Don’t Forget to PEG Your Magazine Media: Add Passion, Emotion, and Guts to Your Daily Regimen… And Please Take Your Vitamin Cs… Mr. Magazine™’s Prescription for a New Magazine Media Business ModelFebruary 20, 2013
When DeWitt Wallace shopped his idea of Reader’s Digest to every major magazine publisher in New York City in 1920 he was faced by one rejection after the other. When Henry Luce launched Sports Illustrated in 1954 he was not disheartened when the magazine lost money for 12 years. Wallace went on to publish Reader’s Digest on his own in 1922 and Luce stuck with Sports Illustrated making it the largest sports weekly magazine in the world.
Both men were passionate about the subject matter, emotional about the content and staunch believers in what their gut told them to do.
This is a far cry from today’s owners of the magazine media, most of whom have no editorial background whatsoever. Luce and Wallace were editor’s first, business folks second. They knew good editorial content when they saw it and they knew the value of such editorial in reaching customers, both readers and advertisers.
Hugh Hefner , Jann Wenner and Marvin Shanken are but three remaining editors/publishers who still act from their emotion, passion and, above all, guts. All three have been overseeing both the business and the editorial side of their respective magazines.
Luce must be turning in his grave hearing the news of the eminent sale of his creation Time Inc. and Wallace has probably flipped completely over by now.
I know history shouldn’t repeat itself, but it was, still is, and will continue to be a great instructor, teaching you to live in the present, but plan for the future.
However, I know that the magazine media today must undergo a transformation if it is to thrive, as well as survive. Because if they can’t make it today, why should they care about tomorrow? It’s as simple as that, and as complex.
The old business model of the passion driven and need-based product is changing into a numbers driven and want-based existence that requires a complete shake-up of the magazine media’s ideas and the very foundations the industry has been built on for the last 150 years. That good-old, complacently-content magazine familiar won’t fly in this digital age, or so they tell us. The bubble has burst. On that, I think we can all agree.
The new model today is synonymous with the statement: If I give you what you want, you will find what you need.
Think about that for a second. Just let it really sink in. If I give you what you want, you will find what you need.
And to empower that declaration into action, you need the mega-boost of some very potent vitamins…and I have them.
The Vitamin Cs for magazine media …the new business model in action.
Customer: From Mass to One…
Content: From Who, What, When, Where, Why and How to What Is In It For Me…
Commerce: From See and Buy, to Produce, Introduce and Buy…
Community: From Melting Pot to Birds of a Feather…
No longer are we, the media in charge. There’s no possible way, with all the choices out there, that as an industry we can possibly believe that we dictate what our customer’s will and will not consume when it comes to their media experiences. No way.
That is foolish thinking and just won’t wash anymore.
There are two types of customers that exist in our world and must be satisfied: the audience of one and the advertiser. Without either of these two, we’re sunk before we leave port.
Both customers: the audience (albeit a reader, viewer, listener, or user) and the advertisers have another 3 Vitamin Cs they enjoy and cherish: control, choice and comfort. Both are now more in control of their destiny than ever before, both have plenty of choices and both are looking for this comfort zone they call their own.
But out of those two, the audience of one is the most important. Why, you might ask? Why, when advertising dollars far surpass any single subscription or cover price of an individual consumer.
The answer is simple: the audience of one is twice the customer. Has the train jumped the track with you in it on that statement? If so, I’ll be happy to explain. The audience of one is our buying public, our reason for existing; they nail down our homes on the newsstands and keep them secure. But they’re also the reason the advertisers exist; they are the glue that sticks their products to the store shelves. Without nails and glue, our products would be free-floating, like a balloon in the sky, floating up, up and away…never to be seen again. And that would not be a good thing.
So we’re selling content to our audience and our advertisers are fishing for those audiences any way they can catch them.
So our second Vitamin C – Content – is vital to the body of our new business model. However our content today is in no way your father’s content. No ledes with journalists’ best friends Who, What, When, Where, Why and How, but rather What Is In It For Me, the WIIIFM factor. Note the three IIIs in the WIIIFM factor. It is all about me, the audience of one. The heart of our being can’t live without content. So it’s got to be the best and most significant information and entertainment that it can be for our customers.
There is no shortage of information out there. Between the social media, the constant e-mail updates, the Tweets and the re-Tweets, our customers are wired and “on” at all times. So the information we supply them must exceed their expectations and define what they’re looking for. That’s why priority number one for media publishers today should be content curation and solution creation.
Remember our job now can be summed up in three things: content curators, solution creators and experience makers.
Commerce is that wonderful buying and selling we call capitalism that we all know and love. But today, with our audience of one in control, it has to be more than that random ad placed on that random page hoping for that random sell. It has to be much more targeted and geared toward that audience of one.
I offer you a sunny-day-at-the-lake scenario for your consideration: The content of our product is the bait, the advertisers are the fishermen bringing their poles, and the audience of one, our top priority, is the fish. So it’s very apparent that the selection of the bait determines the fish we’re going to catch. Therefore it’s up to the fisherman to choose well.
But more than that, media publishers need to realize that we’re in the business of selling to make a profit too. That’s why the new business model proposes divvying up the fish, so that the advertisers aren’t the only fishermen in the boat. We need to share in that common stream of revenue and be creative and interactive with our advertisers and our audience of one. We have to engage in this fishing tournament for the sake of that singular audience member, to ensure we are the ones providing his or her experience from that moment on. Because, folks, the lake is too big for just a few anglers; we’re not just providing the bait anymore, we’re bringing our rod and reels too.
That’s why in our day and age endemic ads make perfect sense. If you’re a children’s magazine, for example, why would you advertise Harley Davidson’s in that publication? It just doesn’t make sense that a fisherman would choose tadpoles, when he or she would catch more fish with worms.
Relevant message to a relevant audience via the relevant medium… just pure common sense.
Community is our 4th vitamin in the bottle. In this age of Infinite Transcended Media, we are no longer one big happy family who excludes outsiders and panders to the egos of our own kind. ‘Our own kind’ simply doesn’t exist anymore. Today we are clusters of communities; the melting pot has become a melting vat instead. And the ultimate goal of any person within that huge vat is to belong to a community. We have to treat our customers like members of our community. Birds of a feather flock together. It isn’t just an old, outdated saying. If you live New York City, but actually reside in one of the suburbs, say…Brooklyn; when someone asks you where you live, you’re going to respond, Brooklyn. That’s because you feel more connected to that smaller enclave, your community, than you do to the entire city. It’s the same with the clusters of media communities. Our customers are flocking together and we have to be there with the Welcome Wagon when then move in.
And the cushion of all of this is creativity. There must be more to us than just surface banter. We have to achieve depths and allow our customers to discover the layers one at a time. Then we give them what they really want, comfort. Choice, control and comfort are the priorities our customers are demanding today. And the sooner we realize that, the better off we’ll be.
If we take these Vitamin Cs of the new business model and swallow them down with the MVP approach: Meet and exceed the expectations of our customers – Validate for them, everything that is out there – Preview the near future so they know what to expect tomorrow – then we begin to see the effects the Cs have on our new business model. Subsequently, we have new strength and have acquired immunity to the bugs out there that threaten to put us in our sickbed.
Our cheeks are rosy and we finally have the good health we have been seeking for so long. Bring back the passion, add a dash of emotion and have the guts to let your heart lead the way, because I know there is no other way for the magazine media to thrive in this numbers-driven, statistics-shackled age. So start spreading the news, change, the right change, is the only constant in the magazine media business and both Change and Constant start with C.