New York--WIRED magazine rounded up some of the most elite healthcare professionals on November 5-6, to discuss how technology--and more specifically, data--will change our future at its Data | Life conference. This is the second installment of the conference and WIRED's second gathering of thought leadership in 2013, following its Think Bigger business conference in May.
Data | Life is another indication that the brand is looking to be more than just a techie-lifestyle magazine. Of course, with so many industries leveraging technology the question from a business perspective is: why healthcare?
The Connection Between Data and Design
Since Scott Dadich took the reigns as editor-in-chief, he has been committed to rethinking the design of WIRED. Throughout the conference he and his team of editors made it clear that design goes beyond the layout of a magazine or website.
"Design is about aesthetics, but at its core it's also about solving the problems people live with everyday," says Cliff Kuang, senior editor of design. And of course the latter can also be said about data.
Dadich weaves it all together when he says, "At WIRED we get to think a lot about the future, and we get to report about the progress enabled by momentum of technology and design. But nowhere is that progress more profound, and that change so exciting, than in the fields of health and healthcare."
The day's first speaker, professor of Medicine and Engineering at the University of Southern California David B. Angus, MD concurs, "We [healthcare professionals] use almost every technology first, because we have to."
In other words, many technologies that people use on a day-to-day basis now--both personally and professionally--were likely designed, developed and tested with healthcare in mind
Thought Leaders Start Conversations that Shape the Future
The event's content was a mix of more than a dozen healthcare and tech speakers. Topics included genetics, fertility apps, sensors and several other data applications that leverage information to improve the quality and length of life. And a packed room of over 100 invitation-only healthcare thought leaders listened in.
"The quantified-self movement has exploded," says WIRED's vice president and publisher, Howard Mittman. "Personal data capture--whether its apps or wearables--is sparking conversations and driving ideas." He also attests that the movement is important no matter what your industry.
Why It Matters
The conference's core theme is an important in that data tells the most accurate and vital stories and has the ability to predict the future. So whether you're looking to learn more about the health of your body or uncover who your who your audience is, data is the best portal for discovery.
The objectives of a healthcare professional may be drastically different from that of a publisher, but the modes for collecting, analyzing and making data actionable are similar. Thus, publishers who talk about leveraging "Big Data" should be keeping one eye on what is happening in the health space, because it could forecast their own future.
At the end of the day, publishers should find comfort in a shared challenge--there is too much data out there and filtering it efficiently and effectively will be an ongoing endeavor for everyone.
When selecting content delivery channels, a digital-first publisher canâ€™t ignore the mobile app. Todayâ€™s digital-savvy readers expect a market leading publication to have a mobile app. Moreover, advertisers expect to be able reach the most loyal subscribers via the publisherâ€™s app. This said, as mentioned in an earlier post, the ROI on a mobile app should be carefully evaluated. The key challenges with apps are discoverability and the higher expenses related to building and maintaining the app. While apps are generally superior reading experiences for subscribers, app discoverability is difficult due to the sheer size, fragmentation, and limited search functionality of app stores. As a result, launching a new publication app today requires significant marketing expense to grow an audience. Similarly, building and maintaining an app can be quite expensive, and native apps by definition are not cross-platform solutions, so youâ€™ll need to build separate apps for each operating system that you want to support (iOS, Android, Windows 8, etc.).Assuming that you are committed to building an app, here are some suggestions on how to keep costs down:Â Third-Party Provider
First, consider working with a third-party mobile platform provider that is willing to build and host a mobile app for you on a revenue share basis. These platform vendors typically have template solutions that you can leverage to get to market quickly for little cost. Their offerings normally include the key features that youâ€™ll want already built in (e.g., push notifications, sharing functionality, and rich-media advertising). Additionally, these providers will ensure that your apps continually work even on the latest operating system releases, leveraging their scale to quickly update their platform and app environment. The main downside of these solution providers is that their templates may limit your creativity. Additionally, supporting a different CMS can create editorial challenges.The 'Native Wrapper'
Another approach to building an app in a cost-effective way would be to consider rebuilding your website in HTML5 and then placing it in a â€śnative wrapperâ€ť rather than building a pure native app. Some consider this approach the equivalent of â€śhaving your cake and eating it too.â€ť Three key benefits of HTML5 are that it is operating system agnostic (e.g., code works for Android and iOS), it offers offline reading capabilities, and, depending upon how it is architected, you can make updates without app releases. HTML5 code in a native wrapper allows you to access native features such as push notifications, in-app purchasing, and native sharing capabilities. You could also consider building this â€śappâ€ť using a responsive/native HTML5 design which could reduce future development costs. That said, I would caution that this approach is not necessarily the panacea some purport it to be in that itâ€™s challenging to build an HTML5 mobile site and there are a lot of nuances that will require an experienced programmer (which are hard to come by). If itâ€™s done wrong, users will see a degradation of app experience in terms of speed and functionality. Â Pick One OS
The third cost-effective approach would be to build a native app for only one operating system (e.g., iOS) using your CMS and internal platforms. The value of this approach will depend upon both the concentration of your user base (i.e. is the majority of your readers using one platform over another) and your access to skilled developers, either in-house or contracted). In the next article, Iâ€™ll address some best-in-class approaches to driving app revenue as well as provide some stats on ALMâ€™s app performance.
