The mid 1990s was an embryonic period for many digital publications. In 1994, The Daily Telegraph were the first national newspaper on the web; for magazines it was 1995 that marked the arrival of Loaded and New Musical Express (IPC Media) to computer screens everywhere.
These were exciting times and spectators marvelled at the opportunities ahead; good content was a paid-for-commodity, and publishers were ready to reap the rewards of digital delivery. IPC Media brands in particular were keen to maintain a presence in the digital age.
The advent of Web 2.0 content promised that anyone could be a publisher; no longer were consumers passive viewers – but content creators and collaborators in their own right. Content became king.
It’s not only magazine publishers who are publishing content across the web as a means to attract sponsorship and generate a buzz around hot topics. The new way to appeal to consumers, is via top quality content and everyone is doing it. There are whitepapers, reports, reviews, top tips, best of the web – a multitude of ways for marketers to generate engagement for a brand, you don’t have to be a publisher.
Despite the hype of ‘content as king’, the magazine is still alive and strong. In January this year Yahoo launched their Digital Magazines, which are Tumblr-powered and feature interactive features in a magazine format. It’s the first time a tech company has used big-name talents to create content. Rather than relying on audience participation to develop online stories, the trend has bucked the other way and the goal here is to leverage followers of popular writers to generate content for the brand.
Other big names like Google are focussed on individual profiles too. If you Google yourself, you’ll find your profile, together with all your information at the top of the page. Google are trying to establish this profile as the centrepiece of one’s online credibility rating and we’d expect to see features like rankings, reviews and links to top posts follow soon.
As part of Yahoo’s recent digital magazine drive, veteran journalist Katie Couric talks about why she chose to join Yahoo as part of the new initiative “Very few of us head to the front steps to get our newspaper, but instead we reach for our mobile phones to get our headlines,” – with the tools to build a digital magazine, Yahoo believe that they can revive their brand by reaching mobile users on their devices anywhere, at anytime.
Operating on similar principles, Rapid Media stands as an example of a popular magazine with humble beginnings, conceived initially on a bar napkin, which brings kayaking and canoeing to the outdoor reader. The challenge was to maintain subscription levels whilst migrating content to Apple’s newsstand. Having worked with YUDU for a number of years, Rapid Media have leveraged subscription management tools and imported existing print subscribers made through their website via an API, giving their customers access to digital content whilst strengthening the brand’s online presence and avoiding Apple’s revenue share structure.
Video Watchdog is a cult film magazine, started via Kickstarter campaigns. As a small magazine publishers, Video Watchdog needed a digital magazine publishing tool with dependable Digital Rights Management protection. One of the things they did to generate a buzz around their brand online was to give away their current issues to attract more advertisers, while charging for their back archives.
Since that first tentative digital foray in 1994, an array of tools have been deployed and utilised to help brands to get and stay relevant in the digital age. The balance between growing individual writers brands and establishing existing magazines as digital super-brands is fine. The Web, as it exists today hosts a combination of approaches, and what seems to use a variety of methods to keep each individual brand ahead of its revival. Viewed within this prism, digital avenues mean that brands will always have a second chance, and brands that exist only as a figment of one’s imagination can now reach prospective readerships more quickly, more easily and cheaper than ever before. The strategy of the “digital magazine” may differ markedly depending upon title and publisher, but there has never been such a ubiquity of easily available magazine content before.