Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Readertorial: or, how a magazine can let go of content and trust its readers

Years ago when I worked for Emap, David Arculus –who was a big boss then and is an even bigger boss now – like to come up with pithy mottos. One was 'Recession means opportunity' (might come in handy again soon but not my concern here), another was 'People don't work for money'. This is perhaps easier for a well rewarded manager to believe than, say, a receptionist, but nevertheless there is a truth in it, especially where us creative types are concerned.
Thus, turning to the magnificent Clay Shirky's recent meditation on gin and the industrial revolution and David Cushman's persuasive look at the value of networks, then putting them together with the news that Vogue.com will relaunch with mash-up features and staid, staunch Hello is dipping its toe into the waters of reader-generated blogging, I come to the conclusions that
a) Web 2.0 has reached the tipping point of accepability and
b)magazine readers will work for nothing, that indeed they are eager to, provided certain conditions are met.
They always have wanted to contribute, of course, and often for nothing but the tools now exist to let them do even more. This is not in any way akin to allowing the lunatics to take over the asylum, just in case you were worried; more like making sure the campers are inside the tent pissing out.
So, what are those conditions?
• Your magazine (product/brand/whatever you want to call it) must be well loved; this is a given for hundreds if not thousands of titles
• You must provide the tools for readers to be able to create; it's got to be widgets-a-go-go
• You must not be afraid of stepping outside your brand silo and making use of Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and whatever else is going
• You must be prepared to start meaningful conversations with people who appear to have some kind of beef against your title
• Err, that's it (for the moment)
As Professor Shirky has pointed out elsewhere, Web 2.0 material does get edited – after it has been uploaded. If it's not popular it will sink to the bottom; if it's good – and your readers will be judging this – it will rise to the top.

This is still a work in progress.

Update 1: http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/07/cant-make-money-with-content-make-money.html

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, April 25, 2008

The power of passionate editorial in print

Last night I had a stark reminder of the power of a printed magazine: its name is Sideburn.

Sideburn is an A5, perfect bound, 82+4, full colour throwback – or rather, it is the classic iteration of journalistic passion. Produced by two guys in a small town of the flatlands that surround FormerEmap's motorcycling centre of operations, it is all about, and only about, flat-track motorcycles and the people who build and ride them.

In grown-up commercial terms, that's a niche of a niche of a niche. In reality it's a fantastic magazine, full of the kinds of machines and people I love to know about.

For all the teaching I do about professional magazine craft and the digital future of publishing, Sideburn contains one eternal lesson. When you come down to it, there is nothing, NOTHING, to beat passionate editorial in a mobile product. Totally, unconditionally mobile. No electricity or signal or wireless network needed. Available anywhere, anytime.

Great things come in small packages, as Kenny Roberts once found:

Picture from Superbikeplanet.com

Labels: , , , , ,

Magazines: writing for the reader or the community?

It is a standard trope in magazine journalism training that we put "the reader" first; that we always write for "the reader". If this is really so then shifting to a Web 2.0 philosophy of publishing for a "community" shouldn't be a problem, for what is a community but a bunch of readers? If "the reader" always comes first, then "the reader" decides what is good and what is bad – not the writer, not the editor, not the publisher. Translate reader into community and you have the possibility of a networked decision rather than a mass of discrete individual decisions.

But, of course, it hasn't been "the reader" who has come first in reality. It has been the corporate entity that publishes the magazine. The idea of "the reader" has long been circumscribed by limitations that are not always transparent to "the reader":
• there have to be enough readers to make publication commercially worthwhile
• there have to be advertisers who want to reach them
• there have to be all sorts of deals along the distribution system to allow them to get their magazines
• there have not to be all sorts of counter-deals (spoiler tactics of various sorts; buying up all the shelf space) to allow the magazines to get into retail outlets

and so on.

When all is said and done, the printed magazine is a non-editable, non-selectable, previously filtered, handing-down-the-tablets-of wisdom, broadcast entity. The much vaunted research that big publishers do before a major launch or during re-launch preparations are, looked at through the other end of the telescope, an attempt to define the community that will want to buy the magazine.

This approach still works. All the new ways of consuming media do not suddenly negate the old ways, just as all the new ways of marketing do not negate the old ways. What has changed is that these methods are now only effective for the last generation of publishing, and they do not work so well for networked communities.

That's where we're going ...

This posting is a work in progress, after my synapses got fired up reading one of David Cushman's postings on Faster Future: this one.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Vogue online plans more fashion news, mashups, blogs

Fashion bible Vogue is upgrading its online offerings.

The new look Vogue.com will
• include more news stories every day
• add a mapping mashup element to its vox-pop street fashion regular
• feature fashion industry bloggers
• allow users to add calendar apps

The new look site template, to be launched on 7 May, will be used for Vogue editions around the world.

Conde Nast has online plans for other parts of its publishing empire, as reported here.

Vogue UK

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 21, 2008

Intelligence to hit China

It seems as though the FT newspaper will be launching a magazine in China, before the Olympics start. The mag is reportedly called Rui, a Chinese word meaning intelligent. Could get interesting if the Economist tries to launch Intelligent Life there too.

Read the original Yahoo news report here.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Now both digital AND print magazines are dead!

So on the one hand we have Publicis Blueprint shrinking its ad-funded, print-based customer magazine operation, and on the other we have the publisher of digital magazine Drift declaring that digital magazines have had their day, partly because advertisers do not understand online publishing.

Then again, Yahoo seem to believe that online is quite a good place for magazine content, and B2B publisher Centaur may, or may not, have been weighing up its value to a buyer.

But look at this video and the Drift guys might just be right ...

No wonder the world is such a confused place.

Labels: , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

More blogs about MagBlog.

View blog reactions