Posts filed under ‘Trends’

Digital Winds of Change Blowing Publishers Away as Profitable Landfall Remains Uncertain

By Chris Scott

As magazine publishers race to remain relevant to readers and advertisers alike, the jury is still out as to whether the various forays into digital-only waters will prove to be the salvation these publishers seek.

It’s only been nine months since Conde Nast abruptly shut down Gourmet magazine. And now the magazine publishing giant unveiled a slate of apps that revived that brand, among other titles, in pure digital form. The Gourmet Live app, first announced in June 2010, gives users access to the magazine’s voluminous database of articles, but also offers interactive opportunities to access new content, buy premium app-only content and incorporate social sharing technology. Gourmet Live will debut sometime in the fourth quarter, about one year after Conde Nast launched an app for its GQ men’s magazine to go along with its fee-based WIRED magazine app for the iPad, which launched in June.

Meanwhile, print titles are dipping a toe deeper into the digital pool. New York-based website developer and design specialist The Wonder Factory teamed up with Google and Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated magazine this spring to introduce a prototype digital magazine based on HTML5. (Tech-savvy readers will remember that this is the platform that Steve Jobs claimed makes Adobe Flash obsolete for use in Apple’s line of digital hardware products like the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, sparking a war of words with the software developer.) The demo features video that accompanies specific articles and page navigation that should entertain even the most jaded reader of paper-based magazines.

But the real issue here isn’t the technological advances or the “coolness” of these steps being taken by desperate publishers. With the profit paradigm changing nearly every day, the question is “How can these publishing firms make money as readers (and advertisers) abandon printed products?” And although general magazine readership rose eight percent in the last 10 years, circulation of magazines and newspapers continue to decline as whatever readers are left visit the Web for their access to information that used to come solely from print.

So far, The Wall Street Journal is one of the rare newspapers to make any money from its online version of its flagship product thanks to a subscription model that works for its business-focused audience. It will be interesting to see whether The New York Times, which abandoned its TimesSelect subscription service in 2007, will be able to retain the people who currently read its free content when they’re asked to pay for it sometime next year.

Ironically, a recent Times article pointed out that publishers continue to try and learn how to best present their wares online, especially when it comes to creating the viral buzz through social media. Hearst Publishing, in fact has launched a massive social networking push for its Seventeen magazine that aims to attract girls away from Facebook and other online social networks. Hearst hopes to better compete with other online magazines effort by redesigning Seventeen.com to also offer more gossip and celebrity news along with its print features.

So it looks like there’s still a long way to go from the days of “Take a look at this article” by passing the print version it to your spouse or co-worker to “Just Tweet this Time magazine article through its iPad app.” (It can’t currently be done, Time admits.) But the “test-and-learn” approach may be only way for publishers to ultimately figure out how to win the war for reader and advertiser attention in the digital battlefield.

July 20, 2010 at 8:07 pm 12 comments

Twitterature: A new twist on creative writing

By Sally Saville Hodge

I wish I had a nickel for every eye-roll I’ve encountered when mentioning Twitter as a social media channel.

I wish I had a dime for every person who’s ever told me they thought Twitter was stupid, without trying it first to get the context.

I wish I had a quarter for everyone who’s ever asked me what they’d Tweet about anyway, and how can anyone possibly write about anything meaningfully in 140 characters or less.

Well, no one’s getting rich off Twitter yet – least of all me. Even though an increasing number of businesses are apparently using it as a tool to build their images and contribute over the long haul to their revenue streams. Think Dell. Or Zappos. Or even small businesses without the big guys’ resources, like the coffeeshop CoffeeGroundz.

But one interesting way to look at Twitter goes beyond dollars and cents and considers its contribution to our culture as spawning a creative new literary form. Time magazine columnist James Poniewozik writes about it, and makes some relevant comparisons to how writers have, through the ages, “shaped their work to exploit technology.”

Now, there’s “Twitterature” that goes well beyond the Tweets and re-Tweets of celebrity doings, endless links to this or that article, and mindless meanderings about Average Joe or Jill’s day.

We have humor. Comedian Justin Halpern’s posts as @shitmydadsays have earned him such a following that it has led to a television show, to premier this fall. A recent sample: ”I don’t want your advice, you’re 27 fucking years old…Fine. I don’t want your advice, you’re 29 fucking years old.”

