Ed Note: Publishing or Direct Marketing?
Time Inc. recently launched a publishing experiment called Mine, which combined reader-selected sections from eight of its publications with personalized ads run by one major advertiser (Lexus for this go-around). This publication is attempting to mimic the RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds in printed form that are so popular on the web.
Unfortunately for Time Inc., there was a big-time glitch, as many subscribers got a version that was personalized, but for someone else. Oops. And some of the content was more than a year old. Yikes.
Nonetheless, many reviewers were impressed. One commentator wrote simply, "Good concept, poor execution." Another states that "mine's printed edition brings an interesting concept to the table ... Instead of subscribing to five magazines, why not just subscribe to one that has everything you want inside?" And Paul Silverman, the executive media director of Team One, Lexus' media agency and part of the Publicis Groupe, boasted to The New York Times, "When we first pitched this idea to Time Inc., one of the very first things we said to them was, we think we actually have a new business model for you, and, actually, the magazine industry."
While I agree that the execution was indeed bungled, I'm also not enamored with the concept. No, not because of some blind loyalty to publishing or an unwillingness to see it evolve. Quite the opposite, for I know that publishing is necessarily undergoing some evolutionary pains right now, but this is one direction that appears to have a short life.
My reasoning is pretty straightforward. First, if a subscriber was interested in five magazines, then it's simply not possible to get a subscription to one aggregated magazine that has "everything you want inside"!
Secondly, this technology may impress a few readers, but all have already seen it-whether they know it or not. It's called direct mail! Our industry consistently employs personalized messaging, variable digital printing and customized content in its efforts-and prospects are starting to actually demand such relevant and timely mail, as long as the personalization doesn't stray from relevant territory into creepyville. But Time Inc. failed on both counts, delivering old (and sometimes wrong) material, and Lexus' advertisements got a little creepy, such as referencing a highway that a reader often takes.