Time Inc.’s Kimberly Miller on Web 2.0 for Publishers
As more companies attempt to leverage Web 2.0 tactics for online acquisition, experts are still debating the definition of this approach centered on user participation and human-computer interaction. O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly, often credited with coining the term Web 2.0, depicts the discipline as a user-generated experience and computer industry revolution “caused by the move to the Internet as a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.”
From IBM social-networking analyst Dario de Judicibus’ definition—“a knowledge-oriented environment where human interactions generate content that is published, managed and used through network applications in a service-oriented architecture”— to the broader description of Web 2.0 as a loose representation of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s the “noosphere”—a collective consciousness or shared pool of human knowledge—the debate continues.
Definitions aside, it is clear that providing tools for personalization is one way to generate user interest by allowing visitors to cull through available information and zero in on specific areas. At the DMA’s Annual Circulation Day last month, Target Marketing caught up with Kimberly Miller, online director for Time Inc.’s InStyle.com and RealSimple.com, to discuss how circulation executives are defining Web 2.0 and maximizing its potential to boost the bottom line.
Target Marketing: What was the general consensus among circulation professionals regarding the definition of Web 2.0?
Kimberly Miller: The main consensus was that Web 2.0 is centered around the user and user-generated content. For example, if you look at sites that have been around for a long time like eBay or Amazon, users are putting up their own items and rating the seller on how they are doing. That was a sort of precursor to Web 2.0. Facebook was the next step, with customized profiles that show a person’s mood, where they have traveled around the world, or music and photos. The consumer is taking charge of the content they want others to see.
TM: How are you seeing companies delve into participation with Web 2.0?
KM: Not all companies are there yet. However, it is even easier for companies to start. Before considering a blog, companies can launch, for example, a forum where consumers can write questions to editors, and the editors can write back. For example, on Real Simple’s forum, readers can ask questions such as, “How do I get that Oscars look?” and the editors can write back explaining, “Here are the products you can buy to get that look.” So there is not a lot of loss of control over content or brand image.
Blogs are an important part of Web 2.0—a lot of consumers like to be voyeurs, to read about other people’s lives and experiences through reading blogs—which are very viral. When working to leverage Web 2.0, you want those bloggers picking up your store’s blog and linking to you. Because that blogger has picked up a link to something you published, now all of a sudden you have new, unique visitors that are exposed to your content.
Another thing that is very easy for companies to do is create tools for consumers to personalize your Web content. For example, on RealSimple.com, we have recipe organizers. So when you come to the site, your personal Web box pops up, and you can sort through the recipes you like or add new ones to share. Consumers don’t want us to tell them what to do; they want us to give them the tools to allow personalization.
TM: With online forums, where is the line between the perceived “losing control” over the range of online comments regarding your brand and effectively managing negative customer comments?
KM: I think that is something everyone that puts content out, from a company perspective, is coming to grips with. In this day and age you have to be transparent. You have to let consumers say what they want to say. Otherwise it is not an authentic experience, and they will feel you are not putting the real foot forward. You have to allow those possibly negative comments to be posted, but, on the other hand, you have to be able to filter comments that are not what the site stands for. Most comments are fair game for users to put out there, and our editors are really embracing that because they want the consumer to have really true, transparent experiences.
TM: What methods are Real Simple and In Style using to measure Web 2.0 success?
KM: For right now, we look at return visits to the sites. Once we get a unique visitor to the site, we analyze how frequently they are returning in a given week or month. Another metric we use is how many minutes they spend on our site for each visit, and when they are on the site, we track how many pages they consume. If they come to the site and look at two pages before they leave, I am not happy with that. I want to make sure they are looking at what we have, then customizing it.
Another main measure is which sources are providing that unique visitor. You really want to get qualified, unique visitors to your site where you can run advertising so [you want to make sure] the right people from your target demo are coming to your site.
TM: What tips do you have for engaging vs. monetizing? Is it possible to combine the two?
KM: When focusing on how to generate more page views, if you have people on your site and you are getting them to look at more pages, that combines both monetizing and engaging. In terms of engagement or time spent on the site, not pages consumed, be careful what you consider true engagement. If a consumer is reading someone’s blog posts, they can scroll down and read the long list of posts. While it does not count as an additional page view (because they have clicked three times, and it is still one page view,) they have spent five to six minutes reading all those blog posts, so it is valuable.
In the future, the industry is going to move to selling not only page views, but also page views coupled with time spent on the site. As a marketer, you want to know the number of page views and also the engagement, or time spent on each page. As the industry moves to that, we will be able to monetize time spent on each page with advertisers as well.