What are the biggest innovations in magazine media right now?

Blue sky thinking, with feet firmly on the ground, sums up the fifth edition of FIPP’s Innovations in Magazine Media World Report 2014. Breathtaking ideas and breaking trends are delivered with newfound confidence from an industry not afraid to experiment and make money. 
“There are five main trends this year,” says editor John Wilpers. “In previous years we haven’t had anything that we could say ‘this is for sure’. But this year really feels like the future is clearer than it’s ever been.
“Things are different since when the industry saw the internet coming down the road and did nothing, but continued to resist and procrastinate. Now the large media companies and independent entities are creating innovation labs – start-ups are springing up, trying to keep companies ahead of the curve. This is a very good sign.”
Want to hear about more innovations?
The FIPP Innovation Forum on 26-27 June in London is a hands-on seminar focused entirely on what and how to innovative in magazine media publishing across all platforms and channels. Based on the five-year research collaboration between FIPP and Innovation Media Consulting to create the annual FIPP Innovations in Magazine Media World Report, the two-day Innovation Forum will select some of the best case studies and methods applied to innovate magazine media brands in print and digital. 
The FIPP Innovation Forum will initially outline ‘the innovators’ dilemma’ – how and what to innovate within a company, whether it be incrementally, radically or in a transformative way. Secondly, the FIPP Innovation Forum will present: ‘meet the innovators’ – key innovative figures will tell their stories in detail and share best practice with results and reflections.
Finally, the event will review the best innovations in magazine media from the past five years from all over the world, with a specific focus on those which increased reach, relevance and revenue. www.fippinnovationforum.com
For more information on the FIPP Innovation Forum, or to book your place at the event, visit www.fippinnovationforum.com or contact Claire Jones.
Wilpers says the five trends will make a huge difference: “Very soon mobile is going to be the dominant platform; video is going to become the most powerful and dominant method for consuming content, big data will enable us to make much more informed decisions, and two forms of advertising are going to dominate; native and programmatic. The former, because it fits everywhere, unlike display ads, and programmatic advertising because it enables the extremely fine grained targeting not just of groups of consumers but individual consumers in real time. The ads can spot you in a nano second, producing ads targeted to your behaviour, etc.”
Cobus Heyl, FIPP marketing and membership service manager, agrees: “Programmatic advertising is one of the key developing industry trends, and it’s no surprise that the report devotes a whole chapter to the topic. Initially a discussion on the periphery of industry innovation it has increasingly (and quickly) moved to the centre. Programmatic advertising was among the top global trends discussed at the FIPP World Congress in Rome in 2013 and other FIPP events such as the Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin. And while there is debate (good!) on the merits of different approaches to programmatic, one thing is clear: programmatic advertising is a development you ignore at your peril.”
So while there are clear trends, Wilpers also points out that there is no one publishing solution. It really is a smorgasbord of content. Says Wilpers: “When we started Innovations five years ago there wasn’t even an iPad; tablets weren’t around. When they arrived they disrupted everything and people expected tablets to be an instant savior for magazines. Well that hasn’t happened. I think they will be very important, but they won’t be the salvation that a lot of people thought they might be. But putting that aside, the movement towards digital consumption is happening; but it will be just one way of many to get your content. This year we are seeing something that many people didn’t expect, which is the willingness of consumers to read long form content on their cell phones and tablets. So the ability for publishers and consumers to interact on mobile devices is now not a question but a reality. But print still has that tactile relationship with readers – of all ages.”
Print, like radio – which has often been written off – isn’t going anywhere and is as bold and experimental as ever. “We have a chapter every year about what print can do that digital can’t. This year, a favourite example is Fanta the soft drink manufacturer, who wanted readers to test their new flavour. And they had to do that in a print publication, by embedding the flavour in rice paper for readers to chew on. It was a wild success. You just can’t do that with a tablet.”