There’s satire. Consider @BPGlobalPR which has gained legions of followers since the disaster on the Gulf Coast. Its biting posts surely are giving BP’s real PR team fits. To wit: “Surprised ourselves by getting emotional on the coast today. Turns out the wind blew dispersant in our eyes.”

And satiric writing resources, even. Anyone who has ever referred to the venerable AP Stylebook for guidance will appreciate @FakeAPStylebook: “Spell it “ellipsis,” “ellipses,” “elipsis,” “ellipseseisis” – no one really knows or cares.”

I’m having trouble with the idea of a sitcom designed around a Twitter feed, no matter how good the posts. And for me, Twitterature will never replace the well-written book, newspaper or magazine or even blog article. But it does the job of providing entertainment in fast, bite-sized morsels. It’s pretty apropos for our lifestyles today.

June 15, 2010 at 8:12 pm 2 comments

A Tale of $10,000 Tweets

By Sally Saville Hodge

Despite being a faithful (if abashed) reader of celebrity publications like People magazine, I somehow missed the hubbub over one of my favorite pseudo celebrities (not): Kim Kardashian.

Kim, of course, is emblematic of a new phenomenon with the American public: The elevation to star status of people who have absolutely no discernible talent or skills, but have been smart enough to hire effective publicists. (See Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.)

She does have one thing going for her, however. She Twitters. Over 3 million people actually follow her tweets. That apparently gives her some degree of influence over the masses. And so, in a new twist on a time-honored marketing ploy, Kim is now in hot demand as a celebrity endorser via Twitter.

It’s called “sponsored Tweets,” a gentler term than advertising and presumably one that resonates more positively in an environment where authenticity supposedly rules.

Kim is at the top of this particular heap and reportedly rakes in a cool $10,000 per tweet. She’s not the only “publisher” to do so – just for lesser amounts. Dr. Drew is a big draw and so is Lindsay Lohan and her ex, Samantha Ronson. Even business groups with a big following – the CBOE and Stock Futures Forecast – are registered as being available via the leading matchmaking platform, Ad.ly.

The whole business raises a lot of issues relative to transparency and authenticity, the ultimate barometers of successful social media interactions. Ad.ly claims that the endorsed tweets it brokers are identified through the “#advertising” disclaimer at the end of each post.

But a growing number of concerns are entering the fray and may not be so principled. And unfortunately, while the Federal Trade Commission issued guidelines on celebrity (and other) blog endorsements last year, requiring full disclosure, it somehow left the Twitter issue to fall between the cracks.

Ultimately, the $64,000 question is whether a Twitter post by Kim or Dr. Drew or even the CBOE is going to pay off with new business. At least one expert says, “Not so much.” At last month’s Ad Age Digital Media Conference, Yahoo’s principal research scientist Duncan Watts told the audience: “If I had a fixed budget, I could get more value from a small amount of very influential [influencers], or a lot of smaller influencers, on Twitter. If you recruit enough people who, on average, influence just one other person, you could get a much better return on investment if you aggregated them and altogether paid them a tenth of what Kardashian gets.”

I’d settle! And to that end I’ll need to build up my followers. Follow me at @sallyshodge so I can give Kim a run for her money.

May 14, 2010 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

Foursquare: The Web Series

By Sally Saville Hodge

When last I wrote (which wasn’t all that long ago, for a change), I took a look at Foursquare.

In a nutshell, this location-based social media tool allows people to “check in” when they’re out and about in their neighborhoods, and post tips and comments about their surroundings. They earn points for check-ins, the opportunity to earn special badges and to become “mayor” of frequently visited spots.

Participating venues can use Foursquare to track and reward users who are frequent visitors: “We see you’ve been at our bar 10 times in the last three days: Here’s a free beer and the address of Alcoholics Anonymous…”

It’s goofy fun, and for the most part harmless, depending on how much of your life you really want to share. (One of my staffers might be having second thoughts about friending me after I asked him how Saturday night’s concert was.)

You might get more of a sense of the ridiculous that can factor into this through the Foursquare Cops web series brought to you by Hubspot. Enjoy!

April 27, 2010 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

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