M. Thea Selby is a Principal in Next Steps Marketing, a San Francisco boutique firm that solves audience-building challenges in creative, customized way using practical "call-to-action" marketing techniques where the return is clearly measurable by clicks, online sign-ups, responses to direct mail, orders from partners, or sales at newsstand.
She was the 2010 Women's Leadership Conference Chair, is a co-founder and board member of Exceptional Women in Publishing—a national organization dedicated to supporting women in and through the power of online and print media—and is the former CEO and Publisher of Light Green Media, a digital publishing company.
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I want to talk about discoverability*, a word I just absorbed and fully bought into myself in my talks with people about digital magazines and sales.
When I go into a brick-and-mortar store and find the magazine section, whether it’s Barnes and Noble or Safeway or The Booksmith, I am met with an array, a plethora, a feast of magazines. Covers, either fully exposed on the front of a newsstand rack or partially covered up on the second and third tiered rows, feed my eyes with incredible imagery and words popping out at me from all sides.
It is an experience of too much—of abundance, of the luxury of content that is well-expressed with words and beautifully and provocatively expressed graphically.
I also have a feeling that I could find something I wasn’t even remotely looking for. I might like fashion titles and gravitate to that category, but then what I actually pick up is highly influenced by what is on the cover. Random pleasure. Who knew that the insouciance of the woman on the cover of Lillie magazine, aimed at young fashion/sustainable obssessed women, would catch my eye? Or that a magazine on vintage cars could be so attractive I couldn’t keep my hands off it?
This is what I want in my digital experience as well. When I go to the iPad newsstand, I don't want to see a sad, forlorn, and empty bookshelf (a particularly clear instance of skeuomorphic design failing miserably) with a few thumbnails of magazines on it. I click through to the store and categories, and still—little sad thumbnails of just a few magazines. Not the ones that I haven't seen, just the ones I see everywhere. No discoverability. I look for the search button; it isn't included in the basic design of the newsstand.
While I'm picking on Apple in this case, it's not any better with other newsstands like Google Play. They, too, miss the basic principle. Surprise me. Show me something I didn't already know. And show it big and beautiful.
I want blasts of color and words, assualts of images and thoughts. I want too much shouting out to me, not an empty, fake wood imitation of a shelf with nothing on it. I want mysterious and glorious new titles I've never heard of next to the tried-and-trues, not just the tried-and-trues.
Once we add discoverability to our digital magazine buying experience, we will grow the sales exponentially.
Women's Leadership Conference
The Women's Leadership Conference takes place next Wednesday, March 6, in San Francisco. The conference is making available three scholarships for young people (college or starting their careers) to attend at no cost. This all-day conference, of which Publishing Executive is a media partner, is for women and men in publishing and is put on annually by Exceptional Women in Publishing. More info on amazing speakers and sessions here. Contact me if you'd like to take one of the scholarships.
*Discoverability does not yet have its own Wikipedia page, so I do not know its exact definition. It is, however, referenced several times in Wikipedia, mostly in relation to software design.