The Innovators: Publishers focus on quality content to cut through the noise.
Magazine publishing is increasingly becoming an exercise in focus: where once publishers had the luxury of devoting most of their attention to a single, recognizable product, they are now grappling with the content swarm and diversified revenue streams endemic to the Digital Age. Magazine media is a term that gets thrown around in an attempt to better describe the variety and scope of what a "magazine publisher" does: publishing print and digital magazines, web content, and social media, hosting virtual and live events, or selling wares through ecommerce, to name a few.
Today's innovators are those who are adept at building clear communication channels-and brands and revenue streams-despite all the noise we are currently enduring. Publishers still have to be creative and serve their audiences-that's a given-but from the discussions we had with the five publishers featured in this special feature, fighting distraction and finding focus is the real challenge.
Ken Olling and Axel Haugan founded iPad-only magazine Katachi in 2010, right before the iPad's launch, with the modest goal of publishing the most interactive magazine in the world. And though the Norway-based publication has garnered adulation, winning "Magazine of the Year" at the 2013 Digital Magazine Awards for its innovative design, it took some time to get off the ground.
"We immediately ran into the barrier of technology," says Olling, who also acts as Katachi's editor-in-chief and creative director. The Katachi team quickly found that no publishing tool existed that could make use of the iPad's touch interface to their liking. Ultimately they decided to create their own, native platform-the Origami Engine, a Mac OS desktop application for producing iPad publications. Olling explains that developing Katachi and Origami simultaneously "became this sort of back-and-forth where we would come up with ideas editorially, work on tools to be able to do those things editorially, and we would learn from the mistakes."
Olling and his team spent a year-and-a-half developing their own native platform, which allows them to create interactive, sticky content optimized specifically for the iPad. "First we got a really fantastic, really engaging experience on the iPad as a magazine, and second we actually got a set of tools we could use to make all kinds of things: annual reports, documents, magazines, books, lightweight apps, and more."
Despite only publishing three issues so far, Katachi's success demonstrates that publishers can make a name for themselves with exclusive, digital-only content.
Where did the idea for Katachi initially come from?
We started seeing the publishers coming out with their take on tablets, and the majority of what we heard was that they were doing a channel play. They were going to treat the iPad in the same way they treated their web content: as a possible channel to take existing content and push it down a pipe. We saw that as a rather foolish way of going forward because there was a business model built directly into the iPad, one very different than the web.
The web has an inherent free component. We thought that if you just try to take web or print content as a PDF and push it down the iPad as a channel, people wouldn't be willing to pay anything more than a very, very marginal amount of money. We decided that because none of the publishing industry was exploiting the iPad's built-in business model, we would. We put it upon ourselves to come up with a next generation, tablet-based editorial experience.
What are your goals from a design perspective?
We publish Katachi as a study on what is possible in editorial design on the iPad. Each issue introduced a different set of communication solutions. So we use Katachi as a test bed or proving ground for Origami Engine and in the past year we have been focusing on commercializing the software and supporting other magazines that publish using OE. Katachi will continue to be published and its releases will continue to be sporadic.
What do publishers need to survive in the iPad magazine market?
They need to look at the iPad as a platform. Publications like News Corps' The Daily looked at a kind of web-based flow of content into templates, where you never really have to spend time thinking about or looking at what you're communicating. We took a very classic, almost old-fashioned approach to the way you develop editorial content: in the print world, you look at that content and decide, "How can I communicate it in an as effective way as possible?" This thinking, while it's the mainstay in the print world, never really made it over to the web.
The web is all about creating these standardized templates, and using a computer and a database to push it all forward. We went back to the traditions of print and we said, "This is a fantastic way of doing it. It's been very effective and readers like it." We wanted to take that approach and apply it to interactive, apply it to digital.
About six months before The Daily closed, we started to negotiate with them about them adopting Origami Engine as their main platform. They saw that you're not going to be able to engage readers by having the worst of mobile and the worst of the web. I can understand their process to get there, because the publishing industry by and large has understood that their defensibility of the market has to do with control of the distribution channel. They become more centered on the idea of the distribution channel, rather than going back and trying to think about how they're going to engage readers and what they're going to do with content.
