The Second Coming… Can Time Inc. Save the Magazine Business and Make Magazines Measurable?

December 15, 2009
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It’s a good day when you have so many different blog post possibilities that you actually have to choose. That’s me this morning. Possible topics: our household’s new addiction to GPS-related services; the fact that I was *right* about a predicted industry trend in Hollywood; my apparent mid-life crisis that yielded an unplanned and unbudgeted purchase of a very shiny bauble last night.

 

But, the winner for today’s post? A possible savior for the ailing print publishing industry The idea is the brainchild of Time Inc., publisher of 21 U.S. magazines including Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, Fortune, and my favorite, People.

This week, Time Inc. with web-design and branding powerhouse The Wonder Factory, introduced an online demonstration of the Sports Illustrated (SI) interactive magazine of the future. The demo, which already has more than 330,000 views on YouTube, promises to deliver much of what traditional print cannot: rich interactive features, integrated video and text, games, targeted content based on user preferences. It’s like a weekly website.

The death of traditional publishing has been heralded for the last 10 years. But, there’s nothing sudden about its


It’s a good day when you have so many different blog post possibilities that you actually have to choose. That’s me this morning. Possible topics: our household’s new addiction to GPS-related services; the fact that I was *right* about a predicted industry trend in Hollywood; my apparent mid-life crisis that yielded an unplanned and unbudgeted purchase of a very shiny bauble last night.

 

But, the winner for today’s post? A possible savior for the ailing print publishing industry The idea is the brainchild of Time Inc., publisher of 21 U.S. magazines including Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, Fortune, and my favorite, People.

This week, Time Inc. with web-design and branding powerhouse The Wonder Factory, introduced an online demonstration of the Sports Illustrated (SI) interactive magazine of the future. The demo, which already has more than 330,000 views on YouTube, promises to deliver much of what traditional print cannot: rich interactive features, integrated video and text, games, targeted content based on user preferences. It’s like a weekly website.

The death of traditional publishing has been heralded for the last 10 years. But, there’s nothing sudden about its demise. It’s more like a long, disabling illness that erodes a person over time. Print ad revenues have been declining precipitously for years. New magazine launches have virtually ground to a halt; and too many print publications have shuttered their doors. One of the latest casualties is National Geographic’s Adventure Magazine. On December 3rd, the mag announced it was shutting down its print operations effective this month, despite an impressive subscriber base of 430,000. The culprits are easy: increased distribution costs, virtually no newsstand sales compared to sub base and a 44% plummet in ad revenue through 3rd quarter this year compared to last year. Ouch.

But, Adventure, like many magazines, is in a state of transition. A statement from National Geographic Society (NGS) reads, in part:

“…Adventure brand from traditional print to a multi-platform model that will include newsstand editions, books, e-magazines, mobile applications and a robust Web site.”

 

Migrating a brand from print to web is not enough. That’s why I think Time Inc. is on to something. The demo showcases a rich, interactive environment where advertisers have the flexibility and creativity offered through a web-like channel. But richness of user experience won’t save the industry.

Measurability, however, might.

The SI demo doesn’t touch on this. In fact, in its current incarnation, there are more than a few issues—the most major being that the “magazine” functions, it seems, on yet another proprietary e-reading device. Who in an ideal world, the SI demo would deliver:

  • Full measurability of user behavior, clicks, engagement, preferences 
  • Interoperability across multiple e-readers, the iPhone, any many other devices 
  • Targeted content and advertising delivery to finally deliver on higher ad revenues promised by web-targeting 
  • And, maybe even a new advertising model altogether

It will be interesting to see how the concept evolves in 2010, and what its real-world impacts on the publishing business might be. Publishing needs a second coming in 2010. True measurability might be the answer.

Colleen Quinn

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