Yahoo’s recent love affair with magazines is no secret. In January of this year, the ailing search-giant pushed ahead with its attempt to transform itself into an integrated media company with the launch of its digital magazines, Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech. Although this forms just a small part of Yahoo’s attempts at reorienting itself (which, taken together, includes a series of acquisitions and developments aimed at content development, mobile-facing strategies and more advertising real estate volume), it’s a micro example of what Yahoo are trying to do on the ground level, when focused on the consumer. Crucially, they have confidence that digital magazines can win over consumers of digital content.
“We have been re-imagining Yahoo’s core businesses across search, communications, media and video – all powered by two powerful platforms, Flickr and Tumblr,” Mayer said. “We found our inspiration in magazines, they are elegant, beautiful and have a distinctive voice.”
Yahoo’s re-orientation is a long-term project. It will take at least three or four quarters until we can see the fruits of the new approach Meyer is spear-heading, but the early signs are that it is working for Yahoo. Seven months on and online “magazines” have become core to their strategy, with Meyer and her team introducing several topics, including travel, beauty and health, to the already popular food and tech verticals – all typically the domain of glossy magazines.
They are not alone. Say Media, parent of xojane and ReadWrite; First Look, the new media company created by Pierre Omidyar; and Flipboard all similarly describe their digital products as magazines. This is not merely a re-branding experiment. All are taking it very seriously, hiring experienced journalists with backgrounds in the print business. Some of the newest members in the Yahoo family include New York Times’ David Pogue, Bon Appétit’s Julie Bainbridge and Joe Zee from Elle. Big names indeed.
Magazine publishers should not feel threatened, but flattered by this. Why? Well, for Yahoo, this can be perceived as an about-face-turn. They are throwing in their vote of confidence for traditional publishing, which not only exemplifies the superior value of “magazines” as a brand in themselves, but also makes magazines generally more easy to monetize, particularly from the point of view of advertisers, who feel they are buying into something more valuable and relevant to consumers.
“The term magazine describes the value advertisers are getting,” said Joyce Bautista Ferrari, executive editorial director at Say Media (and, worth noting, a former longtime Condé Nast magazine journalist). “They’re getting storytelling, something that has a personality.”
Advertising is the lifeblood of the magazine industry, so metrics about their success are crucial. Look at the rates of magazines compared to online ads. A single page in a glossy magazine could be discounted by more than half its open rate and still get an effective CPM of about $70. Online display ad CPMs average under $3, according to Nomura Securities via eMarketer, and even less for programmatic.
Ultimately, online publishers admire print magazines. They are respected by their audiences and stand for tradition and loyalty. Magazines may be losing importance as more readers shift online, but they’re still the ultimate engagement vehicle.