A Roundup of Thoughts from MPA’s Magazines 24/7: Connecting with the Consumer

User-Generated Content, Online Video and Social Networking Big Focus at the MPA’s 3rd Digital Publishing Conference

The magazine industry showed great enthusiasm and initiative on Tuesday in New York about getting their websites on the same playing field as the rest of the world’s popular and successful websites—those that are heavy into user-generated content, social networking and use of online video.

IDG’s Colin Crawford chaired the program, and with his company seeing online revenues account for 35 percent of total US publishing revenue, the MPA clearly had the right person in charge of this conference.

“Experimentation and uncertainty abound. But perhaps the greatest mistake will be if we don’t transform our organizations and take some risk,” said Crawford.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

Google’s David Eun kicked the day off by encouraging publishers to grab their share of the $976 million Google paid out to content providers during the fourth quarter of last year.

“At Google, we don’t own content, nor do we create it,” said Eun. “We help people find it and use it.” He said Google exists to connect users, advertisers and publishers and that over the years, Google has come up with three primary principles to ensure that they respect content owners and protect their rights:

  • Google respects copyright
  • Google lets owners choose whether they let Google index their content
  • Google tries to bring benefit back to content owners by partnering with them

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He also addressed the theory of the long tail, reminding publishers that as costs fall, there is less need to lump consumers into a one-size-fits-all mentality. “Narrowly targeted goods can be just as successful as mainstream fare. To not address the long tail theory is to miss a huge opportunity.”

Advertisers Need to be Convinced User-Generated Content Isn’t Going Away

The next panel, moderated by Hitwise’s LeeAnn Prescott, demonstrated that while publishers are certainly ready for user-generated content, advertisers are still a bit weary.

John Davison, Senior VP and Editorial Director for 1UP Network, the online destination for Ziff Davis’ gaming magazines, said it’s time for advertisers to realize it’s all about targeting. Just because a user could be saying how much the advertiser’s “game sucks”, doesn’t mean advertisers should reject being placed next to such comments. “It’s about getting your name out there and advertising in communities where people are talking about your competitors’ games,” said Davison. “Someone needs to tell advertisers that this user-generated stuff is not going away.”

Time of Rapid Change Calls for Great Innovation

CondéNet’s www.Flip.com, an online-only destination for teen girls to create scrapbooks, journals, aka “flip books” knew they had to be creative with advertisers in order to be successful. They knew banner ads weren’t going to work. So they let the users choose which advertisers they want on their profile, for example, Vera Wang Princess or Clean and Clear. They are employing a pull strategy instead of a push strategy and it’s working very well, according to Chris Gonzalez, Executive Editor, Teen Sites, CondéNet.

Using the Web to Reach Consumers Daily and the Ease of Selling Print Subs Online

Susan Lyne, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s President and CEO said MarthaStewart.com will relaunch on March 10 with more social networking features.

Lyne mentioned that since the start of the year, MSLO has increased their digital staff from 25 to about 70 people. Their focus is on building daily relationships with their target audience of 25-39 year-old women using daily email blasts. They also want to increase time users spend on their website from the existing average of 18 minutes.

Lyne also pointed out the obvious advantage the web has over generating print subscriptions. She spoke about Blueprint, a lifestyle/shopping magazine MSLO launched in May 2006 that got two-thirds of it subscriptions for the first two issues from the Internet. “It’s a far better way to develop new subs,” said Lyne.

“Network is Scale, and Scale is Dollars”

John Loughlin, Hearst Magazines Executive VP and GM reminded publishers that the notion that one medium diminishes the other is absolutely gone. Just the displacement cost of money you don’t have to spend on direct mail makes the Internet extremely viable.

yesHe took it a step further by saying publishers should stop thinking about having just one magazine website. They need to start thinking about a network of websites. “Because network is scale, and scale is dollars,” said Loughlin.

“Best Portal-Partner Practices”

Yahoo!’s Deanna Brown said that several “best portal-partner practices” have emerged for content providers. She asked three things of publishers:

  • Publishers should trust Yahoo!, to know its brand, while Yahoo! trusts publishers to be right about their brand.
  • Providing Yahoo! with great content and often, is the way to go. “If you feed us, it’ll pay off for you.”
  • Lastly, she asked that publishers “co-conspire”. Look for business opportunities that publishers and Yahoo! can explore and profit from together.

“If you Don’t Have Video, You Won’t Have Viewers”

With Time Inc. joining the ranks of Forbes.com in developing their own in-house production studio that will help its 130 magazines create video for their websites, video is clearly where magazine publishers need to be to succeed.

But how will they monetize these videos? Will they ever get video rates to be as high as TV rates? Video-heavy Forbes.com’s Editor, Paul Maidment didn’t reveal numbers but did say the ROI was high and that the video use on his site is very strategic.

As Seventeen‘s Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket boldly stated, “If you don’t have video, you won’t have viewers.”

MPA’s Inaugural Digital Awards

After lunch, the MPA revealed its first-ever digital awards. The awards honored excellence and innovation of magazine brands on all digital platforms. Categories included Website of the Year, Magazine Blog of the Year, Best Online Video, Best Podcast, Best Mobile Strategy, Best Online Community and Best Web-Only Tool. Visit the MPA’s website for a complete list of the winners.

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