Archive for March, 2009

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Magazines

March 30, 2009

Magazines have always been one of my great loves. Something about the format, the content, and the intent of a magazine has fascinated me for decades. They feel like little “escapes” into a different world on a regular basis.

The flow of magazine subscriptions into my home has been significant and consistent for a long time. At least a dozen different titles every month, with some weekly and some monthly. Even now I still get a little rush of excitement when each issue arrives.

Of course, as with all media magazines are faced with some fundamental changes and massive challenges ahead. The economics of publishing are no longer very favorable for anyone, especially smaller publications. Advertisers are evaluating the best places to spend their money and diminishing subscriber bases are not the most attractive option. Even the Green movement is pushing on publishers to reduce their environmental impact.

One of the shifts taking place is the move to digital publishing. Zinio is the most well-known solution in this space. They present a gorgeous full-color version of a magazine, ads included, online in a dedicated reader. It is an excellent experience, also available on the iPhone. Worth checking out.

Amazon, of course, is in the magazine game as well. You can order a subscription to just about any magazine imaginable on their site. More interestingly, however, is the ability to subscribe to magazines for the Kindle. I was very skeptical of this at first, so took advantage of the two week free trial period for a couple of magazines. In particular, I was interested in how The New Yorker would work on this reading device, especially given how text heavy it is. (I didn’t even bother with any image-centric magazines – I know what the screen looks like on my Kindle).

The experience for me was very mixed. It was wonderful being able to read the long articles the same way I read books on the Kindle. But, it didn’t feel like a magazine to me at all. The TOC was difficult to understand and there were a handful of cartoons thrown in as single page images.

It made me realize that one of the things I love about magazines is the joy of discovery. I don’t know what the next page will bring; it could be a cool ad, a great article, or some fluffy promo piece. I love that discovery and surprise. That is one of the most enjoyable elements of the magazine to me and it is just not yet replicated online.

(Plus, I could never leave my computer in the bathroom like I do my magazines!)

Bottom line, I am sticking with print. Not as eco-friendly as I would like, but I have to balance doing good for the environment with doing right by me.

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Watching Obama

March 21, 2009

The unprecedented appearance of a sitting President on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno represents a real change in how government in this country “markets” itself. I was 90% impressed and 10% worried.

The 90% comes from the fact that this administration finally realizes that society has changed and the way we communicate has changed along with it. We are not a nation that only reads The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. We are a nation that consumes its news from the Internet and TV. We are a nation that considers “The Daily Show” a credible source (and it is – Cramer v Stewart will likely turn out to be a watershed moment in the Great Recession). Our President and his team realizes that you don’t just visit Leno when you are campaigning, you visit him when you need to communicate to the masses. (Or, perhaps they realize that you never stop campaigning; you are just campaigning for something different once in office).

The President did an excellent job of appearing smart, confident, funny and “Presidential” and still finding a way to connect with the audience. He gives Jay Leno a shake/buddy hug when he comes on stage and that fundamentally shifts how we perceive our leader. President Obama is a man, not a figurehead. He is really one of us. I wanted to listen and believe and be inspired, just as I did throughout the campaign.

My little worries, the 10%, come from the fact that as a nation we don’t all balance our media diet. Too many people rely on only Jon Stewart and Facebook for their information. Our children don’t all realize that you need to drink deeply from the well of information in order to get the full picture. I want our President on late night TV and on Sesame Street. I also want my kid to read The New York Times.

The burden rests on all of us to be smart marketing consumers just as the burden rests on the President to reach out to us through every relevant channel.

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Twitter

March 7, 2009

Via Ryan’s blog:

I started a twitter feed for my product at Microsoft (www.twitter.com/microsoftvsts) and we quickly gain more than 500 followers. It is interesting to see how quickly a crowd will gather around something they value. We should tweet more often, but even just a now and then model of tweets seems to keep the audience engaged.

Personally I tend to follow people, not companies or products. I want there to be a genuine person behind the screen, not a designated corporate mouthpiece. There is a delicate balance in my mind between the authentically useful and the authentically fake.

Very curious to see the plan to monetize Twitter. If Facebook is an example, it might be a long hard climb to profit.