MPA-IMAG 2011: Focus on the Screen, Not the Device

August Home’s Don Peschke encourages publishers to focus on the customer experience and proves once again “he’s the smartest guy in the room”

Andy Clurman, President & COO of Active Interest Media, summed up Peschke’s presentation perfectly at the MPA’s IMAG event last week in San Francisco. Clurman asked out loud, “How is it that year after year, this publisher from the mid-west proves to all of us that he’s the smartest guy in the room?” I couldn’t have said it better.

Peschke’s motto has always been to surround his customers with service. His company currently publishes five magazines, several SIPs, which take no advertising. They produce a TV show and they sell a host of other products, including tools, lumber and accessories, in their Iowa-based brick-and-mortar (and online) store.

iPad is Destroying His Company

Well, not really, but when the iPad was released over a year ago, their panic was much like everyone else’s… “is print going away?” At that point, he was “ready to destroy his company – to just blow it up, because there’s a 19 year-old sitting in his garage who will do it anyway.”

Peschke’s practical response to this new reality is to view everything from a disaggregation standpoint. If you imagine our world with no distribution channel, no paper, what are you left with?  In Peschke’s case, he’s left with articles and content, and his mission is to fractionalize his content and get it to customers through digital channels. His goal is to bust all his content into little tiny parts and then redesign those parts for screens, not paper, and re-visualize it for multimedia.

The one great aspect to this strategy that will undoubtedly give it the focus it needs, is that there will be no advertising revenue. He’s thinking of how to monetize it all from the consumer right out of the gate.

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7 Screen Strategy

Peschke has compiled a team of developers in his building who don’t know what a magazine is and don’t care. They are an “unruly band of misfits” that wants cool stuff on a screen and they want it now. This team’s mission is to deliver content anywhere, any time, on any device.

But since there are so many devices, you can’t possibly get to them all. So they view it as “any screen”. He thinks putting a magazine on the iPad and calling it multimedia is nonsense. “It’s all about the customer experience,” he reminds us.

From this realization, they came up with design criteria for a digital world focused on screens, not devices. It starts out with seven strategies, the seven “F-words”, as he described them:

  1. Form Factor (screen design)
  2. Function (click, swipe, tap)
  3. Fractionalize (instead of big content on paper, smaller and smaller on digital)
  4. Format (multimedia, sound bits, voice over, etc.)
  5. Fast, fun, informative. (you’re always one click away from losing your customer)
  6. File size (customer base, your #s have to be big enough to do this)
  7. Financial (how is the user going to pay for this)

The seven strategies above then lead to identifying the seven screens:

  1. Email
  2. Web
  3. TV
  4. IPTV (web TV)
  5. Smart phones
  6. iPads/tablets
  7. 7th screen (the conceptual next step that asks the question, “if we’re putting all this time and money into screen design, where do we wind up?”)

Peschke then rolled through each of the screens and noted success he’s had in each. For email, his list size has grown from 50K in 2008 to the 300K they’ll get in 2011. Now that they’ve got the volume, the revenue is following. Their enhanced video slide shows with ads for their magazine can yield up to $800 CPMs.

What’s next?

Peschke says the iPad has forced them to shift their thinking. “Magazines as we know them are dead.” With web-enabled TV as the future, “TV as we know it is also dead,” said Peschke. Recent Forrester research shows people prefer web browsers to apps, so designing for a screen allows you to be device-agnostic.

“What you can do visually on a screen is to present something to a customer that’s the same content, but totally different experience. Think screens, not devices,” said Peschke. “Keep the seven criteria in mind for each type of screen, monetizing content by making each customer experience a compelling purchase for them.”

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