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Carolyn Kylstra

20 Social Media Tips All Brands Should Know

Carolyn Kylstra Consumer - 05/07/2014-16:01 PM

 

As publishers,  your ultimate goal is to create compelling, lively, and interesting content that your readers will love and share with their friends. You know that social media can be a great way to engage with those readers—but are you sure that your social sharing strategy is as effective as you need it to be?
 
Women’s Health, which publishes 28 editions in 51 countries,  is a part of Rodale’s International Conference every April, hosting Women's Health and Men’s Health editors-in-chief and CEOs across the globe. To help these leaders take their social media practices to the next level, we put together a guide of the essential tips and tools all brands should know. The American  Women's Health has used this guide to build an audience of over 6.1 million fans and followers across all the major social networks, and today reaches 15+ million unique visitors on a monthly basis.
 
Whether you’re hoping to grow brand engagement and interest, or want to drive more traffic back to your site, here are 20 must-know social media tips and techniques to help you along the way.

1. Each social media platform plays a different role in your overall brand strategy.
For instance, Facebook is a great traffic-driver; Instagram is enormous for brand building; and Google+ is essential for SEO.
 
Facebook
 
2. Different types of Facebook posts benefit your brand in different ways.
Not all “engagement” metrics are necessarily the ones that matter to you. The old rule you hear again and again is that Facebook posts with pictures in them perform the best and have the highest engagement. But what if your goal is to drive traffic?
 
After doing a deeper dive into our analytics, we realized that while reach and engagement (likes, shares, comments) were better for image posts than any other type of post, the actual click-through rate (the number of people who clicked on the link back to the site) was miniscule in comparison. On the other hand, when we posted link posts, we found that the engagement wasn’t as high, but that the clicks back to the site were much more significant. Since traffic-driving has been a major goal for us over the past six months, we’ve prioritized our link posts over image posts.
 
Here’s our basic understanding of what each post type is best for:
 
Image posts are great for engagement, terrible for traffic.
Link posts are great for traffic, not (always) as great for engagement.
Status Update posts can be used to solicit feedback from your readers.
 
3. When posting a story to Facebook, you can change the image, headline, and subtitle to be more compelling to readers.
Certain types of headlines solicit a good number of comments, but not many clicks back to the site. One example: Headlines posed as questions. Instead of clicking through to see the answer, our readers will try to answer the question in the comments of the post itself. We now change the question headlines to more straightforward language when we post on Facebook, in order to better encourage the behavior we’re looking for.
 
4. If you’re promoting a story about a famous person, tag her in the post—her followers may see it in their newsfeeds.
Certainly can’t hurt, right?
 
5. People love infographics.
Since we know that posting images won’t drive traffic back, we optimize our image posts to reach as many people as possible. Infographics are great for that. In our experience, successful infographics are useful, interesting, and/or relatable:

 

6. When it comes to viral content, Feelings + Excitement = More Likely to Share.
Positive emotions are better than negative, and worked up is better than bummed or mellowed out. Ask yourself:  Would I share this?

Twitter
 
7. Keep it short. Tweets with 81 characters or less get the most clicks, on average.
This is based on an analysis of our own tweets from August 2013. We counted the characters in the tweets (including the URL), and charted them against link clicks. Shorter, more straightforward tweets got the most clicks. Longer, wordier, more conversational tweets got the fewest.
 
8. The best tweets are intriguing, yet unsatisfying. They compel the reader to click.
Don’t give it all away in the tweet. Give the readers a reason to click through. This post gave it all away in the headline—and only 136 people clicked on the link:

 

Seriously, be a tease. Leave them hungry for more information… that they can only find by clicking through. This post made people wonder “What’s the snack?!”, and 3074 people clicked through:

 



9. If a tweet performs well once, tweet it again!
We learned this one from the New York Times, via Neiman Labs. Thanks, guys!
 
10. Retweet people who are linking to your content.
They'll appreciate the attention, and your followers will notice the new faces in their timelines more than the old—meaning they’ll be less likely to tune out your headlines, and more likely to click through. When we started retweeting the readers who were sharing our content, our traffic from Twitter increased 31% month over month.
                                                                                       
Pinterest

11. Add the Pin It button to all images on your site, to make your content as easy to share as possible.
Women’s Health has over 283,000 followers on Pinterest, but the majority of our Pinterest traffic comes from content that our readers shared organically from our web site, not from our own Pinterest boards.  Kind of amazing.
 
12. Create designed title cards for all of your content, so that readers know exactly what they’re getting when browsing Pinterest.
Images with words = better user experience = more re-pins. For your brand Pinterest profile, create designed title cards for each board.

 

13. Tall pins get more repins than short ones.
The most optimized pin is a tall rectangle, with large words on it.
 
Instagram
 
14. Instagram users love beautiful, professionally photographed pictures.
Yes, Instagram is the platform where the amateur photographer can shine. But users still respond well to gorgeous, professional photographs, as well (just look at the National Geographic Instagram account). We occasionally use pictures from the magazine to promote the issue when it comes out.
 