From print publishers to pureplays, the magazine media community gathered at the Marriott Marquis in New York this week for MediaNext.
Â They listened to Google's Daniel Alegre describe the marketing funnel of the future and Glam's Samir Arora explain how he's built one of the largest media companies in the world without creating a single piece of content. Elisabeth DeMarse spoke to them about how TheStreet uses its "free front porch" to generate paid subscriptions, while Roy Sekoff highlighted HuffPost Live's raw video play. Andy Weber detailed Farm Journal Media's transformation from a print-centric, debt-laden publisher, into a rapidly-growing, digital-first enterprise. Meanwhile, one hundred of their most innovative peers were honored at the inaugural Folio: 100 Awards Breakfast on Wednesday.
Â Media is changing too fast to predict what the topics will be at MediaNext 2014, but we can't wait to find out.
The relationship between magazine publisher and technology is becoming ever more complex. For some, technology is so central it's easy to begin to think that it's what defines you. The issue calls up the classic argument: What's more important, content or technology/delivery?At this week's MediaNext conference in New York one session attempted to tackle that question, though the two presenters came at it from different perspectives.Blair Johnson, senior vice president, business development, at Cygnus Business Media, noted that the technology that social networks, and advertisers themselves, were creating were beginning to disintermediate the company. "The disruptions were allowing the brands to go directly to the consumer," he said. "If we can't get [technology] right for ourselves, how are we going to get it right for our advertisers?"For Cygnus, which subsequently built a proprietary CMS, created an integrated database and began aggressively using responsive design, the idea was technology would not only enable new business, it would keep advertisers from going off the reservation. In addition to its capabilities, it became a calling card."If all we are is a company that talks to an audience, then we're at risk," he said. "We need to be a partner that has technology on the bleeding edge that can best help our marketing partners."That sentiment was echoed later during the lunch keynote from Glam Media founder Samir Arora, by the way, who made no bones about describing Glam as a technology company.But Johnson's co-presenter put the focus back on content. "Unless you're literally licensing software, please don't call yourself a technology company," said John Siefert, CEO of Virgo Publishing. "If you're a media company, that's not what you do. You're creating content and then people are advertising around that content. For us, the software that runs our business is critical, we would not exist without it. But what we are is a media company that creates content."Siefert warned that industry trends can be prematurely exaggerated into mission-critical strategies. "People become so focused on the sex appeal of the technology that they don't focus on the content and how it works inside that technology."He pointed to marketing automation technology as one area where many publishers are potentially devaluing their audience. "We've gotten to the point where we're way too reliant on automating the process of lead-gen, instead of listening to the audience and engaging. We've over-teched it. We want to be thought drivers for our audience instead of just looking at them as leads."The way out of that trap, suggests Siefert, is to put process before technology. "A lot of times technology defines the process," he said. "What we try to do is define the process and find our build technology to support it."Â
Over the past few years, the word â€śdigitalâ€ť has gone from merely denoting a replica of a print magazine to just about anything you do electronically. Engaging people through the various means we have available to us takes time, effort and, dare I say it, some money, as well. It also needs another thing that many do not currently haveâ€”a strategy.
