Innovation rules: from planting your magazine to hotspots, video and m-commerce, magazines have it covered

Magda Abu-Fadil, in her blog for The Huffington Post, takes a deep look into the latest Innovations in Magazine Media Report.

Go plant your magazine!

That’s right. Belgian magazine Humo embedded flower seeds in one of its editions, telling readers to simply bury the page in question.

About eight weeks later: a field of flowers.

A good idea for environmentally-conscious readers who favor recycling.

What will publishers think of next?

It’s increasingly difficult to gauge how magazines will fare in the next few years given what the industry has gone through in just the last two decades.

Another example of creativity is turning a magazine into a hot spot.

With the ubiquitous use of mobile devices and an insatiable appetite for Internet connectivity, Forbes and tech giant Microsoft tickled a limited audience’s fancy by inserting a mini-router in the pages of the magazine’s May 6, 2013 edition, enabling readers to gain wifi access for five devices for up to three hours.

The router, packed in a very thin cardboard box, as part of an insert, was rechargeable and valid for 15 days of use on the American T-Mobile network.

These novelties are an outcome of worldwide technological advances, converged integrated multimedia newsrooms, changing consumer habits and advertising trends.

They’re featured in Innovations in Magazine Media 2014 World Report published by Innovation International Media Consulting Group for FIPP – the worldwide magazine media association.

“Start shooting today” is advice one chapter’s contributors offer, adding that magazine companies facing massive consumer and advertiser demand for more video must increase inventory significantly.

“Most of the major magazine groups and many of the smaller companies are creating all sorts of videos, from scripted, high-production-value, continuing series to low-budget, one-time, stand-alone videos,” they said.

Take your pick, and depending on budgets, the videos are built around staff personalities, produced internally, farmed out, made with iPhones, and produced with expensive, studio-quality cameras.

“From Condé Nast and Hearst to Meredith, Scripps, Time Inc., The Atlantic Group, Future and newcomer Vice Media, the industry leaders are producing countless amounts of video every day,” they noted.

To complement that trend is the inevitable rise in digital publishing’s video advertising, which the report described as a niche on fire.

It said that as eyeballs move, so are advertisers moving from TV to digital and mobile, and that people prefer to view advertising videos on multiple screens.

The only thing holding back growth is the cost of production and lack of metrics.

But cost need not be a hindrance and advertising can turn a profit if packaged differently.

Rather than traditional banners and interruptions of text and video, publishers are turning to native advertising. The 156-page report’s authors argued fears about the genre had given way to best practices.

“Native advertising consists of discreetly placed content blocks embedded within the content you were originally seeking, designed to look almost exactly like the ‘real’ content itself, and directly relevant to the subject you were researching,” it said.

Also known as branded content and content marketing, native advertising is an ad that visually and contextually imitates other forms of subject matter found on a page or website and blends in seamlessly.

In the past it was known as sponsored pages or sections.

Today, research indicates native advertising can come in the form of blogposts, articles and Facebook posts, that it’s profitable, and that there’s no turning back from it.

BuzzFeed, which claims to have the hottest, most social content on the Web, offers these eight tips for successful native advertising:

Integrate advertising content with the editorial output, make it shareable, make it easy to understand, forget about display advertising, collaborate with clients, don’t be too intrusive, don’t restrict ad content with commercial rules, and maintain the separation of church and state (editorial and advertising teams).

Instant gratification is a good thing for publishers, we’re told, since making editorial content and advertisements shoppable creates new revenues and greater reader engagement. 

You’ve heard of e-commerce – but have you heard of m-commerce? 
The new kid on the block, m-commerce is any kind of electronic commerce that takes place via a smartphone or a tablet, often associated with items featured in editorial copy; its parent, e-commerce, also encompasses desktop and other online purchasing options. 

Other revenue sources for magazines are conferences and live events.

“The economics of a conference are astounding — create something extraordinary, and people will pay anything to be there,” the report quotes Cindy Gallup, a former executive of advertising firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty, as telling Digiday.

Finally, why not an instant product, as in Sweden’s print-on-demand kiosk company Meganews AB?

It collaborated with printing and photocopying firm Ricoh to offer readers top consumer magazines they can browse before purchasing via a touch-screen. 

Readers can select their publication, pay by credit card, and receive their magazine in less than 120 seconds.

The first such contraption was launched in July 2013 at a Stockholm shopping mall. It was slated to be installed in hotels, food stores, and hospitals, and attracted interest from customers in 50 countries.

See Magda Abu-Fadil’s article on The Huffington Post here.

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Order Innovations in Magazine Media 2014 World Report.

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