15. Use Instagram to solicit and find user generated content.
Encourage users to share their creations—and then use what they’ve shared as content on the site later. One of our weekly columns is called Share Your Smoothies, and we get the content for it by soliciting smoothie recipes and images on Instagram each week.

 


 

 

16. Take advantage of Instagram video. You can do a lot in 15 seconds.
For us, we’ve used it for: 15-second exercise move demos; beauty how-tos; slideshow teasers on the site; super quick Q&As with celebrities. Using the app Flipagram helps with a lot of these.
 
Google+
 
17. Post frequently to Google+. It might not drive much traffic, but it’s essential for SEO.
 
18. Use a social media management tool to post to Facebook and Google+ simultaneously. Or auto-share all new content as it’s published.
This might not be true for all brands, but we’ve had more success when we cross-post Facebook posts than when we cross-posted Tweets. The images definitely help.
 
19. You can create GIFs on Google+ by uploading 5 or more images.
Fun little party trick, right?

 

Ad Sales and PR 

20. The best sponsored social "campaigns" are:

• Editorially conceived and driven
• Beneficial to the reader
• Simple, w/low barrier to entry
 
(Read that again—that’s a lot of info in 140 characters!)
 
One of the benefits of our massive social audience is that we’re able to do fun and interesting social activations as part of larger sponsorship campaigns—and we do, often. We also have very strict guidelines for what’s an acceptable sponsored social campaign experience, and what we’re not able to do. The rules above get at the main point: In order for a social campaign to be successful, it has to be something that the editors have come up with (so that it’s organic to your brand and makes editorial sense); it has to benefit the reader in a clear way (otherwise… why would they be participating?!); and it can’t be too complicated.

Feel like you could use a deep-dive into next-generation social tactics? Learn more at the Folio: Growth Summit, June 16-17 in Chicago, which includes a 3-hour workshop featuring instructors such as Women's Health's Carolyn Kylstra, National Geographic Travel's Carolyn Fox and GrindMedia's Aaron Carrera. Find out more here.

 

 

 

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Robert Newman

Face Up Online: Politico

Robert Newman Design and Production - 05/06/2014-12:54 PM

I first saw this Politico cover the way it was meant to be seen: in a tweet that teased one of the inside features, "How to Lose $100 Million: The Undoing of Tina Brown." You can bet that I read that story, but it was the very cool, all-type cover that initially hooked me.

All-type covers are a tricky business. They work best with a provocative message like "Is God Dead?" or "You Idiots!" But as Politico creative director Janet Michaud explains, the magazine covers politics and Washington "in a non-partisan, non-ideological way." That means that they don't have a mandate to craft a headline that is going to antagonize or provoke readers.

Politico did the next best thing, which was to craft a solid, label-like headline into an engaging, stylish image--a perfect fusion of text and graphics. With its stop sign-like white logo on red, and a headline made up of letters taken from major newspapers and media outlets, this is a seamless graphic delight that works on multiple levels. It's the perfect cover image to propel the extensive hype that Politico has received for the stories in this issue.

I like the simple, unadorned design of this cover a lot. It's stripped down the basics: red, black, and white color (why does this seem to be the color scheme of choice for all-type covers?), with understated secondary cover lines under the main heading. The headline type, by Post Typography, is bold and refined and is obsessively engaging. Once you realize that the letters are taken from actual newspaper, magazine, and TV logos, it becomes a puzzle to figure out where they came from (you can play along; we've included the source logos for all the letters below).

I was actually disappointed with the first two Politico covers (The Media Issue is the third; it's published on a bi-monthly schedule). They were nice enough, but somewhat generic, without a sense of immediacy and failing to fully reflect the dynamic content inside. That disconnect is even more apparent when you view the interior page designs, which are powerful, elegant and very distinctive. However, this new cover changes all that. Part newsweekly, part opinion journal, part poster, the type channels covers of New York magazine, The New York Times Magazine and Time, with a nod to the 1950s Blue Note LP cover design of Reid Miles that Michaud cites as an influence.

There's a hip, stark, modern feel to this cover that I think eludes many other political magazines and journals. A lot of publications would have taken a more involved, illustrative approach to the topic (and according to Michaud, Politico tried a number of those approaches but weren't satisfied with any of them); the spare, graphic treatment here is what makes it so unique and effective. I feel like this is the issue (and cover) of Politico where the magazine has been fully realized for the first time and we truly get a sense of the potential of this publishing project.

Michaud came to Politico after a stint as design director at the Washington Post, and an earlier stretch as an art director at Time. She describes the overall look of the magazine as "visually confident, bold and surprising, simple and classic." She goes on to say, "We're not on the newsstand, but we're competing for the reader's attention. With the cover, we want to grab as much of that attention (and time) as possible." The Media Issue cover of Politico accomplishes that task brilliantly. I hope we see more creative covers like this in the future from the Politico team!