Whether you engage people via a Web site, an iPad or smart phone app, through email or via any other platform, you need to have a strategy in place to make sure your customers or prospects engage with you for a long time to comeâ€”wherever they are. Assuming you plan to reach people through more than one platform, youâ€™ll need a strategy to integrate all of them.
How frequently you need to engage with people really depends on what youâ€™re trying to achieve. A newsletter, a tweet or an updated RSS feed certainly works on a daily basis. You can update your Facebook page or make an entry on LinkedIn to keep people involved, too. Whatever it is, you just need a plan to reach your entire market.
Newsletters are a good way to engage people and keep them involved, but your strategy must make sure your newsletter carries information people are going to benefit. This is where some spare cash may come in useful. Do not overwhelm people with content. You are more likely to drive them off a cliff rather than toward your product.
Some say sending an email first thing in the morning, so it appears at the top of the recipientâ€™s inbox, is a good thing. Others claim sending email after 10:00 A.M. is better. All this really proves is we donâ€™t always know what works and what doesnâ€™t. I would venture to suggest it depends a great deal on the market with which you are dealing. After all, a night workerâ€™s shift ends when most othersâ€™ start and an email at the end of their shift may indeed work very well early in the morning.
If you are going to engage via social media, make sure your strategy details when you plan to do this. You should add content on a regular basis and testing should determine the optimum frequency. You should also add content when the situation demands like with hot news or a special story. Donâ€™t forget that this content should always be worth sharing.
Wherever you post content, keep an eye on it to make sure people donâ€™t abuse your efforts. Check Facebook and other (anti) social media at least once day. When people ask to be removed from lists, remove themâ€”no muss, no fuss. Just say â€śthanksâ€ť and move on.
More and more, digital is part of our world. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I have yet to figure out. For now, it is here and we need to embrace itâ€”not willy-nillyâ€”but in a well-ordered manner so we can take maximum advantage whilst we may.
Last month, Monica Ray, VP of consumer marketing for CondĂ© Nast, spoke in Des Moines at the annual summit that CDS, one of the major magazine fulfillment companies, hosts for its clients. Monica Ray on Amazon? Des Moines in Autumn? Crab Rangoon pizza at Fong's? Of course I was there.Ray was likeable and smartâ€”you could practically hear her brain whirringâ€”and it was obvious that she is deeply creative. She also seemed very conscious about what it means to work for one of the biggest magazine companies in the U.S. and still maintain a sense of serendipity.If you've been living under a rock, Ray was the force behind CondĂ© Nast's groundbreaking deal with Amazon. No one should be surprised. In 2011, she told Wired magazine, â€śWe believe strongly in Amazonâ€™s buy-once, read everywhere model, too,â€ť when CondĂ© Nast at the time partnered with Amazon's newsstand on the Kindle Touch. The latest Amazon deal was right around the corner (or maybe not right around the corner, but it was within view). Ray and Amazon are right. Consumers want a simple model, they want freedom to read anytime, anywhere, in part because of the culture that Amazon (and its spin-off, AmazonPrime) has created. It's the reason that Amazon has thrived, and it was smart for CondĂ© Nast to hop on board.But at what cost to smaller publishers?As touchy-feely as Amazon's Jeff Bezos pretends to be, he's a down-and-dirty businessman. He's notorious for being cutthroat, and good for himâ€”clearly it's working. But it means that the stringent Amazon policies, the bullying contract, that deep cut of publishers' profits, make it difficult for small publishers to exist, let alone thrive, in Amazon's marketplace. It is my opinion that Amazon's typical â€śfeeâ€ť of 30 percent created a norm where there's no more room for publishers to budge in other marketsâ€”indeed, 70 percent net has become an accepted standard. This may not be bad for larger companies which may pay out even more for new business acquisition, but it does pack a punch to us smaller ones, especially when we don't get to own the customer relationship. Amazon's longstanding argument is that a magazine subscriber who comes in via Amazon is an Amazon customer, not the magazine's customer, and as such, Amazon retains the right to the relationship.But that doesn't mean we won't exist in Amazon, and it doesn't mean we won't try to thrive. Iâ€™m not interested in a world where