Friday, April 15, 2011

Magazine front covers: adapt or die

The front cover is the most important page in the magazines – that's one of the lessons we drum home to students on the MA/PgDip in Magazine Journalism at Cardiff Journalism School. It's a lesson that is repeated by just about every one of the many industry speakers who visit Cardiff.

But a couple of pieces of recent research show that it's only true for print magazines on the news-stand.

Kevin Sablan's Almighty Link site carried a piece about newspaper front pages that holds lessons for any print publication going online – or probably for any online journalism, whatever the "home" platform. Seven well considered points about what a "front page" means to online readers: The front page isn’t what it used to be

I found the piece above via Adam Tinworth's blog, introduced with the comment: "I've seen this clearly in our metrics. Front pages of websites just don't really matter." Given Adam's position as Editorial Development Manager at Reed Business Information we know those metrics are extensive and reliable.

Then, as if to confirm the line of thought, Ellie Behling asked "Are publishers paying attention to what consumers want from iPad magazines and newspapers?" on her blog. Analysing a recent survey, Behling quoted Zinio's global executive vice president and chief marketing officer Jeanniey Mullen: "It's not about necessarily just shopping for the cover anymore; you might be looking for fish recipes." 

This doesn't mean our insistence on the importance of a front cover is wrong; in fact while single copy sales are under pressure – or falling – the front cover of a print magazine becomes even more important. But it does underline two points:
1) what has been found to work in print may not transfer directly to a digital platform
2) if the front page can be a Tweet, a Facebook stream, search engine results, a text message,  a Flipboard panel, RSS feeds or an Instapaper collation magazines need to be showing their faces on all of them.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Magazine format could save newspapers

Ken Doctor, the Newsonomics guru, envisages a digital future for newspapers based firmly – it seems to me – on traditional magazine principles: niche specialisation – 
"packages assembled with key target readers — by interest, of course, but also by age, gender, relative affluence, and more — in clear mind."
He calls it the "digital cafeteria".

What do you think?

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iPad magazines need a mix of content

The nearly-always-reliable David Hepworth has come up with an interesting thought about reading journalism on the iPad, and that thought is: keep it simple.

On the one hand, we have new ventures like The Atavist presenting long form stories in innovative ways and on the other we have the need for what Hepworth, referring to a very plain story from The Economist's iPad edition, calls

"Self-contained, looks long enough to read in kettle-boiling time ..."
This immediately reminded me of one of the findings in Joke Hermes's study of the way readers actually use magazines, Reading Women's Magazines. A key point was that they were "easy to put down" -- that is, if a more urgent task came along, the magazine could be abandoned without worrying about finding one's place again or losing a line of deep thought.

As far as iPad content is concerned, it won't be EITHER one OR the other, of course. Print magazines run short kettle-boiling pieces mixed with longer sit-down and concentrate reads and there's no reason why that principle should change.

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Monday, April 04, 2011

The Listener in digital form

The Listener, published by the BBC from 1929 to 1991, has been made available in digital form. It must represent a fantastic mine of information for anyone researching magazines or British middle class/intelligentsia culture. I remember reading it in the library at UEA when I was an undergrad – certainly some excellent writing/journalism.

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