Study: Magazine Web Sites Slow to Adopt Web 2.0 Features
A new Bivings Report finds that the most popular print magazines are lagging in their Web site development. But some publishers say that just because a new capability exists doesn’t mean it belongs on their site.
The so-called "Web 2.0" is about taking magazine Web sites beyond the dated "online brochure" for the print magazine to being an effective, standalone touchpoint that may even exceed print’s relevance for readers. However, A recent study from The Bivings Report, called "Analyzing The Presence of Magazines on the Internet", finds that some of the most popular print magazines continue to lag behind the adoption of cutting edge features.
The report analyzed the Web sites of the 50 top commercial magazines in the U.S., based on circulation figures for combined subscription and single copy sales. Among the report’s findings:
- RSS feeds are the most common online feature offered by top magazines (48 percent of magazines have them). But the study finds that all of the RSS feeds offered by magazine Web sites are partial feeds, they display story headlines or brief excerpts rather than full content. According to the report, that indicates publishers are using RSS to push customers to their Web site rather than make their content available in alternative formats. None of the magazines surveyed include ads in their RSS feeds, while just 28 percent divide their RSS feeds into different sections.
- 46 percent of the top magazine Web sites offer message boards/forums, and they seem particularly popular among women’s sites. While magazines allowed much of the Web site content to be viewed for free, they required registration to use the forums.
- 38 percent of the magazines surveyed required registration to view all content on the site. However, despite advertisers clamoring for more detailed information on Web site visitors, registrations seem to be used more as an editing tool. "This seems to serve as a mechanism for monitoring content that people post on message boards rather than to collect demographic information, as is the case with newspapers," the report says.
- 40 percent of the magazines offer at least one reporter blog
- 34 percent of the Web sites offered video
- 14 percent offer podcasts and bookmarking
- 6 percent use tags for organizing and searching articles.
Click here to view a chart of all Web 2.0 activities used by magazines.
Individual Web Sites
The report broke out features offered by the top magazine Web sites focusing on RSS feeds, RS feeds that include ads, tags, mobile versions, video, podcasts, reporter blogs, reporter blog comments, blogrolls (external links), comments on articles, registration required, book marking, message boards, and RSS feeds for different sections. LINK TO CHART
Only three magazines, Newsweek, Popular Science and Time, used more than half of the features the study highlighted. The largest magazine according to the study’s definition;Reader’s Digest;possessed only podcasts, message boards and RSS feeds, while 10 of the magazine sites surveyed possessed none of the features.
Only three of the top 50 magazines, Popular Science, US Weekly and Parenting, used tags (categorizing articles according to topic) on their Web sites. However, six of the magazines surveyed (or 12 percent) are creating content for mobile devices such as cell phones and personal digital assistants.
But What Do Readers Want?
Many publishers have responded to the report by saying just because the functionality exists doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate fit for their Web sites. "Yes, WE all love RSS but I’ve found that the higher one goes on the corporate food chain, the less likely they are to use RSS, and they prefer receiving e-newsletters," wrote one reader in response to the survey. "Maybe you didn’t ask this question because it’s not Web 2.0, but it’s still an extremely important question relative to which digital alternatives are really desired by printed magazine readers."
Government Computer News has 100,000 subscribers to its daily e-newsletter and editorial director Wyatt Kash found that 90 percent prefer the text version to HTML. "As an editor, I was thinking about how to make a graphically-interesting newsletter, but readers didn’t want it that way," says Kash. "Twenty percent of our readers now regularly get e-mail on Treos and Blackberries. It’s easy to get sidetracked by a fancy rich media Web site and take your eye off the ball as to here people are really consuming the content."