Editing magazines in a digital world

Editing magazines in a
digital world
Extending the print brand beyond
print with a digital edition
6 Pointers
~Heather White, EAC Conference 2013, June 9, 2013
1. Charge more for digital than for print
Buffeted by declining advertising, which historically accounted for 60- 70% of our revenue,
magazines are turning to tablets and digital editions to boost circulation revenue, so we become
less dependent on advertising. In the book and newspaper industries, digital versions are typically
cheaper than print issues are, but some in the magazine world are going the opposite way,
charging more for digital editions.
For example, Cosmopolitan readers can get their first year’s subscription to the print magazine for
$15 whereas a digital edition for an iPad costs $19.99. Similarly for Esquire (both titles are owned
by Hearst): $8 for print, $19.99 for digital. So far, consumers don't seem to mind the higher digital
prices. In Jan 2013, Hearst said it had amassed nearly 800,000 digital subscribers across all brands,
making it the largest digital-only subscriber base in the industry.
Hearst isn't alone in seizing this opportunity. Bonnier Corp’s magazines like Popular Science and
Field & Stream cost less for print than on the iPad ($12 vs $14.95 and $10 vs $11.99 respectively).
Interestingly the Field and Stream digital issue site does not promote many digital extras; just “New
high resolution image featuring Pinch & Zoom and Social Sharing.”
Source: Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2013
Case study: Esquire
Chris Wilkes, VP digital editions at Hearst, admitted he was initially uncertain how Hearst's digital
efforts would play out. But now, more than three years after the launch of the company's
dedicated app lab, he says there's been a pretty good climb, and the business has grown in
importance. "It's a new revenue stream, it's a premium revenue stream, we do far less discounting
in the digital magazine space, the [production] costs are less. The economics of a digital magazine
are superior to the economics of a print magazine.”
Wilkes noted the company's emphasis on "hot spots" that involve tapping and swiping on the tablet
surface, video embeds, personalized special offerings and interactive advertising. Richard Dorment,
Esquire senior editor , described how his title specifically has implemented those features, as well
as cross-platform initiatives, from the brand-level perspective.
"The printed issue, website, apps and tablet edition all feed off of each other," he said, "each
expressing their own character, each serving a specific editorial need.” Dorment cited the annual
Esquire songwriting Challenge as an example of the intersection. The feature included a story from
the magazine, music videos, iTunes purchase options, mobile codes, and a tablet edition that
encompasses it it all.
Those efforts have benefited the web, as well. Almost 10 percent of the company's overall web
traffic is now coming from tablets. But for all the engagement opportunities online, the focus is still
on the magazine. Wilkes noted that readers spend about 1.5 hours a month with a magazine,
compared to just 10 or 15 minutes on their websites. "We're starting to make meaningful dents in
our overall traffic" he said. "And that changes the value proposition. These are free websites, so
largely we're monetizing them by putting ads adjacent to the content. And not just third-party ads
that we charge for, but first-party ads for us to sell our own products."
source: Folio magazine, May 14, 2013
2. Increase rates of print and digital bundles
The Economist recently bumped the price of print and digital subscriptions together up to $160
from $127.
Over the past 12 months, Condé Nast, publisher of high-end titles like Vogue and the New Yorker,
also raised prices on its bundled print and digital subscription offerings, effectively making print
subscribers pay more for digital versions they previously received as a free extra.
However: "Just because you can get it on the tablet doesn't mean that you can price up," says Time
Inc. Chief Executive Laura Lang. "You actually have to have content that people get excited
about...What I love about tablets is, it gives us a chance to make more relevant content, which
people will value.”
Source: Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2013
3. Wait. Did you define your potential audience? What %
millennials? This may impact on your success
The average tablet reader now is younger, richer and more educated than the average magazine
Nearly two-thirds of them are male, and 54% of them are Millennials—or between 18 and 35—
while 36% have more than $100,000 in household income, according to "The Tablet at Two," a
study of the tablet publishing landscape by Empirical Media, a digital-advisory firm.
The willingness of tablet owners to renew their pricier digital magazine subscriptions may change
as tablets become more mass market.
Source: Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2013
Down the demographic path: Why “digital
natives” don’t like print
Several years ago, the Washington Post convened a series of focus groups to learn why most individuals
under the age of 45 did not subscribe to the newspaper—a problem persisting to this day throughout the
overwhelmingly print-centric industry.
It's not that people didn't like the Post, reported the American Journalism Review in an article describing
the research project. The problem was that the respondents—many of whom happily consumed news on
digital devices—drew the line at piles of old newspapers cluttering up their lives.
Digital Natives—the Generation Xers and Millenials who grew up in front of all kinds of screens:
televisions, computers, Xboxes, iPods, Razrs and, today, Androids and tablets—have been dubbed the
"asset-light" generations.
Mary Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the top venture-capital firms in Silicon
Valley, notes that young people don't want to own CDs, haul around books, buy cars, carry cash, or do
their own chores. Instead, they use their smartphones to buy, borrow or steal media; rent shared cars at
home or book shared rooms when they travel; hire people to buy groceries or cut the grass, and use apps
from Starbuck's and Target to pay for lattes or redeem coupons.