What kind of innovations have you come up with?
One of the features we added was the ability to provide multiple languages in a single magazine issue. For example, say a small magazine publisher publishes in English, and after six months they see there's some degree of success and interest in a particular market. They can then add Russian, Chinese, or Spanish to it with no effort. And it provides that language directly into the same magazine and the same piece of content, so people that have their iPads set to Russian will automatically get the Russian version. This gives magazine publishers the ability to take advantage of being international, where typically the way that the magazine industry is broken up is very regional, and the magazine brands tend to license out their names to additional editorial organizations all over the world.
How are digital revenue strategies different from print?
Digital magazines are very different from print in many good ways because the revenue model is very different. In traditional print, your revenue model is cyclical. When you're in the physical newsstand you're making money, so you have these spikes in your revenue model. Whereas when you're dealing with digital magazines, your income becomes cumulative, because your products never leave the newsstand -- we actually sell more of issue one now than we did when we launched it. Katachi has sold about 90,000 copies and has about 1000 subscribers. We have had advertising in the magazine but the revenue primarily comes from single-issue sales.
I think we struggle with advertisers over the way they see interactive advertising. They value interactive advertising primarily along the lines of the web and clicks. We try to get our advertisers to understand that they have the opportunity to create a great experience that keeps the person in that experience for a very long period of time-kind of a strange mix between a promotional website and an advertisement. Most of the advertisers really don't understand this idea of getting someone to spend between five and seven minutes in a particular ad on the device, but I think they're starting to warm up to the idea.
Are there opportunities for real-time ad buying in digital magazines?
We're actually working on some ad network features in our system to allow for both advertising and direct purchasing. It's a hybrid between in-magazine purchasing, content-marketing, and a shopping cart experience. The technology is all there and ready to go; it's not a particularly difficult process. The challenge has to do with fulfilling those orders, because magazines typically are not fulfillment companies. It requires them to make a lot of technical effort to integrate and tie up to some of these organizations.
How does data play into engaging content production?
In Katachi, based on our analytics, people spend eleven-and-a-half minutes reading the magazine per session. Based on that period of time they read a little bit over five pages in the magazine. It's quite a considerable amount of time that people are spending, and the customer that buys an issue will then, on average, buy 2.3 issues. So almost everyone will buy a single issue, like it, and buy another issue. The way that we've dealt with our content is that we've approached the editorial process so that we create editorial content that is a bit more evergreen, that has a bit more appeal over a longer period of time. Then you do end up getting a lot more sales because people see that they can go back to it.
Managing Director of Content Operations, Reader's Digest
Everywhere, All of the Time
It's certainly a sign of the times that a legacy brand such as Reader's Digest, which is now nearly a century old and is well known for its middle-aged demographic, has been garnering industry attention lately for the rapid pace at which it's unveiling new digital products. In an effort to understand how Reader's Digest has managed to maintain the appeal of its flagship print product while simultaneously filling the online marketplace with content-heavy apps and digital magazine editions, Publishing Executive spoke with Kerrie Keegan, the managing director of content operations for Reader's Digest North America.
Keegan has spent more than 15 years in the publishing trenches, with experience across a range of creative, production, and management roles. Remarkably, she began her career at American Lawyer Media when the company was transitioning from manual paste-up methods to desktop publishing. "I've witnessed an extreme transition of technology over the years," says Keegan.
More recently Keegan played an instrumental role in the magazine's much-ballyhooed redesign, which made its public appearance with the January 2014 issue. Here she shares insight on Reader's Digest's mission to make its evergreen content available on literally any platform a consumer may hope to find it.
Reader's Digest has been garnering a lot of attention lately for its digital innovations. What do you think makes your digital division a leader in this space?