But many publishers are trying their upmost to create the print experience on a tablet. “And so far it is working very well,” says Wilpers, who flags up the tablet’s great plus points. “The tablet can give you so much more than a print publication when it comes to interaction and video, slide shows, etc. The idea that there is one solution is no longer the case.”
Monetising digital has been an issue since publishers flung open their websites and allowed everyone in for free in those scary early days. But publishers are getting a grip and earlier experimentation is paying off. “Over the past three or four years it’s been shown that some things will work and that wasn’t the case previously,” says Wilpers. “There was a big question mark in the shadow of precipitous declines in print revenue. Now what we’re seeing is that people will tolerate pay walls. They will pay for content that they can’t get anywhere else.”
And, also, publishers have looked to claw back lost revenue through other revenue streams – ecommerce and events, for example. Says Wilpers: “Magazines have to look at alternative streams of revenue and Atlantic is one of the best at creating events. Authors who write for the magazine host events for people interested in their niches. And people will pay a surprising amount of money to attend these things. The list of events Atlantic runs is stunning. Elsewhere, a Watch publisher is making 30 per cent of it income through events.”
But just as publishers enter new lucrative areas, others are muscling in to their terrains. It’s called convergence and it’s produced formidable competitors like YouTube and Google who are producing magazine-style content. Video, of course, is their speciality. But can they produce a field of wild flowers from a gardening publication made of rice paper? Or a plane which literally flies off a front cover of an aviation magazine? It’s all there, in the pages of Innovations in Magazine Media World Report 2014, in print and on all other devices. Here’s a taster…
Programmatic advertising
While programmatic advertising has been around for roughly a decade, it has exploded in the last year. “We are seeing entire markets moving en masse [to programmatic advertising],” said Jay Stevens, international general manager at automated advertising seller Rubicon Project, which sells News Corp’s inventory programmatically. 
By 2017, US programmatic advertising is predicted growing at 53 per cent a year, according to IDC, and by 2017, 83 per cent of US digital display advertising will be programmatic, according to Magna Global, one of the world’s largest advertising buyers. Research firm Forrester believes programmatic will ultimately capture the bulk of all global digital ad spending. 
And, while the spread of programmatic advertising will be slowed in some countries by obstacles such as traditional publishers resisting change, a slow-to-develop ecosystem infrastructure, and tough privacy laws restricting the use of behavioural data, the growth of programmatic advertising appears to be inexorable. 
“Publishers are watching print revenue decline and looking at digital to make up the [revenue] they are losing in print. They have to move to automated trading or they will die,” Stevens told The Guardian in February 2014. 
“All media will be purchased this way in the future — on television, mobile phones, video and social,” Michael Smith, vice president of revenue platforms and operations at Hearst Magazines Digital Media told MediaPost.
Magna Global predicts programmatic advertising to account for the following percentages of digital display advertising in 2017 in the following countries:
  • USA (83 per cent)
  • Netherlands (60 per cent)
  • UK (59 per cent)
  • France (56 per cent)
  • Australia (52 per cent)
  • Japan (40 per cent)
  • Germany (33 per cent)
  • Spain (31 per cent)
  • China (23 per cent)
Creative advertising
Simply put, the most compelling magazine media advertisements of 2013 blended print with digital to create interactive experiences for readers, writes … That’s not to say there weren’t powerful print ads and dynamic digital ads, but the combination of print and digital utilised the power of both platforms and tickled the imaginations of readers and clients alike. The imaginative geniuses at magazines and ad agencies surprised consumers yet again in 2013 with advertisements that brought print pages to life with music, wifi hotspots, solar-powered mobile chargers, instant telecommunications, and even a colour-changing smartphone.
A wifi hotspot in a print magazine
Finding wifi hotspots is often an irritating challenge. Microsoft decided to play on that consumer need and garner attention for its Office 365 sales campaign by installing a fully functional (if stripped down) T-Mobile router in a cardboard insert in the 6 May 2013 edition of Forbes. The mini-router turned the print publication into a portable hotspot for up to five devices for two weeks. The device operated for three hours before needing to be recharged.