Amazon is all there is. But if Amazon is giving consumers something that no one else can, or no one else can at this scale, then we should comply on some level. Let's face it: Bezos has created a culture around online buying that is unparalleled to any other, to a devastating effect on the little guys: where there were 4,000 independent bookstores twenty years ago, there are now only 1,900.No wonder Monica Ray wanted in.In that conference room in Des Moines, Ray described her vision of a checkless society (meaning physical checks). She wanted one-click marketing; Amazon was a natural partner. It was a smart move, and one I'd absolutely do if I had the money, the clout, or the array of CondĂ© Nast titles to even get a meeting with Amazon. I'm sorry, does that sound a little jealous? It was meant to.Ray cut the ultimate deal, at least in principle (I am not privy to her numbers). Each of her titles' sites offer subscription pages where a consumer can use Amazon to purchase either a print or print + digital bundled edition (according to Ray, CondĂ© Nast still offers the choice to subscribe via an old-school offer page, but when I tried subscribing to Vanity Fair, I could only do so via Amazon. If there was another option, they did a great job of hiding it). This is not a Kindle sub; this is that same sub you've been buying for years online at a magazine's website. It's platform-agnostic. And because most people have Amazon accounts, it's easier than managing a separate database of user names and passwords on different title's content management systems.In short, it's pretty genius.But Ray developed her vision further, describing a world where you build a community within your brand, offer an action that's pleasing to interact with, gain an experience or insight with the brand as provided by the publisher, and stick with the brand in the long-term. It's what we know as consumer marketers; it's the whole basis of traditional circulation retention models. I mean, we do it already. But what's different is that now the level of intimacy with the brand is expected by a consumer in a way that requires that level of engagement by the publisher. It's not time for us, small or large, to pull back from ways to reach our audiences; it's time for us to push further.Monica Ray is doing it. CondĂ©'s doing it. Amazon has been doing it consistently for years, and if you think AmazonFresh is not going to be a major contender in the food delivery space, think again.Many months ago, I was at a dinner with a very famous and very old writer. He was telling me about his vision of bodegas in Manhattan: he wanted to buy them and house curated bookshops so that people could immerse themselves in the beauty of reading books and magazines again.It was sweet but naĂŻve. What he failed to grasp was that we still live in a world where people immerse themselves in the written word, it just may not have pages or covers, but it's there. And if it's there, and people want it, then publishers need to be there too. We just need to be smart about it and not give Amazon more power than we'd be willing to give any other agent.
If you are working on a publication with a November audit cycle and you still have to get more orders, here are some things you might like to try.If you need new orders, try calling your existing one-year subscribers to ask them if there is someone else in their organization who would benefit from a subscription. Then, email the prospect and inform them their colleague suggested they might like a subscription and see if you can get them to order from that email. If not, try calling them. If you are still trying to re-qualify your file, now is the time to send a short-form email. Short forms work well, but remember even though the age of the subscription will be one year, the demographics will not be updated, and this is something you need to make a note of for next year. You can also do a short-form phone call as well, and since you are not asking all the demographic questions, most telemarketing companies will give you a good rate, providing the telemarketing company can make room for the program in its schedule.If you have fax numbers on your file, and permission to fax, send one out for re-qualifications. Faxes are so old they are new again. While results are not earth shattering, they may be the butt-saver you need. Use a purl in the fax so people can reply online as well as a fax number for responses.The somewhat anti-social social media may be of use to you. If you have a Facebook page, trying offering a new subscription on your page and if you have a Twitter presence, why not tweet out a new subscription offerâ€”every order counts. If you have a LinkedIn page, create an offer there too, it can do no harm and while social media may not be the best responder, it is certainly worth a try.
