainity of presenters at DMA's Circulation Marketing Day. Those winning in the digital space looked visibly relieved their strategies are actually working; while others revealed how fluid current digital models are.
In the midst of all the reflecting and forecasting of the conference, it was refreshing to hear Bonnier's Bruce Miller (who was inducted into the DMA's Circulation Hall of Fame) reinforce what the industry sometimes seems to overlook, "We can do what we want in digital. We write our own ticket."Â
Creating and serving digital content across multiple devices typically requires a somewhat grueling conversation with your IT team. Unfortunately, Iâ€™ve been on the serving and receiving side of those painful discussions that focus on strained resources, support and the infamous â€śapproved project list,â€ť but they are quickly becoming a thing of the past. New products have emerged into the marketplace that will have your IT team singing your praises; not because itâ€™s one more thing they need to help you build and support, but because itâ€™s one less thing they need to worry about.
Over the past year, SaaS based solutions have been introduced into the marketplace and are designed to work seamlessly with the products your creative teams have been working with for decades. Typically, the authoring tools use some type of plug-in designed to work within the application, as opposed to alongside it. The creation of the files, and the subsequent storage and delivery, is all done in the cloud on a secure, scalable, truly multi-tenant platform.
Even with some of the ongoing debate associated with the cloud (like security and up-time), I think we can all agree these platforms are designed to remove the limitations of what you can achieve using your in-house IT hardware and support.
Simply put, these solutions put control back into the hands of your creative team and helps empower them to create great, interactive content with far fewer obstacles. By no means am I suggesting that you try to work in a black box; but when your overextended/understaffed IT group can stay focused on more mission-critical, back office functions and still act as an advisor for new business initiatives like digital content, everyone wins.
To that end, weâ€™re also seeing companies use their IT groups in a more strategic/advisory capacity. This requires far less technical bandwidth of these staffers, but still allows them to be part of something thatâ€™s revolutionary on many levels. Through these changes, the adversarial relationship that sometimes exists between business and IT begins to dissipate. From my experience, many heads of IT still battle with this inside their organizations; anything that helps bridge this gap will be more supported then you may think. Additionally, less time required from IT resources helps keeps the overall internal costs of a project down, which certainly helps to build a successful ROI model.
Craig Morrow is Director of Strategic Accounts at MEI. MEI was founded in 1990 as Managing Editor Inc., with the goal of providing innovative software solutions to the rapidly evolving publishing industry. Today the company delivers a comprehensive package of digital publishing, editorial workflow and automated ad layout systems for magazines, newspapers and other print and electronic publishers and communicators. Visit the Managing Editor website to learn more about their services.
For our March issue cover story, we convened a Folio: Roundtable to deliberate on the current state and future of content. Itâ€™s a topic that can easily get overlooked while we get distracted by the various technologies and platforms that enable its production and distribution. Content is not the same old product weâ€™ve been producing anymore. In no particular order, hereâ€™s why: 1. New Access DynamicsWhere our content gets delivered to and consumed from has not only enabled greater access, it has changed the way itâ€™s produced, demanding a new skill set from its creators. We donâ€™t simply pour identical content from one platform to another.2. Social MediaMore than just a content marketing vehicle, social media, and the audience feedback it fosters, directly influences the kind of content we emphasize and the kind we dial back.3. Audience DataThe more platforms our content appears on, the more data that gets kicked back that influences the subject matter, frequency, length and any number of characteristics. Weâ€™re incredibly more informed about audience likes, dislikes and preferences. 4. Content CreatorsYouâ€™ve heard it a million timesâ€”everyoneâ€™s a publisher. Your audience and your advertisers are becoming a larger and larger part of the content supply chain. Both have a valuable position in the creation phase and both can contribute to the economics of content.5. The Role of the EditorThe curatorial power of the editor has diminished. Thatâ€™s not as bad as it sounds and because of the way weâ€™ve allowed our audiences into the process to drive deeper engagement, itâ€™s inevitable. Editors certainly still drive what gets created, but the other 5 factors presented here have profoundly altered their role.6. EconomicsPaid versus free only scratches the surface. Cost pressures, cross-platform pricing configurations, bundling, a growing array of media platforms and audience data are all keeping the revenue formula in flux.
In a much-buzzed about announcement that was not a surprise to anyone with Internet access, Apple debuted the latest reincarnation of the iPad at a splashy event today at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. We think our invite [pictured, right] to the event must have gotten spammed, so weâ€™re relying on the copious amount of live blogs saturating the Web to get the full Apple scoop. Hereâ€™s what weâ€™ve learned so far.
â€˘ Name: The latest iPad is not called â€śthe iPad 3â€ť, or the â€śHD iPadâ€ť as speculated, but simply â€śthe new iPad.â€ť
â€˘ Price point: the 16 GB iPad with Wi-Fi will start at $499; $599 for the 32GB version; and the tablet with 64 GB is available for $699. According to AllThingsD, the 4G wireless versions cost $130 more a pop. ABC News reports the iPad 2 will now be sold at a beginning price of $399.
â€˘ Weight: 1.4 pounds.
â€˘ Dimensions: Mashable reports the new iPad will be 9.7 inches long and 9.4 millimeters thick.
â€˘ Presentation: The third version of the iPad has a 2048 x 1537-pixel â€śretina display.â€ť
â€śIt has 31 million pixels with a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels. Thatâ€™s 1 million more pixels than an HD TV,â€ť says marketing chief Phil Schiller said, according to AllThingsD.
â€˘ Color: The tablet will be available in black and white.
â€˘ Sales: In Q4 2011, 15.4 million iPads were sold. The new iPad is available for pre-order today, and for sale on March 16.
