Paste Magazine President ‘Thinking Beyond Print’ With Site Relaunch
Now in its fifth year, Paste magazine is among the fastest-growing independently published entertainment magazines around. In addition to now being distributed in 12 countries, the magazine recently garnered the No. 21 spot on the Chicago Tribune’s “50 Best Magazines” list—right behind the New Yorker. So as today’s most successful magazines are figuring out how to blend their print and online brands, Paste President and Publisher Tim Regan-Porter recently decided it was time to beef up the magazine’s online identity. Pastemagazine.com relaunched this week, featuring its first-ever site sponsor (Acura) and all-new content including blogs and “Paste Station”—where site visitors can listen to streaming albums in their entirety for free. Regan-Porter spoke with Inbox about some of the site’s new features, the challenges faced by an independent publisher relaunching a site, and how to incentivize your staff to “think beyond print.”
Inbox: What were the most significant changes or upgrades made to pastemagazine.com as a result of the relaunch?
Tim Regan-Porter: There are two primary upgrades to pastemagazine.com: 1) We’ve added a multimedia player [Paste Station] that offers streaming and downloadable audio and video. Right now, the player offers streaming albums and music videos. New features are being developed weekly, and soon it will offer streaming along with downloadable audio, music videos, short films and movie trailers, as well as community features and personalization.
2) We’ve refreshed the look and feel of the site. The site looks much fresher and is easier to navigate. We wanted it to be clear from a quick glance at the site what content Paste covers, how to find it, and how to subscribe to the print magazine. That said, the site is also continually evolving. The focus of our relaunch was overall navigation and look, especially on the home page. The coming weeks will see new features added to enable easier browsing and more community features. We want to have more dialogue with our readers, to create a community for them and to enable them to be our brand ambassadors with easier sharing of our content.
Inbox: Was it a difficult decision to decide to accept advertising on the site? Why didn’t you do so sooner?
Regan-Porter: We’ve accepted advertising almost since the beginning. However, we’ve never sought sponsorship of the Web site or even put an effort into selling online ads. It was there mainly as an option for added-value to print sales. Now, online clearly needs to be a significant part of a healthy magazine’s revenue. At the at the end of last year—even without our trying—we saw a noticeable increase in the number of advertisers approaching us for online-only initiatives. Facilitating online sales, as well as circulation support, was the primary driver behind the relaunch efforts.
Inbox: Have you devised an effective strategy in getting your personnel to think beyond print and to cultivate a stronger online presence?
Regan-Porter: Getting the team (sales and editorial) to think beyond print—to think of Paste as a platform-neutral content provider—is an ongoing challenge. Everyone understands it in theory, but the onus is on management to align incentives and requirements with what we need for the new reality we’re facing. We’re really at the very beginning of this process.
Inbox: Can you provide an example of a way in which you offer incentives or require your staff to think beyond print?
Regan-Porter: We’re still figuring this out. On the sales side, we’re creating more bundled packages, adding extra cash incentives for online and event sales, holding the line on not giving away saleable assets as added value, and encouraging the team to dig for non-print connections in order to tap into new budgets. On the editorial side, we’re requiring staff (marketing and editorial) to contribute regularly to our online content—whether that’s with blog entries, news items, reviews or features—and to stay on top of what other sites are doing to look for relevant ideas and potential partnerships.
Inbox: What was the most difficult challenge you encountered in re-launching the site?
Regan-Porter: Despite the bursting of the dot-com bubble, good IT resources are still hard to find. And it’s easy to fall into never-ending planning. Everyone has ideas, spurred by the constant evolution of the Internet. And at some point, you just have to drive projects to completion. In our case, our 5th anniversary and a partnership with Yahoo Answers provided a fixed deadline that we were able to mobilize around.
I hear similar stories from other independent publications. Every Web effort pays off handsomely, yet they don’t do enough due to 1) not knowing what to do and 2) not having the staff to do it.
Inbox: Can you offer any tips to other publishers who are evaluating their own online identities and considering their own relaunches?
Regan-Porter: Stay on top of what other sites—even those far afield from your domains—are doing. You’re dealing with a constantly moving target, and if you don’t keep learning and adjusting, you’re out of the game.
Do something and do it quickly. Don’t get bogged down by the search for the ultimate relaunch. The worst thing you can do is let your site stagnate while you’re locked in analysis paralysis. Let your site evolve continually in small measures.