Just An Online Minute... Prediction: 50% Of You Will Not Exist In Print In 10 Years
Magazine's 24/7 Panel, Marriott Marquis, New York
March 3, 2009
I went to Magazines 24/7 "Navigating the new reality" with the intention of just covering the MPA's 3rd Annual Digital Awards but I found myself at the session "Print vs Web: The Editorial Challenge" writing feverishly and grunting in motivated agreement. It's a close-to-the-heart topic, it's no secret that I work for a publisher and we have two print mags (industry specific and quite awesome), so it also shouldn't be a secret that with new delivery channels come new challenges, arguments, and arm flailing. I was inspired by 75% of the panel; "old school" print mags embracing the scary (I'm going to trademark that phrase, so don't even think about it Razorfish) with edible honesty. Let's pop into the panel, shall we?
Your panelists on deck to help publishers figure out how to be successful on the Web were Geoff Reiss, GM Newsweek Digital (a role he's been in for only 6 months - and a late-but-welcome-to-me addition to the panel); Gail Glickman Horwood, SVP, Programming & Strategy, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia; and Paul Maidment, Editor, Forbes. The panel was moderated by Jacob Weisberg, Chairman & Editor and Chief of one of my favorite reads, The Slate Group.
Why haven't magazines been more successful online?
According to Maidment, "Magazines are failing to grasp a fundamental point: what they produce every day is not the physical product -- it's the journalism." The key is for magazines to provide the "screen" that satisfies the way readers want to consume that journalism, he added. AKA - make your content digestible through phones, Kindle and its rivals, laptops, whatever!
"Mags haven't been spending enough time trying to understand the online customer in the way they've done with print readers," said Horwood. "Online readers may not have the same desires from the pub as the print reader." The answers lie within their behaviors on your Web site and in the data on the Web, she added. [I do believe she's talking about behavioral targeting here!]
Weisberg was happy Slate exists online only, so he only has one thing to think about when prioritizing - especially in an industry where print is always #1. But, he countered, for print/online pubs, would it be valid to flip the priority and give the online "version" high priority?
"Flip it! " Maidment suggested. "The Internet is a user-, not producer-,centric, medium. It's a distributed medium ...you have to be out where your audience is."
Amen, friend. The consumer is being really vocal about where they are -- and I agree that not hitting them where they are is like ignoring a suspiciously growing and moving mole.
Horwood was visibly resistant to making the Web a priority, emphasizing the need to make the publication collaborative -- "the power lies in bringing print and online together." That's all fine and dandy, but the question still remains: Is it time to flip who gets top priority billing?
What is the different between a digital and print editor/digital and print publisher? (This was one of my favorite questions.)
Mainment: "The biggest crime you can commit is declaring you're one or the other...platform agnostics will be the most successful" Right? Think about it -- why would you purposefully paint yourself into one corner in this ridiculous environment? As soon as you assert yourself as proficient in through one medium, you've closed off the rest. To this Horwood once again completely agreed and said that the power lies in the collaboration.
Is there a separation of "church and state" when it comes to editorial and advertising (advertorial)?
The panel agreed unanimously that the day you underestimate the intelligence of your readers is the day you seal your fate. People are smart. They know when something is an advertisement, they know when something is editorial. Trying to trick your audience is like trying to teach a turtle to wear a tanktop.
Weisberg asked the pants-on-fire question: In 10 years, will your publication still be in print, what % of revenue will come from print, AND what percentage of the audience will still exist in print?
Reiss very confidently predicted that Newsweek, will not only still exist in print, but that 50% of its revenue will come from it. Reiss also predicted that 50% of the audience will no longer exist in print. Don't forget, that only means in print - that doesn't necessarily mean total death. Keeping with the pattern, Horwood agreed with Reiss. Uncharacteristically launching his opinion goalie, Mainment refused to answer the revenue question and cited his 16-year-old son passionately exclaiming to him one night, "You don't understand the value of print!"
A "what's up with the pay-for-content" model question came from the audience. You pay for premium. Obviously if you're going to pay for something, it has to be worth it. Then again, to me, the premium situation is that you're getting information quickly, accessing content instantly. The debate continues.
Finally - How do magazines avoid diluting their brand when content is distributed across different platforms?
Here's what I would assume: any brand/image/marketing/pr expert knows that when you have a "thing," your customers/users feel a certain way about that "thing." No matter where you deliver your "thing," the overall feeling should be the same. If you've done your job of weaving the feeling through your portfolio of (oh gad, I'm about to say it) deliverables, and you've educated your sales force, your official communicators, and your community of unofficial ambassadors, then your brand should only be stronger, not diluted, through being accessible everywhere. Right?
Next week we're back to super party time - want to get yours in Just An Online Minute? Invite firstname.lastname@example.org!