I think what sets us apart, and what I think a lot of people may not know about Reader's Digest, is that we've always been early adopters of digital technology-and in a lot of cases, first to the table. For instance, we were one of the first publishers to introduce an iPad app. We were the first users of the new publishing technology we used to create our new mobile phone app. And I think these technological innovations have been really successful in allowing our company to stay fluid in the marketplace.
What are some of the projects you've been working on recently?
Reader's Digest has just unveiled a new redesign of the brand, and along with that, our digital portfolio was revamped. Part of that relaunch was introducing a new mobile iPhone product. And what was groundbreaking was the technology we used to produce it.
We wanted to focus on the functionality of the app, but we needed to find more efficient ways of producing it. So we updated our workflow to introduce a new-to-market WordPress-to-DPS plugin. And we're actually pioneers in using this open-source platform to push our mobile editions through Adobe's digital publishing system. We worked in conjunction with Studio Mercury and the Mueller brothers, who've also done [digital applications and web-based projects for] The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.
I understand the recent print redesign was done in such a way that it would reference the redesigned digital edition. Is that right?
Right. When we were redesigning the brand, we actually looked across all platforms and let them influence each other. So our print product is a clean and classic redesign. We've actually harkened back to older versions of Reader's Digest that were more streamlined, and the design is really unique and user-friendly.
So we expanded that across our digital platforms, and we've made some great improvements there. We also have new columns, such as "Finish this Sentence," which has deep roots in social media: A question is posted on Facebook, readers respond, and then those answers are actually used in the magazine.
Would you say there's a philosophy of innovation within the company?
Yes, that's been baked into our DNA since the launch of Reader's Digest. And one of the things we've done, and that I don't think a lot of publishers do, is that we expose our entire team to all platforms -- our whole editorial and design teams contribute to all of our platforms. That's kind of a big thing, because editors can make decisions that are platform-specific with our content. A lot of other companies set their teams up to work in silos, so that their digital team, for example, will only be working on one product or platform. We also work very closely with vendors to enhance their technology and the software they're developing.
So you're saying that your editorial teams are working on digital and print products at the same time, and that everyone has their hands in both of those pots?
Yes, absolutely. Our editors will contribute to the magazine, and they'll also contribute to the website. They contribute bonus content to our tablet and mobile editions. And they're constantly kept current on the research and findings, to know how to distribute the content to the correct platforms. So yes, all of our editors and our design team work across platforms. Even our print designers, they'll work on the digital products. When we were concepting our mobile phone app and the tablet redesign, we included print designers, web designers, and digital designers, so that everyone could inform one another's products and platforms.
Can you talk a bit about how you're monetizing your digital content?
We still work with pretty traditional subscription revenue models. Our digital and print editions each have their own revenue models, and we've been testing some very successful programs since the Reader's Digest relaunch in January.
We're always looking at various subscription models across platforms. Our sister company, Taste of Home, has been really successful in leveraging a paywall on their website, and offering exclusive content for print subscribers. At Reader's Digest, we actually offer a six-month free trial to our print subscribers to try out our digital edition. And we've had really great success in converting them from print to digital through that incentive.
So, yes, we still have a lot of things in the works in terms of exploring new ways of bringing in revenue. We're constantly working on new ways to monetize, to bundle, and to offer different subscription models.
The editorial pages of your print edition have increased and your issue frequency has gone from 10 to 12 issues a year. Can you explain what led to that?
With our January 2014 issue, we focused on our most engaged subscription base, and we offered advertisers a new, first-to-market, premium print model and strategy. Our primary objective as a company was to eliminate all non-profitable circulation, and to focus on the three million most engaged consumers. So we wanted to enhance the quality of our core print product, and also the value of the proposition that we're delivering to both our readers and our advertisers.
We've actually eliminated the number of ads in the book, so that we have a higher editorial ratio; we went from a 50-50 to an 80-20 edit-ad ratio. We've also taken the initiative of increasing the user experience in both the print and the tablet editions, where we've actually spread out the advertising throughout the magazine so the pacing is better suited for our readers.
