Falling in Love With Your Audience! Reflections on Magazine Relationships and Addictions. From Spain with Love….November 1, 2014
Complications, dilemmas, obstacles and concerns: all words used when describing the problems going on in magazine media today. In fact, problems that have materialized in our traditional magazine world since 2008 when the economy went bust and technology burst upon the scene. Since then we heard the naysayers who cried: “Print is dead! Long live digital!” And more recently the catchphrase: “Print isn’t dead; it’s just in decline,” as magazine media scrambles to adjust and rise like a phoenix from the ashes of problems that digital supposedly caused print and the entire industry when it fusilladed into prominence in 2008.
But the problem is not with ink on paper and the solution is not with just pixels on a screen. The problem is what are we trying to engage our audience/customers with, and that’s where our troubles lie. And that happens when we forget the importance of the one and only reason we exist; we create, we design and we plan for our audience. That’s it. The only reason we exist. Not for the advertisers, not for the accolades we receive when we put out a noticeably great product (which don’t get me wrong, that’s an amazing and honorable achievement), but we breathe and live for our audience, period.
When we cocoon ourselves inside our offices, falling in love with our many platforms, instead of the many readers who buy our magazines and magazine media, regardless of the platforms, the result can’t be anything but disastrous.
Our audience, our customer, can detect when there is no passion, no relationship; when everything we are providing them is just via automation and there is no blood, sweat or tears involved. In fact, I used to say that we have to be experience-makers, but after a recent trip to Spain where someone said, no not just experience-makers; we have to be experience-love makers, did I really begin to see why addiction and obsession are two things missing in our attempt to satisfy our customers. Addiction and obsession are both parts of real loving relationships, whether we’re talking about human-to-human or human-to-object and that’s a proven fact, and above all, we in magazine media are in the relationship business, without a doubt.
Being in the relationship business, we are then aware that those relationships must exceed ink on paper and they must exceed pixels on a screen. And unless we humanize our magazines and magazine media, there will be no relationship. That’s why it’s so important for us to keep in mind that as we venture into the future, we should not put our hopes in new gadgets, such as tablets or mobile. Less than a few years ago, it was all about tablets, today it’s all about mobile and smart phones; who knows what it will be next?
But truly our only hope for survival is in creating a long-lasting relationship with our audience and creating a brand that relates to that audience and engages that audience, which in turn will create an addiction to that brand; an addiction so strong that the customer will feel a vacuum or a void without it, whether it’s every day, every week or every minute. We have to create this type of long-lasting relationship.
At a recent presentation I gave in Madrid, Spain for the combined ARI (consumer magazine association) and Coneqtia (business magazine association) third annual forum day; I spoke about the necessity of putting the audience first and the importance of learning how to be chief addiction officers, rather than chief content officers or chief design officers. Before giving that presentation, I thought about all the unnecessary additions of titles we have now, especially those that involve the word “chief.” It seems everyone is a chief: chief content officer, chief design officer, chief revenue officer, which puts us heavy on chiefs and light on the regular soldiers who actually do the work. Is everybody a chief officer now? Where are the people who actually do the work?
If that’s the case, maybe we should start thinking about some new titles that include the word chief: how about chief inspiration officer or chief dream officer or chief addiction officer? In a relationship, those are the only kind of chiefs that matter, believe me.
Here are three points from the presentation I made in Madrid and they hold very true:
• Destroy all the platforms…
• Reinvent the way we think about publishing, marketing, branding, etc… and the way we do each and every one of the aforementioned professions…
• To each medium and to each profession their own and we have to respect that and put that as priority number one…
And in the 21st century it should never be a question of print or digital – the advancement of the generations does not sound a death knell for either one. When television came onto the scene, theaters didn’t die; books didn’t die, nor did radio. Therefore digital did not or will not kill print and vice versa. There is room enough on our audience’s page for both, if we engage them and fascinate them and be their addiction connection. Pushing narcotics may be illegal, but pushing content, captivating content, definitely isn’t.
Here are four mile markers on the highway of a successful future for magazine media:
• Know your audience (all of your audience)
• Free yourself from the platform
• Become an experience and not a guide
• Create a necessary, sufficient, and relevant product
The worst, absolutely the worst, title recently invented for people in magazine media is Chief Content Officer. No one is in the content delivery business only; no one. Magazines are much more than content. You have to be the Chief Drug Dispenser and you have to know what makes your audience addicted…good drugs, good addictions!
But what are the drugs at your disposal that you can use to create the addiction:
• The ABCs… know your words
• Color… learn the psychology of color
• Pictures… bigger is better
• Videos… if you are on the screen, make it move
• Sounds… make them hear
• All combined in one way or another to get you addicted…
And remember: what we create in print is permanent, but digital is ever-changing. That matters and is vitally important to remember. In print there is VALUE… monetary value that you can own, show and engage with… Print is the bridge between yesterday and tomorrow. In digital there is no lasting value… but rather instant value, now you see me now you don’t… now you own me now you don’t.
Another invaluable chief, since we’re so attached to the word in today’s magazine media, is the Chief Seduction Officer. You are to decide whether you want to seduce your audience to a:
• One night stand!
• Love affair!
• A long lasting relationship!
It’s all up to you.
After my Madrid presentation, an editor walked up to me and asked why I was known as “Mr. Magazine™.” I didn’t know quite what to say, until she smiled and returned with,” If magazines were a country, I would definitely think of you more as Mr. Ambassador than Mr. Magazine™.”
The point was well-taken and only confirms what I feel about the power of addiction. I am addicted to magazines and have been since I was a young boy. And that addiction produced a passion that people take note of.
Another editor came up to me later and gave me the honorary title of Chief Inspiration Officer, which also gave me pause.
If my addiction produced a passion that people noticed and in turn inspired people to think outside of the box or propelled their creativity; what in the world could these two new “chiefs” do on the payroll of a magazine: chief addiction officer and chief inspiration officer!