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Katelyn Belyus

News Media, Do I Have News for You!

Katelyn Belyus Consumer - 05/05/2014-11:59 AM

 

I've touched on this before, but I'll say it again: American attention spans, as tiny as they were before, are getting tinier. We are device-agnostic. We text, Twitter and Flipboard our lives away. We don't mind switching brands to get at the meat of a matter. We're like a nation of channel surfers with eight different TV sets and remotes in every corner of our lives: on our desks, nightstands, kitchen counters. Even as I wrote this, I checked my email four times, my texts three; I searched three different websites for mains, brunches, breakfasts and sides; I opened five different articles referencing five different industry studies; and I'm watching (don't judge) “Castle” on mute.

So it was no surprise to learn that according to a new study by the Media Insight Project, when it comes to news, our attention spans jump from story to story. The project was an examination of people's behavior as it relates to news consumption, and it specifically focused on whether people distinguish between the news organization (“who gathered the news”) from the discovery (i.e., social media or search engine) and via what device (smartphones, print, television). Not surprisingly, people cared less about device and more about the source of news and how they get it. Technology is a tool of convenience, a vehicle for the stories that people want to read. Of smartphone owners, 78 percent used their phone—a tool of convenience—to get news.

Almost half of US adults have zero preference in specific device or technology for following the news. That same number of adults, approximately forty-five percent, have signed up for news alerts, including text, email or app notifications.

Which perfectly exemplifies the way we should approach our business. The point is to be a media company—not a print media company, not a website, not an app library, but an actual media company encompassing change.

I can't say it any more clearly than Peter Houston, of The Drum: "People born to the Internet age don't describe things as digital—cameras are just cameras, not digital cameras.”

Houston is spot-on. We're in a world looking for more distraction, not less. At the Digital Innovators' Summit in Berlin, Buzzfeed VP Scott Lamb chalked up his company's success to monetizing people who are bored: at work, at home, in restaurants.

Gone are the yesteryears when we relied on one man (Murrow, Cronkite, Brokaw, and in my case, Jennings) to deliver our news. And fading quickly to yesteryear is our reliance on even one news network—or brand. According to the Media Insight Project, the news dictates how we learn about it. For breaking news, television still dominates, with half of survey participants saying that they first learned of a breaking story on TV. But after hearing of the story, people broke with the medium, and fifty-nine percent turned to the Internet to follow up. Of those people, 37 percent went to TV websites, while only 9 percent went to sites of print outlets and 10 percent went to online-only sites.

So how does a news brand remain relevant and, well, branded?

Start by considering your own habits. Do you wait to hear about breaking news from the TV or radio? Of course not. Most people get (and prefer to get) news throughout the day, which means you always have to be on with your brand.

Test the timing of your emails, test subject lines, test your social media ins. Set your tweets to at all hours of the day and night. Gauge what works and what doesn’t.

Encourage participation throughout the entire day about a story. Keep pushing for actual engagement with your readers. Give them surveys, quizzes, and polls. Don’t ask open-ended questions; offer them A or B and then follow up on their choice. People like to think they have a lot of freedom in what they're deciding, but offering a banana or an orange is not really like giving them a choice of fruit.

Always remember to control your message; tailor the offer based on what's going on in the news cycle and on what your internal data show, but be in control of your own message.

You know what the most interesting point in the study was for me? Generational gaps are fading away. People young and old are exhibiting similar behaviors in that they go to multiple sources for news.

Social media use continues to be a major outlet for American news consumption, and maybe your 15-year-old (or press-hungry nerds) told you that Facebook is dead, but it's still growing among older people. This means that when it comes to news sources, it doesn't matter that your readers skew old or young. At publications where audiences skew older, it's easy to “blame” revenue loss on older people not wanting to engage with social media outlets. Guess what? This study debunks that. What matters is that you hit your readers—old, young, and in-between—across a spectrum of outlets, discovery and devices, because they're reading on everything.

 

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Linda Ruth

Industry Ideas for a Newsstand 'Plan B'

Linda Ruth Audience Development - 05/05/2014-11:30 AM

 

Every now and then a blog post I do gets people talking. That’s always fun, and the ideas that bubble up are often fresh and useful.

Irwin Krimke, whose work with Backwoodsman magazine has been very successful, contacted me to say that I neglected, in my reporting of a recent conversation with him, to give appropriate credit to the wholesalers with whom he’s been partnering, and especially to Kable News Company, which has worked to grow his client publication over 600 percent since they took it over. Hats off to everyone involved in this great success story!

See Also: The Newsstand Is Not All "Doom and Gloom"

From a reader responding to the notion that the conversation has become too negative: Does anyone seriously believe that retailers do not notice how their sales are down? Please. What would be really strange is if we as an industry didn’t address these issues.

