Going Beyond Print to Save Magazines
Across the conference, magazine publishers embraced aggressive flexibility. That seemed to be the message of every executive speaking at the 2010 Publishing Business Conference & Expo (PublishingBusiness.com), held from March 8-10 at the New York Marriott Marquis Times Square: That they're working across every platform to give readers what they want to read, where they want to read it, and sell advertisers robust, reportable, multichannel marketing campaigns. The five magazine executives at Tuesday's Executive Roundtable featured session spoke about their own implementation of these new approaches in a panel about how magazine publishers could ensure a future for print in an increasingly digital age.
New Platforms and Mass Brand Bolster Reader's Digest Magazines
"Increasingly, all of our pieces are working together," said Peggy Northrop, Editor-in-Chief of Reader's Digest. "If you think of your brand as a circle of products with the consumer in the middle, you can really start any place on that circle" and bring new readers from that spot into consuming your other products. She pointed out that Reader's Digest "happened to start as a print magazine in 1922," but over the years had added music and books, and was now expanding into online and downloadable games on its Web site that are based on its popular magazine columns. "If you like the brand in one platform, you like the brand in another platform," she said, so "in every piece of our business we are trying to get it onto other platforms." This does more than get traffic to the digital platforms. Reader's Digest has found that those digital games are actually very helpful in getting readers to pay for content.
"People are saying the wider your focus is, the more difficult it is to reach readers," said Northrop, but "I think there are a lot of ways you can use a mass brand." Reader's Digest has 50 editions around the world, and "editorially, we are sharing content with all of these magazines, so it's a very, very efficient model." In addition, she says Reader's Digest's relationship with CNN International lets them bring worldwide perspectives into their pages. But Northrop also pointed out that there were things Reader's Digest did to "niche-ify" the mass brand, such as the "Make it Matter" column, which focuses on people who are doing things to give back to their community. These stories often bring a huge response from the readership, and Reader's Digest has done live, community-focused events that asked readers what causes they most wanted to focus on. In the last case, those readers chose literacy, so Reader's Digest held events in New York and at libraries around the country promoting literacy. In this way, Northrop feels Reader's Digest can be both "mass and niche."