The Advertising Club's Magazine Day, Marriott Marquis, New York
April 14, 2009
I'm going to hit you Cliff's Notes style from the get-go today. The Advertising Club's Magazine Day revealed to me that some magazine publishers, some with big names, and some new to the scene, aren't blind to changes in media consumption. In fact, I now have a professional crush on Betty Confidential.com Editor-in-Chief Myrna Blyth. Not only is she whip-smart, but she doesn't pussyfoot around. I only recently heard of BettyConfidential.com at an event at Saks a few weeks ago and I have a feeling we're going to keep hearing about the site because Myrna is plugged in... or maybe wireless? My other professional smarty crush is on the last minute Digitization panel addition of Kirk McDonald, President, Digital for Time Inc. I know, crush is such an immature word, but it's less stalkery than "potentially idolizing" and less lame than "people I want to benchmark." Or maybe it's not. Let's get to it!
I entered the color-splashed expo area outside the auditorium feverish for my caffeine fix -- these things usually have coffee, right? I eyeballed the booths and drooled over tiny cutely packaged takeaways, but nary a coffee dripper to be seen. I grabbed a seat abandoned by someone who answered the leash yank of their BlackBerry. The first panel I hit was "Innovation in Today's Business Economy." Because I couldn't see who was talking from the way back in a very heavily attended event, you get to play the game of "guess who said it." You won't have to play long, however, because only a few statements really popped out like a goiter for me.
Adding simple elements -- like enabling commenting and ratings -- encourages readers to stay on your site. It's sort of like if you go to a site and just read, but there's no indication of anyone else reading, it's like going to a party and you're the only one there. The interactive (*cough cough* social stuff *cough*) pieces make the party happen. And nothing gathers a crowd like a crowd (or insert your favorite analogy here). I know some of you are saying "der!" and yes, der. But sometimes, the obvious has to be hammered into people before it finally sticks -- especially if they're a traditional industry type stuck in their ways.
"Demographics aren't enough to plan with anymore" -- Sarah Fay, CEO, Aegis Media North America. It's about segments and interests. In reality, you should be targeting women in Detroit with three kids who love miniature gourmet burgers, not simply women 24-36. Sarah also echoed the idea that John Gerzema uttered the night before, that of "energized differentiation" -- where a brand becomes more memorable when it is experienced in many different ways. It's like a wiggle factor -- as long as your brand is out there wiggling on the necessary dance floors, people will keep getting on its dance card.
Session Three, Digitization was my favorite. I scribbled like a freak and here's what I can decipher from that chicken scratch today:
Regarding the big stumbles or differences when transitioning from traditional media to digital: "The only real difference is creative"- Myrna Blyth. Right? You send out a mag and that's that. An Internet site changes (or should) daily, sometimes frequently throughout the day. The other difference, according to Myrna, is the behavior of the Web reader -- when a human being comes online, they're not searching for your brand, they're searching for information, and you need to make sure you're putting it out there and that it's easily found and shared.
Sarah Chubb, President Conde Nast Digital, embraces a mantra that runs through my head: "One big mistake is taking too long to take something to the marketplace." That goes hand in hand with "are you a thinker or a doer?" when the "doer" part is great, but it also needs a "with thought and quality" addendum. Sarah explained that when you're working with the "Internet, whatever you are about to put out there is never "done.' You have to get in bed with the idea of iterations, slap your well-conceived and "it's working!" piece out there, see what your audience thinks, LISTEN TO THEM, and tweak as you go. In a world of beta this and beta that and new release this and relaunch that, users are not frightened or surprised by iterations. And this should be obvious, they totally dig it when you listen to them and make changes (changes in line with your ultimate mission, however) based on their feedback. This is not a new concept in technology development, but perhaps it's only now making sense to the rest of the world.
Regarding the always fun, sometimes repetitively answered topic of paying for content:
Myrna rocked this one. She abruptly stated that you can keep some content closed off via a charge, but you can't put a lid on the commentary around it. In tangible terms, let's say I pay for monthly access to PlayGirl.com videos (this is purely hypothetical). I have friends who don't. When they come over, I show them the videos. They are bloggers and they're on Twitter and they scatter their summaries, reactions, and, well, commentary all over the place -- running with the PlayGirl brand. What about recipes? Maybe Chauncey has exclusive access to a recipe hosting site. It's called screenshots, copy, paste, people - the commentary continues regardless of one instance of paid access.
Kirk (McDonald) is all about trust. A lot of his answers had to do with a consumer's trust in certain brands, certain sources -- and when a consumer trusts a source, that source is a premium. For example, there are tons of financial advice, job advice, even dating ads, sites. Because they're free and there are so many, they create noise -- "and too much choice creates a natural filter" and people end up turning back to trusted brands and that's when a payment is willfully incurred. Now mind you, this payment could be watching an ad in its entirety, or sharing personal behavioral type information.
The moderator closed the panel with the big ole hated interview question of all time: "Where will magazines be in five years?"
"If your primary way of reaching your customers is to cut down trees and burn fossil fuels, you're in trouble" -- Ed McLoughlin, MindShare.
Ann Moore closed out the day with her keynote that first sounded like a eulogy, but rolled into a thoughtful look at how we're all behaving today, not just the magazine business. I might save that for another post, since I'm lucky enough you're still here this far down!