Ideas and suggestions have also been pouring in about Plan B. Many have to do with eliminating one layer from the distribution process—either the national distributor or the national wholesaler network. Suggestions center around setting up direct-style distribution, drop-shipping from distribution hubs, and eliminating merchandising or doing it on a fee-for-service basis. Here is a sampling:

• From a former direct distributor: "Based on the free market system, if this system collapses another will arise to take its place. Currently I am working with India-based businesses on outsourcing solutions for data analysis that might prove useful to publishers and distributors."

• From a newsstand consultant: "Wholesalers are clear they cannot stay in business without more money; publishers are clear they cannot provide more money. If we don’t listen we are perpetuating a vicious cycle. What if the printers were to develop tie lines for the pick and pack and drop ship direct to retailers? Wholesalers could reduce their business to merchandising on a fee-for-service basis; national distributors can bill and collect the retailers on behalf of the publishers. It takes a step and several costs out of the process."

• From a group publisher: "Set up the tie lines/distribution hubs at the Clark (or other trucker) warehouses and ship direct from there. Retailers take back merchandising responsibility."

• From an independent publisher: "Work with the major retailers to truck to their distribution centers and ship from there."

• From a national distributor executive: "Use a system already in place to swing to direct distribution." 

Are any of these plans strong candidates for Plan B? What do you think?

 

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Roy Beagley

Branding Success Should Be Measured by Orders, Not Click-Throughs

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 05/05/2014-11:03 AM

 

Recently, an article on medialifemagazine.com noted that "the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that more than a third of web traffic is fraudulent," suggesting the fix is in as results are being inflated by "viruses and bots designed to artificially inflate traffic numbers." This all sounds underhanded, but is it really a problem?

BPA in a recent study learned "that only 40 percent of the ads measured were actually viewable," which means that 60 percent are not, but again is this actually a problem?

We used to ascertain whether a marketing or advertising campaign was successful by the amount of money, or orders, the campaign gained. For some, the important factor was money in the bank, for others it was orders. Nobody ever judged the success, or otherwise, by how many people actually saw the promotion. I don’t think anybody presumed that everyone receiving the promotion would actually look at it, so why are we making this an issue now?

Regardless of whether you are trying to achieve more traffic to a website, or are sending out an email campaign, it does not make sense to determine whether a campaign has been successful or not by the number of “clicks” or “views” that are achieved. Direct mail campaigns can, and have been measured accurately for years based on total orders as a percentage of total quantity mailed. No one ever suggested that the 97 percent who DIDN’T respond doomed every direct mail campaign to failure.

In these days of instant results we lose track of the fact that different email programs do different things. For example, of the email I received this morning 87 percent of it was spam, but because of the type of email program I have, all of my email will have been considered opened and read, even though all I did was click on the email and delete it. I know, because I asked a company fully proficient in deploying and analyzing email promotions. In other words, I look like a good prospect, but I’m not.

Until recently it was the total dollars or orders that counted, not the number of people that opened the direct mail package or read the advertisements. Shouldn’t that still be the standard?

No advertiser ever assumed that every reader of a magazine looked at his or her advertisement; the measure of success was cost verses income. I don’t think they would even expect 40 percent of the readers to view the ad—just as long as the expenditure/income ratio was acceptable.

Advertisers and advertising sales personnel can determine their market; many of them have been doing it with great success for years. They know that a 100 percent paid publication in their market is probably a good bet to get orders. For controlled publications advertisers were able to look at one-year direct request subscriptions, in conjunction with adds and kills to get a picture as to a magazine’s circulation health. By comparing a recent statement with an older statement it was easy to determine a controlled publication’s value to its readers and make a decision based on that data. Since BPA made some reporting optional, making a fair and accurate comparison is no longer possible.

The world has changed, many people run promotions to get people to look at websites, and the website owner sells advertising based on the number of people looking. The fact there are “bots” and “viruses” inflating figures is disturbing, not to mention dishonest, and one could argue illegal. It should be stopped, but if advertisers returned to judging a promotion’s effectiveness by the orders or money gained, surely they would be better off. Viruses and bots can inflate click-throughs, page views and a whole host of other nasty things, but as far as I am aware, viruses and bots have not actually placed any orders.

It is natural to desire the most effective response to a campaign, regardless of what it is for. Direct marketers have been doing it for years, and yes we all want to promote the most positive figures we can—but those figures actually have to mean something, and in many cases, they don’t

Some have argued that as a result of the Interactive Advertising Bureau findings, rates for advertising should be reduced. The argument being if you are not reaching a certain percentage of the file, your rates are inflated, but this really is not the case. Nobody ever claims to reach a certain percentage of the file, because if they did, they would have to prove it—and that is a claim that is unsupportable.

You can have 20 million page views a day, and blast out millions of emails with links galore, but unless someone places an order, the bubble you operate in will burst.