It took a little longer, but I'm sure you'll find it worth the waitâ€”the FOLIO: 100 is now online, and will be hitting your desk in print in the October issue. The list of magazine media's most innovative and entrepreneurial thinkersâ€”and some of the biggest trends that inspire and influence themâ€”has been greatly expanded from its roots as the FOLIO: 40, which used to appear in the April issue.Like it does every year, the list recognizes executives, managers and even junior staffers who have had a major impact on their company or the industry at large. Now there's just more of them. The reason behind the expansion of the list sits squarely among the trends that are impacting magazine media. The very definition of a magazine publisher has changed so muchâ€”from the products it creates to the way it builds its audienceâ€”that a list of 40 innovators seemed positively quaint. The industry itself has also expanded to include digital, mobile and social entities that intersect magazines in crucial ways. To not recognize individuals from those sectors, and many others, would be a glaring omission. Some of the list-makers will probably seem obvious, but many more are folks you've likely never heard of, making the FOLIO: 100 a true reflection of our wide-ranging coverage of magazine media in every corner of the market. The FOLIO: 100 Awards Ceremony
This year, too, marks the debut of a special awards ceremony we'll be holding in conjunction with FOLIO:'s MediaNext event. It's a chance for us to salute the FOLIO: 100 list-makers in personâ€”a prospect we're very excited about. For more on the awards breakfast, visit the MediaNext site.
Once upon a time, there was old media. It was reported, edited, top-edited, copy-edited, and fact-checked. It was good.Â And there was new media. It was fast, hungry, loosely edited, quick to fix the mistakes it often made. It was good enough.Â For a while, readers and journalists alike seemed willing to accept that there might be different standards. People expected less of digital in the early days; it was, everyone said, â€śjust the web." Accuracy and fairness and good writing and smart designâ€”all that mattered, of course, but it was sometimes hard to square those demands with the implications of everyoneâ€™s favorite analogy, that the web was â€śthe wild west.â€ťÂ These days, the web seems a bit less wild and more polished. Everywhere you look, there are signs that publishers are importing traditional journalism values to the constantly shifting digital environment. The web continues to do what it does better than printâ€”delivering on-the-minute stories with a conversational tone to an always-connected audienceâ€”and the blog post, as one distinct unit of digital journalism, still offers what Andrew Sullivan called in 2008 â€śthe spontaneous expression of instantaneous thoughtâ€¦accountable in immediate and unavoidable ways to readers.â€ť But increasingly, digital journalism does its business while embracing certain core beliefs typically associated with old media.Â Take design. As recently as five years ago, the web was mostly text. Rivers and rivers of text, without much thought given to breaking up the grey. Over time, digital publishers discovered that even a little bit of old-media design loveâ€”a sharp photo or illustration, a crisp chart or map, a well-crafted pull quoteâ€”can make a story more appealing (and more shareable in social media). Then came Snowfall. That, of course, refers to the digital treatment that The New York Times gave to its 10,000-word storyÂ in December 2012 on 16 skiers caught in an avalanche in Washington stateâ€™s Cascade Mountains, three of whom died. The article, with its panoramic photos, embedded videos, interactive satellite maps, slideshows, and sidebars, set a standard for splashy web treatment of a big story. (Or, as some have argued, not suchÂ a big story.)Â Within weeks, snowfall became, in a kind of comic-desperate way, part of the vocabulary in digital circles, as publishers sought to create their own snowfalls and advertisers asked to be adjacent to (or integrated within) snowfall stories. Of course, few publishers have the multimedia and developer resources to pull off this treatment; even the Times has been understandably stingy about doing the full snowfall for more than aÂ coupleÂ ofÂ stories. Still, more and more outlets are creatingÂ their versionsÂ of this type of digital storytelling. From ESPNÂ andÂ Rolling StoneÂ toÂ PitchforkÂ and TheÂ Verge, the results can be impressive.Â It wonâ€™t be possible for digital publishers to bring this kind of ambition to every web story, but of course thatâ€™s not the goal. Even the glossiest of magazines reserves the most resourceful design for cover stories and other major features, while front-of-the-book stories rely on templates. The point is that enterprising treatment in the service of storytelling, once the province of print, has edged into the digital mainstream.Â When it comes to traditional journalism values now trumping hoary digital truisms, itâ€™s also worth looking at the question of velocity. Without paper, printing, or postage costs, the main limitation on how much you publish is how many stories you can wring from the dayâ€™s developments, broadly defined, each day. So a lot of us, seeing the success of a Huffington Post, tried to compete on volume. We soon realized that yes, we were running a lot of posts, but relatively few of them were attracting big audiences.