What are the biggest challenges you face in digital?
I think one of the biggest struggles is the competition for our consumers' time. So we're constantly looking for new and efficient products, like our iPhone app, to make sure that we reach them where they want to find us.
This idea of being able to reach readers wherever they are -- is that something you specifically focus on?
Absolutely. That's really my job: to take the content that this team is producing -- and we have very successful content that we've been producing since 1922 -- and make sure it's everywhere that people are looking for it. I think it's very important that publishers continue to do this. And I think the struggle is that with all of these expanding products and platforms, publishers need to remain efficient and agile enough to produce these products with whichever size teams they have.
Vice President of Editorial & Publisher,
80-year-old Model Railroader, an enthusiast magazine for railroading hobbyists and the flagship title of Kalmbach Publishing, is anything but dated. The hobby magazine is embracing new content delivery channels with a strong focus on original video. Last year, that effort culminated in the launch of a video-only, paid website, Model Railroader Video Plus (MRVP).
The site is a natural progression for Model Railroader, says Kalmbach vice president of editorial and Model Railroader publisher Kevin Keefe. Video became an important part of Model Railroader's strategy about six years ago, when Keefe put editors in front of the camera to do the product reviews and tutorials that they were known for in print. Demand for video increased at Model Railroader and at Kalmbach's other titles, leading the company to launch it's own video division two years ago, which now employs a full-time staff of seven.
Based on the increasing popularity of video among magazine subscribers, Keefe thought a separate, paid video product would be a worthy investment. Model Railroader charges current subscribers $27 per year, in addition to the regular $42.95 per year. A standalone yearly MRVP subscription costs $44.95.
So far, MRVP has been a success, with its most popular videos snagging up to 9,000 views. As a result, Model Railroader is expanding its marketing efforts beyond Model Railroader subscribers, which currently make up the majority of MRVP's subscription base. Last month, the magazine launched MR Insider, a weekly video on the Model Railroader site that previews MRVP videos. This video feature is in front of the site's paywall, allowing anyone to watch.
Following Keefe describes how his magazine's latest revenue generator came about and why Model Railroader is ahead of the game in the enthusiast space.
What is Model Railroader's mission as a niche publication?
MR's mission is to be the complete resource for the hobbyist. It's just that simple. We review new products. We show them how to build layouts large and small. We show them how to do smaller things like how to make scenery. We teach them how to do the sophisticated wiring and digital control that helps the railroad operate realistically. We're everything. We're all those things to these readers every month.
What indications did you have that more video content would be embraced by your audience?
The demographic for MR very much hovers around the Baby Boomer generation and older. Even that group is gravitating to digital. Our readers showed over the past couple of years that they really liked the videos we were doing on our website. That gave us the idea that if we invested some money in a deeper, wider experience on the video side, we could set up a separate product, and some of our readers would migrate over there. That is happening, which is great.
One of the germs of the idea for MRVP came from the tremendous popularity of the original series called Cody's Workshop. These are videos columns by one of our staff members Cody Grivno. In his programs he'll talk about the latest model railroading equipment. We still offer Cody's Workshop videos, but we also have a new series on MRVP's website called Cody's Office.
It seems you're having no problem monetizing your video content...
That's probably where the news is in this story. There are not a lot of websites out there, particularly consumer websites, that are charging that kind of money for content. But what we tell people is, "Trust us. We've invested the resources into making that purchase worth it." It's a pretty full experience, and it grows every month. We're adding about 16 to 20 new videos every month. That's 16 to 20 utterly original videos, varying in length anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. The videos cover all sorts of techniques. If you look at the site, we've got how-to stuff all over the map.
Have you noticed a change in the audience-editor dynamic?
It is very much about building relationships. Cody is a good example of that.
It's gotten to the point now that when our staff goes to MR shows throughout the country, when Cody is there, everyone wants to meet him. He's become quite a celebrity in the MR hobby world.
What is the biggest challenge to providing an in-depth video experience?