We should get rid of the bots and viruses if for no other reason than as an industry we need to correctly analyze data many of us have spent quite a bit of money investing in, as with most viruses we need to develop a vaccine so our industry remains healthy.

However, if you get rid of all the harassments people can devise to inflate figures, and we manage to achieve a world where page views and such are 100 percent correct and accurate—unless you actually gets orders etc.—we will be no further forward than we are now.

 

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Tony Silber

Beyoncé, The Time 100 and Leveraging the PR Value of the List

Tony Silber Consumer - 04/29/2014-12:34 PM

 

When the Time 100 was released last week, our editorial team discussed how we might cover it. The context was its relation to PR, and how communicators could leverage the value of making the list.

This list is a PR person's dream. It's eclectic and interesting, and it covers a wide variety of human endeavor. It's global in scope. Unlike many magazine lists, the Time 100 is worth coverage and every person on the list is deserving of recognition in some form or another.

Are they the "Most Influential People in the World?" Some might be, but many are not. Why, for example, are Kirsten Gillibrand and Rand Paul on the list, but not Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren? It's all kind of random. The common denominator is that all the selections seem to be whom the coastal elites and people in the power centers of Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are talking about. Or think they should be.

The cover of this year's edition was Beyoncé, featured in a revealing costume and an open-mouthed expression. To me, the image didn't convey the gravity that the list aspires to. Would other designees be posed that way? But Beyoncé has the gravitas. She was also on the list last year, after her performance at the Super Bowl. Sheryl Sandberg did this year's writeup.

(This is a cool feature of the list—celebrities do write-ups of other celebrities. It solidifies the likelihood that the list will be the preferred dinner party conversation at not just 100, but 200 parties. Of course, it leaves the door open for questions. Did Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe make the list because he is a "bold reformer," or because his profiler—U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew—thought that touting Abe's economic policies might be useful?)

But back to Beyoncé. Sandberg noted that she "doesn't just sit at the table. She builds a better one." (This is a variation on a line from the old movie about Sting, where, when his hired musicians complain about what Sting is paying them, the response from one of Sting's handlers is, "You might have a seat at the table, but Sting owns the table.")

But Sandberg likes Beyoncé's message of empowerment for young girls. "I'm not bossy, I'm the boss," Sandberg quotes Beyoncé as saying. What I like about Beyoncé is her authenticity—there is a sense that what you see is what you get. She's not a phony. I also like her staying power. She's been a star since the late 1990s. That seems like forever ago. My kids loved her in the old Austin Powers movie when they were little, and they still love her for her music and style now. That is remarkable. And then there's her sense of innovation. I've followed music my whole life, and I can't remember when anything as unique and unexpected as the release of a new album—a concept album complete with videos—without anyone having the slightest idea it was coming.

So if you're the communications person for any of the Time 200 (the Time 100 plus the celebrity essayists), there are three things you can take from the example of Beyoncé: Authenticity and talent beget longevity, and both beget the ability to innovate. 

 

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Robert Newman

Face Up Online: Billboard

Robert Newman Design and Production - 04/23/2014-09:16 AM

You wouldn't expect something as simple as the April 26, 2014 cover of Billboard to be groundbreaking and envelope pushing, but that's exactly what it is. The cover features a cool photograph of singer Enrique Iglesias, sleek, minimal cover typography and a bold, poster-like logo; it's highly original, extremely artful and a crowd-pleaser all at the same time (I know because I checked with my 13-year-old daughter who is a big Enrique fan).

Most magazine covers, and especially trade publications, tend towards a standard formula with lots of typographic and graphic devices to grab the readers' attention, and crisp, sharp photographs with riveting eye contact. This cover has none of that; it even flaunts a big green logo in stark contradiction to the magazine urban legend that "green is death on the newsstand."

Since their cover redesign earlier this year, led by creative director Shanti Marlar, Billboard has been aggressively pursuing more creative photography, with very sensual color tones and poster-like framings. This is their eighth cover since the format change, the second under new design director Rob Hewitt and, to my eye, it's the strongest to date.

The photograph of Iglesisas by David Needleman is dark and moody, with his face in shadow and his eyes looking down away from the reader. It's a powerful portrait, intimate and sexy. And the cover typography is very sparse and understated, letting the strength of the overall design rest on the photograph and the graphic logo.

Just 10 years ago, Billboard still lived up to its trade magazine reputation on the cover, with a newspaper-like design that was occassionally broken up with special large photo designs. For much of the time since then, the covers have featured creative, aggressive, rock ‘n' roll design, with a heavy nod to the look of magazines like Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly. The design exploded off the pages, bursting with distorted typography and huge amounts of cover lines. They were pop, and they popped! A cover redesign in early 2013 led by then-art director Andrew Horton eliminated the classic, multi-colored logo for a new, smaller treatment, combined with more subdued cover typography and sophisticated photography.

See examples of those covers here.