A magazine cover that plays music
Give a music fan the choice between reading about music or listening to it, and it’s no contest: Listen! Billboard Brazil didn’t force its readers to choose in an early spring 2013 edition. In a print publishing first, the Billboard cover was enabled with Near Field Communication (NFC) stickers behind the cover so that all readers had to do was put their smartphone on the cover and they were instantly listening to a playlist of the featured artists — the bands that played at the Lollapalooza Brasil festival in São Paulo earlier in the year. 
Try different mobile designs — via a print page
Choosing the colour of your new mobile phone while you’re in the store is a stressful and rushed decision, often regretted later. The salesperson is hurrying you along and other customers are waiting. Motorola offered potential customers of its Moto X cell phone the opportunity to try different colour combinations and see all of the options right before their eyes… in a print ad! The advertisement was made up of four batteries, three LEDs, some Plexiglas, and a series of buttons. The ad allowed readers to customise the Moto phone in 11 different colours, by tapping different keys to try out different looks.
Charge your mobile…from a (solar!) print ad
Nivea thought beach-goers should not have to leave the beach for either of two reasons: sunburn or a dead mobile battery.
The skin protection company created an ad in the Brazilian magazine, Veja Rio, featuring an ultra-thin solar panel and USB phone plug. The solar panel powered the plug, which powered the reader’s phone.
It’s been roughly three and a half years since the launch of the iPad — six and a half years after the first iPhone came out — and we are in or fast approaching the “Golden Age of Mobile,” according to mobile industry consultant and author Chetan Sharma.
“We are entering the ‘Connected Intelligence’ era,” Sharma wrote last summer. “These two operative words are going to define the next phase of human evolution and are going to dramatically change every industry vertical from the ground up. Welcome to the Golden Age of Mobile.”
Globally, the smartphone market passed a major milestone in 2013, with 1bn devices sold during the year, according to the research company International Data Corp (IDC). Global tablet sales surged 50 per cent in 2013 and mobile sales surpassed PC sales at the end of 2013, according to IDC. 
By 2017, smartphone sales will hit 1.8 billion representing 82 per cent of total mobile phones sold, according to Smartphone Quarterly.
Nearly two thirds of US adults own a smartphone, and roughly 40 per cent have a tablet, according to 2013 research from the Pew Research Centre.
In Europe, smartphones have a 55 per cent market share in Europe’s Big Five countries (Germany, UK, France, Italy, and Spain), according to comScore. In Western Europe, shipments of tablets and smartphones exceeded 230 million units in 2013 and revenues approached $120 billion — an increase of 11 per cent compared with 2012, according to IDC. The future is even brighter, with analyst Forrester projecting a quadrupling of tablet ownership by 2017. The firm predicts the percentage of online adults owning a tablet will hit 55 per cent by 2017, after being a mere seven per cent in 2011.
The increasing penetration of smartphones and tablets is already having an impact on magazines, with some publishers seeing huge jumps in mobile traffic.
In the US, The Atlantic and Forbes, for example, are getting 30 to 50 per cent of their traffic from mobile respectively.
In 2011, 86 per cent of Condé Nast UK’s traffic came from PCs, with less than one per cent via tablet and 14 per cent from mobile. Less than two years later, desktop traffic had plummeted to 58 per cent of the total, while mobile had more than doubled to 30 per cent and tablets shot from less than one to 12 per cent.
Mobile ads
Mobile advertising is projected to be the key driver of the global advertising economy over the next three years, delivering more than US$30bn of the forecast $90bn in new revenue by 2016, according to a study by global media buying agency ZenithOptimedia.
Magazine mobile revenue is growing because magazine mobile traffic is exploding. BuzzFeed now gets more than half of its traffic from mobile, including half of its video traffic. The Atlantic is getting 30 per cent of its traffic from mobile.