One is how do you take print journalists and turn them into video journalists? There has been a real learning curve. Now that we have established this new video department, the real task is to get other editors up to speed who don't have a lot of experience on camera. How do we get them to be comfortable? How do we help them think of ideas that translate well to video? Those are the kind of challenges we face.
Are you planning on expanding your video division?
Yes, we are. One thing the company has done-and MRVP has had a profound influence on this-is we've established an entirely new department called video services. We now have a full-time video staff of seven people. This is a department that didn't even exist two years ago. We're consolidating all the video efforts for our 14 other magazines. Certainly having that entity within the organization gives us the chance to think about other variations of the MRVP approach, which could range from any number of different pay sites.
Anaheed Alani, Editorial Director
Lauren Redding, Managing Editor
The Kids Are All Right
A quick look at Rookie, an online magazine for teenage girls, will reveal articles that may raise some eyebrows. The first article asks "Is non-monogamy right for you?" A second delves into the life of a 20th century surrealist artist. And the third is an interview with 80s punk rocker Thalia Zedek. None are familiar ground for the average reader of Elle Girl or Teen People, but Rookie editorial director Anaheed Alani is not concerned. She knows Rookie is covering what really matters to teenage girls.
Part of that certainty comes from the fact that Tavi Gevinson, founder of Rookie, is a teenager herself, who despite her age is well versed in creating popular web content. In 2008, a 12-year-old Gevinson launched Style Rookie, a fashion blog where she chronicled her personal style and the latest fashion trends. At its height, the site drew 30,000 readers a day. Soon, Gevinson was ready to talk about more than fashion and launched Rookie in 2012.
Rookie's content is largely created by teenage girls. "It gives us a big advantage in terms of knowing what teenagers are interested in," says Alani, "Rather than us adults kind of guessing."
The site's unique content reflects a decision the Rookie team made to speak to teens on equal footing and satisfy an audience of thinkers largely ignored by other teen magazines. The now defunct, 80s-era Sassy Magazine very much inspired Rookie's mission. "It was a magazine for teenage girls that wasn't dumb," says Alani, "It didn't talk down to girls. It never had dieting tips or exercise tips. It basically respected the intelligence of teenagers and talked to them liked peers."
This approach has propelled two-year-old Rookie to internet stardom. In the past year alone the site has doubled its readership, and celebrities like Paul Rudd, Jimmy Fallon, and Judd Apatow have been eager to collaborate with the site. All three have appeared in a viral video series called "Ask A Grown Man". The videos feature celebrities answering questions submitted by Rookie readers, and the most popular, featuring John Hamm, gained over 1 million views.
Pairing a unique viewpoint, savvy content strategy, and the right products and events, the publication is taking off.
A Daily Portal for Inspiration
Alani wants Rookie to be an important part of readers' lives-a place readers can visit daily for new ideas and motivation. With that in mind the Rookie team is very purposeful about how content is made available to readers. Each month, Rookie editors create an issue theme, much like a print magazine. Some recent themes include "Escape," "Vision," and "Consumption." Rather than publish the entire issue at once, Rookie releases select, theme-related articles throughout the month and at times that are most convenient for teens. "Our readership is in high school all day and doesn't have a chance to sit down and read something extracurricular until they are out, so there are three times [we release content] -- after school, around dinner time, and right before bed."
Scheduled content helps readers carve out time in their day to devote exclusively to Rookie. At 3 p.m., 7 p.m., and 11 p.m. readers know that it's time to check Rookie and fuel their creativity, says Alani. By timing content releases, Rookie is able to earn readers' attention during select times-a technique known as "dayparting" in the TV broadcasting world. Teenagers are busy during and after school, so convincing them to take a few minutes to watch a makeup tutorial or a half-hour to read a personal essay is crucial to the site's success.
Additionally, dayparting allows Rookie to accomplish another mission beyond return visits, which is to inspire teens to create their own music, poetry, and stories. "A lot of websites want engagement to be high because it brings them revenue and because those numbers are counted," says Alani, "And obviously we always want more readers and to make money, but honestly our goal is more to have our readers create their own Rookies."
