The Case for Ads in Digital Magazines
There's little doubt that we're in the midst of one of the most amazing landscape transformations in the intersection of content and consumers. The meteoric rise of the tablet platform continues unabated as Apple and others post record sales figures each quarter. There's no debate that consumers have enthusiastically embraced this new communication and content as their primary technology platform. There are countless research studies that validate the growing interest and intensity around content and commerce opportunities being showcased within the tablet format.
Traditional magazine publishers on both the B-to-C and B-to-B side continue to grapple with the challenge of a consumer marketplace where media consumption patterns are shifting quicker than their ability to optimize the new platform. Many are caught in a financial trap, juggling between the financial reality of their print titles (both from a circulation and advertising standpoint) and the allure of a readership that has an insatiable desire for engaging content on this new and exciting platform.
While publishers have succumbed to this market need by replicating their current print titles to the new digital platform, their readers have become more vocal about their displeasure in the print-gone-digital experience. Consumers know that content can be provided in a much more engaging and entertaining manner by leveraging new functionality within the platform.
As marketers, the message is clear: You must begin to shift your focus and attention to this new digital intersection between consumer and content. Your dollars belong in media venues that attract a high concentration of your primary customers and acquisition targets. There's no time to be romantic or nostalgic about the shift that's occurring here. It's time to take a closer look at the opportunities that are available to you. Here's an outline that will help you determine if advertising within digital magazines is the right move for you. So much of your strategy should be focused on whether digital magazines are "existing title replications or new magazines."
- Audience is important: As with any component of your marketing strategy, make sure that this new digital intersection has the potential to reach your target audience with relevant and engaging content. You have every right to ask a publisher for all sorts of data regarding the profile of recipients of their publication. While we can all get excited about flashy new tools, make sure that you're engaging with an audience profile that fits your marketing needs. Ask how consumers will receive the publication — either directly via email or thru the app store. This will give you a sense of just how high the hurdle of audience engagement with this content will be.
- Relevant and targeted editorial: You'll want to make sure that you have a complete understanding of the philosophy that the publisher and editor have for building this digital publication. There have been numerous misfires in the digital magazine world by legacy publishers who have simply imported print content to the new digital footprint. None of these new digital publications truly leverage the features and functionality of the new digital delivery platform. Have the new editorial team explain in great detail how their vision for interactive content in this new format will truly engage their reader and your customer. If you aren't feeling excited about the content, you can be sure that your customers won't either.
- Design elements: Remember that your advertising will or won't work based on the level of interest and engagement with the digital publication. You'll want to listen closely to the creative vision of the publication and understand how the creative team will maintain a high level of interest and excitement with the publication on a issue-by-issue basis. Digital magazines live in the highly competitive real-time world of the internet. In order to retain an audience, design that's entertaining, informative and engaging is mandatory. Without engaging content and design, readership will decline over time along with the potential effectiveness of your marketing message. You'll also want to pay close attention to the positioning of your advertising within the new design and format to make sure that your marketing message gets proper "air time" within this highly interactive experience.
- Analytics are key: As with any new interactive medium, it's incredibly important that the publisher of the magazine provide marketers with a robust set of readership analytics. Unlike their print predecessors, digital publications have the ability to monitor each component of reader engagement, from receipt of the publication to time spent reading it to specific reading patterns to ad click behavior and more. We're at the infant stage of developing engaging digital content. All parties involved should have a great deal of patience in terms of working with this new medium to unlock the door to great reader and customer interest and affinity. Analytics can and should inform marketers and publishers about ways in which content and advertising should be tweaked to gain greater levels of engagement.
- Cost/benefit analysis: In recent years, marketers have continued to believe that new media should be "free media" during launch and testing phases. In fact, my sense is that smart marketers should be willing to invest in securing optimal partnerships and placements with new and engaging digital titles that are about to debut in the marketplace. Unlike print magazines and newspapers, the new digital format won't provide the same robust inventory of advertising pages within its folio. Conversely, marketers will be competing for fewer ad positions within titles that are targeted and relevant to their specific audience. Publishers would be wise to price their advertising inventory to marketers in a way that recognizes the early stage of the digital medium. Too many publications will fail on the launching pad if publishers try to reap huge rewards on launch issues.
It's truly an exciting and challenging time to be in the magazine and newspaper publishing business. Never before has there been greater angst and excitement. As a marketer, there's a golden opportunity to stake out a significant foothold in a new medium that will no doubt in the years ahead become the primary content distribution channel in our marketplace. My advice is to move aggressively and wisely into this new frontier. This is one of those moments when leading marketers show their chops by taking bold and visionary steps into new and exciting ways of engaging with their customers.
Al DiGuido is the interactive media and marketing leader at Interactive Media & Marketing Consultancy. He has over 20 years of marketing, sales, management and operations experience.