When the vertical Billboard logo was introduced earlier this year I was dubious about its long-term status. My first reaction was that it was a nice gimmick that wouldn't last. Plenty of magazines have added nontraditional tilts and positionings to their logos, and about 99.99 percent of them revert back to "normal" in short order after readers, marketers and subscription mavens amply complain. But now, I love it. The logo frames the cover like a poster; it's an acknowledgement that for a magazine like Billboard, the image on the cover is most important–especially as it travels across multiple platforms. The concept of newsstand sales as the driver for the cover design is no longer valid; the most effective covers work as images on Twitter, iPads, Facebook, etc. And the new Billboard logo, its very modern and distinctive design along with its photography are perfectly suited for this new cover paradigm.

I watched this cover get pushed on Twitter over the past weekend and noone cared that the logo was sideways or that there weren't a lot of cover lines. It was a memorable cover of Enrique Iglesias, fans loved it, and that's what sent it flying around the internet. It's great publicity and drives interest and traffic to the brand, as opposed to selling a couple extra copies on a newsstand.

What this cover and the overall Billboard design strategy says is that the old school approach to cover making, where tiny bits of magazine material are shoehorned into every corner of the cover, stuffing it to overflowing with photos and teasers, is no longer applicable. This is a cover design that recognizes the multiplatform, viral, instantaneous nature of the times, and that's what makes it so successful and so exciting. Other magazines should take note: an original, distinctive, contemporary cover design is the best way to visually revitalize your brand. There was a time back in the 1950s, when trade magazines were art directed by some of the most talented folks in the business (Walter Allner and Bradbury Thompson are just two), who approached the publication covers as part of the overall corporate packaging branding and design. This new set of Billboard covers is firmly in that tradition.

My enthusiasm for the big-picture aspects of the Billboard design should not obscure the good work that went into this particular cover, both in terms of the crafting and creation of the photograph and the detailing of the typography. It's a refreshing and energizing graphic step forward, and as my daughter Lillian says, "it looks so cool!"

UPDATE: Thanks to art director/illustrator Andrew Skwish for pointing out the similarities in overall tone between the current Billboard cover and covers of The Face in the 1980s, when it was designed by Neville Brody. The Face even had a short-lived experiment with a vertical logo! This era of The Face (the cover pictured is from 1985) was one of my favorites, and a huge influence on me and many other art directors. This makes me like the new Billboard design even more. 

 

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Linda Ruth

The Newsstand Is Not All “Doom and Gloom”

Linda Ruth Consumer - 04/22/2014-15:29 PM

 

It’s been a fun week talking to some old friends in the industry. They all called to say hey, why was I depressing the heck out of them with all this talk of Plan B? And they offered me their thoughts.

Irwin Krimke, a magazine industry veteran, was on the phone with me recently with a penetrating question, namely: Why would I want to quote John Harrington and Baird Davis? “Linda, I have no clue why you would do that,” he said. “No clue whatsoever. I call them Dr. Doom and Dr. Gloom. They’re killing us. Retailers read this stuff and take away our space. Now do we need that?”

No, I conceded, we did want to keep our space at retail. “Bad enough,” Irwin continued, “that TNG has a virtual monopoly now. But listen, things are not so bad as that. I’ve got a magazine, Backwoodsman. I took them to Kable News Company, they were putting out 38,000 copies; now they’re sending 209,000 copies and selling at close to 50 percent. If I could take away the prematures I could sell in the 60s.”

But while the numbers are impressive, I admitted, wasn’t that part of the problem? The lack of follow up at retail. The loss of display. The prematures.

“Linda, listen, sure it’s part of the problem,” he said. “Before this consolidation the wholesaler route men took care of the display. But look, the wholesalers can’t afford that anymore. All they can afford are part time people with no benefits. These people are supposed to work 19 hours. They get three or four stores. The turnover is 100 percent a year. It’s been a mess for a long time. It’s always been a mess, so it’s the same thing today, only more so.”

What does he do, I ask, to grow his title? “It takes luck, is what it takes. Luck and a whole lot of hard work. Same as always. And hitting people on the head—over and over. I say to them, can you keep this title on sale instead of dumping it in the returns to pay your bills? A couple of these chain buyers have been very difficult. They love getting their money upfront, but the checkout is passé.”

And digital, I prompt him. Digital is a factor, isn’t it? “I don’t think digital has hurt magazines that much,” Irwin said. “It’s hurt the books. It’s hurt paperback and hardcover books tremendously. My wife switched us over. Before that we were buying our books at Sams. But you know what? I read faster on tablet than with the book. A third faster, because you don’t have to turn the page. But magazines, no. You still want them in print.”

Can I quote you? I ask. Lots of people call with their thoughts, but no one wants to be quoted. “Linda, I’m 85 years old. Of course you can quote me. What difference does it make?”

Then what, I asked, is your advice for the rest of us? “I have always had three little words for this industry: simple, practical and complicated. And everyone’s forgotten the first two.” Irwin said. “But let me tell you this, with all this talk about our industry dying. If this title, this client of mine, is able to grow 600 percent, don’t tell me there aren’t other titles out there that can do it. You find those titles and you work the heck out of them.”