Teens Want Print Too
The success of Rookie has spurred new revenue models, the most successful of which is perhaps the Rookie yearbooks. Rookie Yearbook One and Rookie Yearbook Two are collections of the best content from the site's first two years in printed form, proof teenagers want to engage with print content and own, in a sense, a part of Rookie.
"We decided to make a book because we wanted to, because our readers had been asking for it, and we thought it would be great to bring Rookie to life in a tangible way," says Lauren Redding, managing editor of Rookie. "We sell quite a few books on our site, but the book is also available in big and small retailers all over the world."
Redding says publisher Drawn and Quarterly ran its largest print run to date for Rookie Yearbook One, at 40,000 copies, and that print run has nearly been sold through. The print run of Rookie Yearbook Two, 24,000 copies, will also sell out in a couple of months, says Redding.
Plans for future yearbook distribution are even more ambitious. Rookie will work with a larger publisher -- Penguin imprint Razorbill -- for yearbooks three and four in order to expand its reach.
Taking it Live
Live events are quickly becoming the embodiment of all things Rookie. Alani and Redding dove in with the Rookie Road Trip two years ago, which had the modest goal of getting Rookie staff to interact with readers. Urban Outfitters sponsored the event series, which brought together Rookie staffers and readers in 16 cities across the country. After hosting concerts, art shows, and dance parties with the Road Trip, Redding and Alani realized that live events had the opportunity to be the lifeblood of their community and their brand.
Not only were readers excited to meet Rookie staff, says Alani, but they were also eager to meet one another. This enthusiasm for a more tangible community motivated Alani and Redding to pursue more events.
Since the Road Trip, Rookie has launched book tours, full-day events, and even hosted bands at more prominent gatherings like SXSW. Rookie readers have been ecstatic, says Redding, and the big takeaway is that these events need to expand. "We have really big dreams. We really want to do a lot more events, and I think there is a definite market there. They end up being the most heart-warming, beautiful parties. We've talked about the possibility of doing a Rookie camp and a Rookie festival. We've experimented on a small scale doing a mini-festival, and we're hoping we can grow that."
Vice President & Group Publisher, Meredith Agrimedia
Fresh to Market
After 22 years at Meredith Corporation, Scott Mortimer has a sober perspective on the magazine industry, particularly the balance of print and digital media that modern publishers must pursue. As vice president and group publisher of Meredith Agrimedia, Mortimer serves as caretaker to the magazine that started it all for Meredith, Successful Farming, founded in 1902. And though the magazine has a rich tradition, it has managed to keep pace with new technologies as well.
In fact, Meredith Agrimedia, which serves as the umbrella brand for multiple properties including Successful Farming and Living the Country Life, introduced the first Meredith website with Agriculture.com in 1995. Launched with a focus on the farming community, Agriculture.com was homing in on the social aspect of audience development well before "social" was a buzzword. Its extremely active discussion boards remain an important piece of the site's traffic and the brand's online presence, says Mortimer.
While digital is growing and as Mortimer puts it, "The farm is a very connected place today," print remains an extremely sturdy foothold for the company. With this in mind, the Agrimedia group continues to be innovative in print, offering clients the opportunity to slice and dice its 420,000 subscriber base, publishing thousands of targeted versions of each issue.
How has the publishing industry changed over the past two decades?
When I first started with a sales territory, I'd go out and we'd talk magazine. We did have a couple other titles but it was all print-focused, and the metric was how many pages do we have running for the month or the year? Today that's kind of one of the last things we look at. It's the whole suite of offerings that we're able to sit down and talk to customers about.
Quite honestly it's made it a whole lot more challenging and a whole lot more exciting-we get to talk about how we want our content to be where our customers are and in the form they want to consume it. Whether that's print, whether it's digital, whether it's a tablet, whether it's an event, whether it's a TV show or radio program -- whatever it is our content is going to be there for them.