Â During a series of experiments, we played with the quantity-quality matrix: Could we draw more readers by publishing fewer posts, if those posts prized original analysis and creative thinking? The results suggest that, while thereâ€™s always the case of that quickie aggregation post that goes viral, readers do reward enterprise. Itâ€™s been refreshing to confirm that, on the web, as in print, quality, however it might be defined or measured, is the ultimate driver of success.Â The changing newsroom culture may be one of the best opportunities for transmitting mainstream journalism values to the new order of things. In the early web days, newsrooms were segregated. You had the digital nerds in one corner and the â€śregularâ€ť journalists at the center. At The Washington Post, digital operations were for years located not in the paperâ€™s massive building near the White House but across the Potomac in suburban Virginia. At Wired, where I worked for seven years on the print side, I learned (to my shame, and only after I left in 2008) that the sometimes-disrespected web team referred to the corridor that separated us as the Berlin Hall. Even as recently as a few years ago, while executives were boasting about their digital-first cultures, a lot of folks on the web continued to feel like second-class citizens.Â Those days really are over. Change didnâ€™t happen just because people started sitting near each other. At The Atlantic, where the print and digital teams have long shared space, there has recently developed a culture of cross-training. Digital writers are doing stories for the monthly magazine; print editors are running web projects. One of our newest products, The Atlantic Weekly, is a slick magazine-style presentation, on the iPad, of some of our best digital stories that week.Weâ€™re learning each otherâ€™s languagesâ€”and each otherâ€™s tricks. And that old gap between good and good enough is closing fast.
Yesterday, I read a well-done blog from a writer and social-media consultant named Paul Gillin lamenting the death of BtoB Magazine, which Crain Communications said it is folding into Ad Age as of the first of next year. What especially caught my eye was this observation: â€śThe advertising market for business publications is in free fall, and since most of the magazineâ€™s advertisers are themselves B2B media companies, BtoB has suffered along with everybody else.â€ť Being a student of the media industry, I wanted to know why. I have a few theories, and I like to test them out on other smart people. Sometimes they agree, and other times I suspect they think Iâ€™m way wrong. So I wrote a comment to Gillinâ€™s blog that asked him what he thinks is driving that free fall. Specifically, I asked:â€˘ Is it that print advertising has become an inefficient way to deliver brand messages? â€˘ Is it because software products have emerged in the media industry that render third-party suppliersâ€”advertisersâ€”less essential? In other words, is it a case of, 'we can build, so we don't need to buy?'â€˘ And also, do we buy less? For example, online, 'we don't need a printer in a continuous relationship, we need a Web development firm just once every few years.'â€˘ Is advertising in free fall too because new channels and technologies have emergedâ€”such as Facebook, Google and database-management toolsâ€”that allow marketers to more effectively identify and communicate with prospects? â€˘ And if that's the case, does that mean that the audiences that media companies have traditionally aggregated are less valuable and less compelling to marketers?I donâ€™t know the answer to these questions. I donâ€™t even know if theyâ€™re the right questions to ask. But something is driving the decline in advertising, not just in media on media, not just in b-to-b media, but in many print publications.
Iâ€™ve been updating readers of this blog about the Mercury News situation.
If you have newsstand distribution, whatâ€™s happening with Mercury News has been affecting you whether you have kept track of the details or not. Mercury has been on shaky financial footing for some time, and there has been a lot of speculation as to who will pick up the distribution.
It isnâ€™t an inconsequential question. Mercuryâ€™s footprint was big. Back in May, I reported that Cowley (a TNG marketing partner) had negotiated to buy out Mercuryâ€™s distribution in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and northwest Mississippi. At the time it was believed that Mercury would keep its Texas accounts and focus on them.
Today we are told that TNG (formerly The News Group) has entered into an agreement to assume responsibility for servicing Mercuryâ€™s retail accounts in Texas and the southern Arkansas markets, effective October 2013.
Mercuryâ€™s final distribution is to be October 3. After that, all remaining product will be received into the TNG system. For now, and until the transition is complete, there will be no change in the title mix or allotment levels.
Weâ€™ll be hearing more as things develop, but for now itâ€™s a relief that we can look to some stabilization of a volatile situation.
See Also: Waiting to See How the Mercury News Situation Shakes Out