â€˘ Battery power: Similar to the iPad 2, the new iPad has 10 hours for regular use, and nine hours of 4G LTE use.
â€˘ Support: AllThingsD reports the new iPad is supported by an A5X chip â€świth quad-core graphics needed for new high-resolution display.â€ť
â€˘ Networks: Coming to AT&T and Verizon. The new iPad will also act as a Personal Hotspot, allowing laptops, etc. to use its signal for Internet access.
THE PATIENT: Where to RetireAGE: 20 yearsVITALS: GoodPROGNOSIS: Positive if patient iswilling to make changes.
Who doesnâ€™t harbor dreams of a happy, active retirement in a (choose one): beach house/mountain retreat/golf community/island condo? Even the Magazine Medic, who truly loves his work, imagines one day trashing his toolkit and livinâ€™ easy in a yet-to-be determined paradise.
But where? Cue Where to Retire, a magazine born on a bet that Americaâ€™s aging workers were all busy fantasizing about cloudless climes elsewhere. It was a great idea.
Unfortunately, the magazine hasnâ€™t changed enough over the years. The housing market, meanwhile, tanked. Household â€śwealthâ€ť is, for many, but a sad memory. And many retirees are staying put, albeit reluctantly.
Where to Retire hasnâ€™t been entirely blind to these economic calamities. Itâ€™s responded by slightly reshuffling the edit mix. In particular, youâ€™ll see lots more about vacations. The obvious thinking here: If you canâ€™t afford that luxe kick-back pad when you exit the workforce, maybe thereâ€™s enough cash remaining for a few decent getaways.
What We Prescribe
â€˘ Number one, letâ€™s immediately infuse some cred into this patient. Most of Where to Retireâ€™s stories practically drool over the wonders of its featured towns. Câ€™mon, tell your 200,000 readers that sometimes a place is not all itâ€™s cracked up to be by its visitors bureau. Thatâ€™s your obligation. Your readers will be the better for this honestyâ€”and so too will your advertisers, who, even in a book like this, are banking on readersâ€™ trust of the surrounding edit. We realize that risking the wrath of advertisers is a sacrilege in our business, but itâ€™s often exactly what makes a magazine valuable to its prime asset, its readers.
â€˘ Ever heard of white space? Donâ€™t go looking for any here, and donâ€™t even enter if youâ€™re the slightest bit claustrophobic. (On the other hand, some of the magazineâ€™s infographics are excellent and just need to be aired out.) Covers: Where to Retire needs to produce some that donâ€™t look nearly identical to the ones that just preceded it. Finally, while designers are completely revamping the magazineâ€”the sooner the better, we sayâ€”donâ€™t forget to send the logo to its much-deserved retirement. It emphasizes the word to, which is just plain wacky.
â€˘ Re-set navigation throughout, and recalibrate the pacing, aiming for less of a bargain-huntersâ€™ vacation-catalog sensibility. Be far more transparent about whatâ€™s editorial and whatâ€™s advertorial. Assign feature photography thatâ€™s unblinkingly journalistic.
If the magazine can see its way clear to respecting readers more, its owners can one day retire with a clearer conscience.
A well-known reporter, writer, and editorâ€”at Time Inc., Primedia, and other American publishing companiesâ€”Cable Neuhaus has frequently been called on to help create, repair, and run consumer and trade titles of various kinds.
A year ago, the main sources of referral traffic to our flagship site, TheAtlantic.com, lined up in this order:
â€˘ Typed/Bookmarked (readers who type our url into their browsers or follow their pre-set bookmark);
â€˘ Links from aggregators and other content sites;
â€˘ Search engines;
â€˘ Social media (a roll-up of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, and LinkedIn)
Then something interesting happened. The social line began rising, first passing Search and then flying by Other Sites and finally, in late 2011, moving beyond Typed/Bookmarked. Now, TheAtlantic.com receives more than one-third of its referrals from social media, topping all other sources.
This wasnâ€™t supposed to happen. Not long ago, optimizing your site for search, and for the algorithms that determine which stories get featured on Google News, was thought to be the key to generating audience. As a result, Web editors were learning to parse metadata and resigning themselves to writing headlines for machines. Companies like Demand Media were on top of the digital world, suggesting a future in which search requests would replace journalists as arbiters of what stories to publish.
SEO still matters, of course, and a Google-friendly headline can still make a post go viral. (Weâ€™ve seen it: Try typing Earthquake in Japan into your search bar.) But for so many sites, social sharing has eclipsed the machines. And therein lies a happy story.
The triumph of the sharing economy is good news for publishers. Which is why on so many sites, the social media buttons crowd the pages like logos on a NASCAR jumpsuit. If a site can get you to â€śLikeâ€ť a story, it wins. Your network, the theory goes, will follow your recommendations. Peer-to-peer sharing beats any top-down model.
So in a social media ecosystem, what exactly works? Hereâ€™s the real good news: quality works. If your editors and writers are smart and creative and original, they can produce stories and photos and lists and charts and interviews that are so compelling that readers are eager to share the content with others. Then you get to harvest the rewards: More Facebook Likes, more tweets, more juice with the Reddit community. More readers.
For publishers, that means there need not be a tradeoff between doing great journalism and driving traffic to your site. In a sharing economy, itâ€™s great journalism â€“ in any of its many forms â€“ that builds audience.
Bob Cohn is editor of Atlantic Digital. In this role, he oversees all editorial components of The Atlanticâ€™s digital and mobile properties, including TheAtlantic.com, TheAtlanticWire.com, and TheAtlanticCities.com, as well as the print publicationâ€™s integration on digital platforms.