 

 

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Meg Estevez

The Importance of Surveys

Meg Estevez Audience Development - 04/17/2014-16:20 PM

 

Lately all you read about is how it’s necessary to have an understanding of how your marketing affects your data and vice versa. I for one feel we have been doing this for a very long time in the Audience Development (Circulation) field. Everything we do is focused on analysis done of previous marketing so, in essence, we are data-driven professionals. That’s how we operate—show us the data. 

And we have lots of data to analyze and digest: from circulation reports, to BPA or AAM statements, email marketing promotions, online marketing, digital edition deployments and engagement reports, Google Analytics, renewal analysis and new business acquisitions, to revenue and expense tracking reports. All of these reports together give us a strong picture of what is working and why and whether or not our goals make sense. What they don’t give us is feedback directly from our readers.

That brings me to the topic of this blog—surveys. Why they are important, how frequently we should do them, and what we need to get out of them.

1. Why Are Surveys Important?

They are important because they’re the most reliable method to get real feedback from our subscribers—no matter what platform they use to engage with our brands (print, digital, apps, newsletter, and website).
 
2. How Often Should We Do Surveys?
It depends on the type of survey. If someone expired with the March issue and you have a last effort renewal going out in April, you should wait 4-6 weeks to get responses and then send the survey (around last week of May) to those that didn’t renew. By doing this you are adding an extra effort into your renewal (or requal schedule) but it’s also the best time to get input.

3. What Should We Look For?
It’s important to establish this when you are creating the survey questions. What do you want to know? For example, are you interested to know if your subscribers want an app version of the brand? (If so, don’t forget to ask for their email address so you can alert them when the app is available). Or do you want to know whether there’s price sensitivity? There are many things you can learn by establishing these survey efforts with the right timing.

In my experience people like to provide feedback (good and bad). If you ask the right questions you will get answers that will give you yet another piece to add to the puzzle and understand your audience better. It’s important that the surveys are timely (don’t contact an expired reader about why they didn’t renew two years later); also keep it to a maximum of 5 questions and make sure that at least one of them are open -ended so they can provide you with their own explanations of what’s good or bad with the brand.

And always provide them with your best offer to come back as a subscriber. For trade publications, it’s best to list all the important articles and features they are missing by not renewing. And for paid publications, your best discounted offer should be there for them to take advantage of; just in case they change their mind after (or before) filling out the survey. At New Bay Media, we are constantly sending out surveys and monitoring the responses to ensure we aren’t missing any important data from our best resources—our readers!

 

 

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Roy Beagley

What's the Future of Telemarketing?

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 04/15/2014-14:01 PM

Telemarketing seems to be getting more and more difficult.

It was not too many years ago when people had one, or possibly two telephones—one at home, and one at work. Then in 1983, Martin Cooper invented the cellular phone and started a movement that has led to many people having no phone at home whatsoever. And those that still have phones in the office often divert them to their mobile phone so you never really know where you are calling (I called a friend the other day to wish him a happy birthday, and he informed me he was in Turkey, of all places).

Caller ID is all well and good, but it may be killing the response. If I get a call that does not have caller identification, I ignore it. If I get a call that does have caller identification, and I don't know who it is, I ignore it.

Telemarketers are doomed if they do, and doomed if they don't.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that so many rented lists seem to have really bad names and numbers.

I do not want to tar everyone with the same brush, but compiled lists seem to be susceptible. Recently, we rented a list where over half the numbers did not even exist, and of the 50 percent remaining, most of the people attached to those numbers had moved on. We rented another list as a result, supposedly of people who had placed an order within the last 90 days, but here again, many numbers were no longer valid.

Time was when someone left a job, their replacement took over their office, desk and telephone extension, so at least you stood a reasonable chance of getting someone that might be interested—now, you don't know where you are going, or who you are getting.

Telemarketers probably love me because I have three phones: one in the office, one at home and one Martin Cooper helped invent. But, the only reason I have three is that I cannot figure out how to divert the work and home phones to my cell.

If lists cannot produce results, then no matter how low the telemarketing company's cost per order may be, people will look elsewhere because the cost of list rentals will become uncontrollable. I am not sure how to solve this problem, but it may not be too long before publishers have to increase their budgets to maintain circulation and or sales.

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Tony Silber

Above the Fold, or Just Out of Date?

Tony Silber Homepage - 04/11/2014-09:25 AM

I was editing a report the other day about a PR person who got into a spat with a news organization. And the report used the phrase, “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

Some of you might know that one. Many of you may not have heard it. But that phrase and many others like it are so clearly out of date that it’s interesting—even comical—how they’ve hung around long after their original meaning has faded into history.

And it got me thinking about those phrases and why they’re still with us. Here’s a partial list (that is, all I can think of.)