Internet traffic from mobile devices is expected to exceed that from desktops for the first time in 2014, according to marketing company Syndacast.
Despite the booming number of magazine consumers on mobile, advertisers have, until recently, placed little value on catering specifically to mobile devices, preferring to repurpose desktop, or even television, content.
Knowing that consumers keep their smartphones with them at all times, advertisers can combine geo-location with social media tools and big data to hit the trifecta of advertising: access, need, and an opportunity to satisfy that need… immediately.
UberMedia, an advertising agency that claims to be “reinventing mobile advertising”, uses its product, ‘UberAds’, along with social media and location data to “serve ads that are relevant, well-timed and useful to the user,” said Bill Gross, CEO of the California-based company.
“So if you follow Tom Cruise on Twitter and are near a theatre, you could see an ad for movie tickets,” Gross said.
Online travel firm Expedia is also experimenting with mobile advertising, working with mobile advertising firm Amobee to target consumer activities and schedules. “We see long-weekend types of trips in the summer months,” Expedia director of media and analytics Elizabeth Dorrance told AdWeek. “People‚ while driving, are more likely to book hotels last minute on their phones.”
Native advertising
When you open your email, Google a recipe, look for a silly cat video, search for a holiday, comparison shop for cameras, or simply try to read an article a friend recommended on Facebook, it’s there. Native advertising.
Native advertising consists of discreetly hidden 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. Hence the term native.
And it is, indeed, everywhere. An Online Publishers Association and Radar Research study found nearly 75 per cent of all digital publishers already use native advertisements.
Despite all the buzz, “native advertising” has actually been around for decades in the guise of sponsored pages or sections and advertorials. But back then, it was painfully easy to spot it (and generally painful to read it). Not anymore. The key to the 21st century version of “native advertising” is that it be high quality and directly relevant to the topic at hand.
In tests pitting native ads against banner ads, the study found that:
  • Native ads are more visually engaging than banner ads. Consumers looked at native ads 52 per cent more frequently than banner ads
  • Native ads registered a nine per cent high brand lift and an 18 per cent higher purchase intent life than banner ads
  • Consumers were more than 68 per cent more likely to share a native ad than a banner ad
  • And, most impressively, consumers actually looked at native ads more than the actual original content they sought — 26 versus 24 per cent — and spent almost the same amount of time on each
The reason for the success of native advertisements, enthusiasts say, is the difference between choice and interruption, context versus irrelevancy, and valuable information versus a sales pitch.
Less than a decade ago — eight and a half years ago in October 2005 to be exact — the world was only just being introduced to video playback on Apple’s fifth generation iPod. Today, billions of people are viewing live-streamed events.
In 2012, internet video accounted for 57 per cent of global consumer web traffic. By 2017, internet video is projected to be 69 per cent of global consumer web traffic, according to Cisco Visual Networking Index (VIN).
Video is no longer becoming the dominant digital content consumption platform; it’s there.
This shift to video has not gone unnoticed in magazine editorial and advertising departments.
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. Some are built around staff personalities, some are produced internally, some are farmed out, some are made with iPhones, and some with expensive, studio-quality cameras.
Legacy publishers are not repeating their mistakes of the early internet era. The initial resistance to and glacial adoption of the web is not happening. Publishers are embracing video with the enthusiasm of investors who missed the last big thing and will be damned if they are going to let it happen again.
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. 
Last May, Condé Nast Entertainment (CNE) unveiled plans to do a staged launch of 30 new web digital video series over a period of months in 2013. 
First, CNE focused on Glamour and GQ, including launching Glamour’s first scripted series, The Single Life, and continuing GQ’s powerful documentary about former US football players coping with chronic pain and injury, Casualties of the Gridiron. 
Then Vogue got its own digital video channel that featured shows such as Vintage Bowles, featuring international editor at large Hamish Bowles, and The Fund, documenting the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund competition.