How has business been for your group recently?
Business has been very robust. We'll have a record year this year, and that's on top of a record year last year. In fact, the last five have been record years for us. There's lots of enthusiasm in our sector right now and the fact that we've continued to create a product that is well-positioned with our readers and in demand from our marketing partners has been a good thing for us. Certainly agriculture has had a boom in the last five to six years.
There's also a real desire from consumers to know where their food comes from: Is it grown in a sustainable way? Am I consuming healthful products? We're in a unique position to help tell that story. We have our farmer-facing product with Successful Farming, but also all of our consumer-facing brands as well. This whole farm-to-table movement that's alive out there-nobody is better positioned than us to tell the story of the American farmer to the public.
We recently did a project with Midwest Living on behalf of one of our advertisers, Elanco. They make animal health products, vaccines and that sort of thing. But they're very concerned about making sure to tell the story of safety and healthy products to the consumer. So we partnered with Midwest Living and ran two different inserts: one profiling a dairy farmer and one profiling an egg farmer just telling the story about how they make their products, how they treat their animals, how they run their business, and told not only the Successful Farming audience but also the Midwest Living audience. And the metrics for that were off the charts in terms of moving the awareness needle.
Can you tell us a little about the history of Agriculture.com?
We were Meredith's first website launched in 1995. We've been around and at this for a very long time. News, weather, and markets are the central focus on Agriculture.com. About a third of our traffic comes from discussion groups and community interaction was a central theme for when we launched the website back in '95. It had different words from what it does today -- social wasn't really a term we used much back then.
Community and conversation is such a big part of our society today, but it's in the roots of what Agriculture.com is. We have 23 different discussion groups with themes like machinery and crop scouting. Farmers get in there and they interact with each other on issues facing their farm. It's a great opportunity for us to really keep our finger on the pulse of what's going on out on the farm.
How do you continue to be innovative with your print offering?
We're selectronically bound and we've been using that technology for many, many, many years and many in agriculture have as well. It is all based off of our database. So if we have an advertiser that wants to reach only the 1000-plus acre corn farmers in Iowa we can deliver their message just to those people. And we can narrow down to the individual grower level if we want to and we do that occasionally with inkjet messaging.
We'll get advertisers that come to us and say, "I only want to reach this profile of grower," and we're able to deliver their ad message to specifically those folks that we have identified in our database. So our August issue of 2013 had 7,194 different versions to it. That was kind of a high-water mark for us, but our typical issues will have 2,000 to 3,000 different versions. It's by far the most complicated magazine that Meredith does.
Inkjet messaging is another way to personalize the magazine at the reader level. We use everything at our disposal to help our marketing partners better integrate their messaging across all of our platforms. For example, a print ad can be personalized and tie into an email campaign and a targeted online ad or direct mail program.
Though print remains strong, how are you innovating in digital?
The farm is a very connected place today. Smartphone ownership and tablet ownership has really exploded in the last five to six years and that's certainly something we're paying very close attention to.
Our digital business has turned into part of the business that advertising demand outstrips our inventory. Nine to ten months of the year we just don't have enough inventory to go out and sell to our customers. That's certainly an area we'll continue to focus on.
I would say the tablet strategy is a bit of a work in progress. Being part of Meredith the magazines are in Next Issue and in the Zinio store. We get about 1,300 people a month that get the magazine on the tablet, which isn't a big number at this point but it's certainly a number that we're paying very close attention to. As tablets become much more integrated into daily farm life -- tablets in the tractor cab -- we think there's certainly some opportunity to expand in that area.
As connected and as wired as it's gotten on the farms, print is still the number one source that farmers turn to for information. At least in the first couple of stages of the buying process when they're collecting information and starting to make those purchase decisions, print's still by far and away the number one source that farmers turn to. Even with the younger growers -- and I'm talking under 39 years old -- print still spikes to the top. While things have changed a lot, we're still going to have to create best in class print products because it's primarily where farmers turn first.