• Stop the presses. Okay, this one is used more for dramatic effect than its actual literal meaning these days, but it is still around.

• The Press. This reference to the journalism industry is still common (think “Meet the Press,” the TV show. But it has a diminishing relationship to media today. You could just as easily call the show “Meet the CMS,” and you’d be just as accurate.

• Hot off the presses. Another term that’s more theatrical than literal these days, but still around.

• Above the fold. Why do we use this term in 2014? It refers to the front side of a broadsheet-style newspaper, like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. It is not really an effective metaphor for how Web pages scroll.

• Ink-stained wretches. What journalists were called—usually by themselves—until 15 or 20 years ago.

• Cutlines. This actually refers to a caption that was pasted onto a makeup board below a photo, which was then turned into film, which was then printed.

• And speaking of “pasted,” why do we still use “cut-and-paste?”

• Op-ed. This used to mean the position opposite the editorial page in a newspaper. Now it just means an opinion piece.

• Press release. Seriously, why are they still called this?

• Clips. PR folks love this one. They love to collect clips. Except that no one “clips” stories anymore.

Then there are a few phrases and words that have not really survived.

• Morgue. This was also known as the library, where story clippings were cataloged and stored for future reference. Think of the morgue as a much less functional Google of the 20th century.

• Yellow Journalism. This was used to mean unfair reporting, but it came from a type of ink used in a cartoon in the New York World.

And then, finally, there are the terms from the old days of journalism that are still true to their original meanings today.

• Byline

• Beat

• Breaking news

• Exclusive

• Gotcha journalism

• Puff piece

Which terms and phrases have I missed? What can you come up with? I’d love to hear from you!

—Tony Silber
@tonysilber

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Linda Ruth

For Newsstand Publishers, What is Plan B?

Linda Ruth Audience Development - 04/08/2014-15:11 PM

 

When John Harrington says the sky is falling, it’s time to look up. So, publishers, it’s offical: We need a plan B.

Bo Sacks recently shared a dialog between Harrington and Baird Davis on the state of the newsstand that was chilling. These two industry veterans agreed that publishers have “seriously underestimated” the possibility of collapse of the newsstand channel; that such a collapse could take place within a year to 18 months; and that unless publishers begin to work together—not in a happy-happy “let’s all get together” kind of way but in a serious “we need to re-create an entire channel of distribution” kind of way—there isn’t much hope of survival.

One thing that was extremely sobering was that I couldn’t really find a way of arguing with their conclusions. What will it take to collapse this industry? At this point, not much. The loss of a single wholesaler—TNG—would do it; and TNG has already told us they have an unsustainable business model. Consider this:

• A large national distributor recently sent its publishers a list of all the wholesalers that they intend to cut off if certain financial terms aren’t met. The list included…pretty much everyone.
• A second national distributor has indicated to one of the major wholesale groups that their latest financial proposal, if implemented, will result in the termination of their business relationship.
• Two of the four major national distributors have begun to refuse to cover bad debt liability for their publishers.

None of which is a testimony to a deep and abiding faith in this business’s sustainability.

Without going into a litany of all the ills, dangers, sorrows and shortcomings of our industry—we’ve all heard lots about them—the need for deep and fundamental change is the point to key off of here. Baird and John did mention a few ways in which publishers could work together—co-marketing, embrace SBT, address the mistrust that exist among channel partners—all of which are good ideas, even important ones. But they are small fish to throw into this sea of troubles.

Baird calls the publishers out on their passivity in the face of this impending collapse. The answer, he suggests, is to look to the seven top newsstand publishers to take a leadership position in representing consumer publishers’ newsstand interests.

Will rest-of-the-line publishers do so? And, when a perception exists that the top publishers have used some of their leverage to maintain short discounts at the expense of specialty publishers; when many publishers are convinced that the top publishers would like nothing more than to see the specialty publishers clear off the racks, leaving them open for the big guys; in such an environment can that mutual trust be established?

If the scenario is to play out, it may have to.

An industry veteran shared with me the following scenario: In the event of channel collapse, the top publishers will go direct to the top five retailers in the country. They are setting up the relationships and the distribution channels now. Every other publisher will have to scramble to follow. But these top publishers aren’t throwing a ring out of the lifeboat just yet.

But we do need to look to setting up new ways of reaching these retailers. Our current channel partners are telling us explicitly, in every way they know how, that they might not be here tomorrow.

Can we live without newsstand? Of course we could survive. But newsstand remains an important, if not indispensable, part of the distribution of consumer publishers large and small. There is no question that a channel collapse would take many publishers down with it.

For most publishers, working independently at this scale, away from the umbrella of their national distributors, is not a possibility. They rely on those national distributors to find the solutions and provide leadership. But many of these publishers have ideas to contribute. For example, one industry watcher suggested, what about a partnership with one of the largest distributors of print product in the country?

Amazon.com. 

 

 

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