Wired followed with programming featuring the Angry Nerd, a rant video series by “resident geek” Chris Baker, and Codefellas, a scripted animated show set in the infamous US National Security Agency (the agency charged with collecting data for intelligence and counter-intelligence purposes).
In the summer and fall, Vanity Fair, Teen Vogue, Epicurious, and Style all launched video channels.
Big data
In magazine publishing, perhaps no one delivers on the power of data like The Atlantic Group. Consider their new product, Quartz: Launched in September 2012, the digital news site provides intelligent content customised via a given consumer’s interaction with the site. Similarly, companies such as Gravity, Contextly, and Sailthru help publishers craft a personalised experience using data gleaned from a consumer’s profile and reading habits.
Observers draw a highly probable parallel between the music industry at the turn of this century and what they call the Intelligent Content movement of today. “[MP3s] meant the end of curated CDs,” wrote Roger Wood and Evelyn Robbrecht in a guest piece for PaidContent. “Now, playlists are compiled and shared with the help of Pandora, Spotify or Songza. Thus magazines and books could soon become the Pandora of dynamic content, with artificial intelligence applets that choose and adapt content, then tailor it to the reader’s context and taste. We see the beginnings of this with Flipboard, but it will only get more advanced.”
In other words, publishers will throw everything at us, see what we like, then watch and wait and follow us on our virtual reading paths.
What does this mean for magazine publishing? Data-driven content — and the context in which it’s consumed — are incredibly important to creating work that is engaging and has a high ROI. 
But having the data and knowing which are the wheat and which the chaff is no easy feat.
Thanks to tools like Google Analytics and a myriad of other data gathering and analytics programs, publishers have access to data on just about every conceivable user interaction, ranging from which stories they read and whether they shared it to the time they spent on the site and how often they came back.
In 2013’s Innovations in Magazine Media we highlighted perfume-scented paper. This year, we’re able to report that a magazine put perfume bottles in the magazine itself.
To attract beauty buffs and advertising revenue, Hearst Magazines last November partnered with Marc Jacobs and actually affixed two-and-a-half milliliter bottles of Daisy and Daisy Eau So Fresh perfume to the covers of four titles: Elle, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Seventeen, 400,000 copies in total. Attaching the bottles to the covers was a publishing first, according to Hearst. “The technology just didn’t exist,” Hearst Magazines president-marketing and publishing director Michael Clinton told Ad Age.
“Until you get a scratch and sniff on your smartphone, magazine media has a unique selling proposition to allow samples,” Clinton said. “This gives our medium an even bigger play into beauty advertising — a big growth category and probably one of the biggest categories in the magazine marketplace.”
Elle on Google Glasses
Elle has become the first magazine to appear on the much-talked about Google Glasses. Readers will be able to view videos, photos, news and more without blinking an eye. You certainly can’t fault the Hearst, the publisher, for keeping its eye on a breaking trend. Whether the glasses will go the way of the Dick Tracey watch and 3D specs of the 1950s remains to be seen. 
Matchbox magazine
Self-proclaimed “avant-garde performance-poet-musician lady,” Pascalle Burton is founder and creator of a charming nugget of magazine magic: the magazine in a matchbox.
According to Burton, customers who purchase her novelty magazine receive the following matchbook of contents:
  • Ye Olde Picture Books – favourite vintage books
  • Raise High the Salinger – quote from the dearly departed J.D.Salinger
  • Thank You for Being a Friend – my Golden Girls pick of talented friends/artists
  • For Want of a Word – a word to come in handy
  • Tools in Vogue – a tool I regularly use
  • The ebay That Got Away – it’s tough being outbid
  • A ‘Pome’ from Pas – for some literary sensation
“Each ‘zine also comes with a complimentary and solitary match for you to burn the ‘zine after you have read it – if you have the nerve,” challenges Burton.

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