Many of the Digital Natives even prefer short-term gigs that allow them to arrange their work around their
lives, rather than arrange their lives around their work.
Meeker believes the digital generations will change everything from the travel and credit card industries to
the way health care and education are consumed.
Source: Reflections of a Newsosaur
Extreme case study: Wired’s The Connective
In April, Wired announced that it would embark on a daunting experiment in magazine-making: Assemble
a standalone tablet issue in just two days. (In other words, no one would be leaving the office for a good
48 hours.)
The marketers and editors revealed the issue's theme ("Mass Transmit") at 3 p.m. April 26, crowdsourced
content from Wired readers via email and Twitter, and then, fortified by Red Bull and fare from Wired's
resident chef (!), turned those articles into a fully interactive tablet magazine, sponsored by Cisco Systems.
That magazine-called "The Connective” is on digital newsstands. The issue contains more than a dozen
articles submitted by readers on topics ranging from Internet-connected basketballs to a woman who
befriended strangers on Words with Friends, as well as four "Dynamic Edit Pieces," features written by the
Wired Insider team that integrate real-time, interactive data, powered by Cisco. (One article uses live
conditions to predict traffic patterns in Los Angeles; another assigns musical notes to Twitter hashtags to
create a never-ending tune.)
"We literally locked ourselves in a room working on this product for 48 hours straight," recalled Wired vp,
publisher Howard Mittman. "It was an exercise in pushing the limits of digital publishing."
Readers were given constant updates on the process through Wired Insider tweets, Instagrams, and Vines.
The Connective also includes five interactive Cisco ads, created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Each ad
tells a chapter in the story of a man's morning to commute to the airport, showing how each item in his
daily routine (his pillow, his alarm clock, his car) could be connected to "the Internet of everything" using
Cisco technologies.
Source: Adweek, May 15, 2013
4. Optimize, optimize, optimize (or customize)
Consumers are abandoning print newspapers for tablet editions and reading on their smartphones,
but there hasn't been a mass shift to reading magazines on the devices - yet.
That's the message from the Newspapers and Magazines section of Deloitte's 2013 Consumer
Media Survey, which contains stats on consumer attitudes to media.
Print preference: 75 percent still said they prefer to read magazines in print, down significantly, but
not hugely, from 88 percent a year ago.
Digital doubts: Just 18 percent of tablet owners and 8 percent of smartphone owners said they
used their device to access magazine content daily or at least once a week.
Deloitte says the lack of take up of magazines on tablets, a format they are seemingly well suited to,
could be due to less takeup of tablets among magazine readers, or the a lack of optimization of
magazine content for the devices. (Of course that would be fine if it weren't for the fact print
circulation is declining.)
Source: themediabriefing.com
5. Integrate online and offline media
Marketers talk about online and offline media with incredible frequency. Whether it's a debate
between the value of digital advertising versus print media, or a showdown between social media
marketing and real-life word of mouth exposure, the industry has largely created a binary split
between "digital" and "real life" spaces. Industry chatter has led to a kind of "either or" situation, in
which online and offline media are two entirely separate realms.
It's not that simple - the news industry, for example, hopped on the digital ship only to find that it
didn't mitigate sinking sales even though it improved readership. A strategy that only focuses on
one form of media simply doesn't work, because that's not how we work.
There's a constant interplay between the "offline" and "online" worlds in our lives, with no barriers
between digital and print. Consumers are immersed in a digital world, sure, but we also still live in a
physical world.
Don't forget to integrate multiple channels. Digital is the norm now, so that's a bare minimum - you
have to do something to step up your game and beat your competitors to multi-platform and multimedia (as in, digital plus print, or whatever else) campaigns.
Tie digital and offline strategies together. That could mean a QR code in a magazine or newspaper
ad, or an online code for a billboard. Understand context. Your content needs to fit the form you
present it in, so don't forget how consumers use each type of media.
Source: Business 2 Community, April 9, 2013
6. Find new ways to engender passion and community
Declining circ and ad sales do not mean the end for magazines. More platforms mean better ways
of connecting people with their passions. Magazines are built around twin pillars: passion and
While publishers fixate on modes of distribution (print, online) and fashions in editorial (real life,
women and men's lifestyle etc), they might be better off finding new ways to enrich the lives of
their readers.
The word "magazine" comes from the 16th century Arabic term makzin or makzan, which means
storehouse - hence its use in military parlance. Rethinking the magazine as a unified "storehouse"
of value is a nice starting point for brainstorming new ways for magazines to create pleasure and
value for their audiences across different media.
In the hands of a strong magazine editor, myriad platforms just offer more ways of packing that
storehouse with endless goodies.
Some big titles have done just this. Top Gear (down 16.7% in the ABCs) is a brand, its editor a brand
manager, its journalists, passionate providers of content across platforms. The print product is to
linger over, but the iPad edition and the app, with its galleries and high-definition videos, its
exclusive offers and interactivity, is where the magazine's strength now lies.
Source: The Guardian, March 7, 2013