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Magazine Publishing and Design Blog | Picante Creative http://www.magazinedesignblog.com Tips, resources and articles on magazine design for magazine publishers Sat, 02 Nov 2013 05:51:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Are iPad Magazines Finally Starting to Connect with Readers? http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/are-ipad-magazines-finally-starting-to-connect-with-readers.html http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/are-ipad-magazines-finally-starting-to-connect-with-readers.html#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2011 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/?p=81 Are iPad Magazines Finally Starting to Connect with Readers?The emergence of digital magazines into the tablet medium has been pretty rough going thus far, considering publishers’ testy reception to Apple’s 30 percent commission and somewhat heavy-handed information-sharing policies, and in light of the struggles of content producers to create affordable, user-friendly tablet editions of their print magazine designs. Watching the development of a new media format in its infancy has been fascinating, as all parties involved try to take advantage of new opportunities and cash in on the millions of tech-savvy, gadget-loving users on the leading edge of tech.

According to a new post by Steve Smith at MinOnline, the iPad faithful seem to be warming up to tablet magazine apps in large numbers. While U.S. App Store sales rankings tend to fluctuate wildly from day to day, a recent check shows digital magazine newsstand Zinio at No. 3, People magazine at No. 24 and The New Yorker at No. 42. A few newspapers and other pubs are amongst the top grossers as well. While this might not exactly seem like a magazine takeover of app heavyweights, consider that, at least on the day for which MinOnline reported the rankings, Zinio outsold Angry Birds, the wildly popular and profitable game app.

Personally I’d like to see actual sales figures and a much, much longer time frame before conceding that tablet magazines are here for the long haul, but any app that can outgross Angry Birds for a given period of time can probably pop a champagne cork or two. I still think digital mags have a long way to go to compete with the print reading experience (and they’ll certainly never smell as good or feel as good to the touch as paper does), but it appears magazine publishers may finally be making significant headway in connecting their distribution channels to online users.

Now if I could just manage to put down Angry Birds long enough to download the latest issues of my favorite mags …

Original story — Source: MinOnline

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Are Moshi’s Monster Numbers Pointing the Way to the Future of Print Magazine Publishing? http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/are-moshis-monster-numbers-pointing-the-way-to-the-future-of-print-magazine-publishing.html http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/are-moshis-monster-numbers-pointing-the-way-to-the-future-of-print-magazine-publishing.html#comments Thu, 25 Aug 2011 14:00:06 +0000 http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/?p=89 Are Moshi Monsters Pointing to the Future of Magazine Publishing?As reported by PressGazette late last week, Moshi Monsters Magazine, a print spin-off of the wildly popular online children’s game, was among the most successful UK magazine launches of the first half of 2011, boasting a monthly paid circulation of more than 113,000. With an audience that surpassed 50 million registered users in June, the Moshi Monsters online community has a massive following, and its expansion of the brand into a print publication appears to be paying off in spades.

With so many magazines struggling to retain readers these days, the “monster” achievement is more than a little impressive, completely bucking the tired notion that print is dead and no doubt making other publishers a bit envious of the feat. Clearly, that any magazine can accumulate such a large following in such a short time is ample evidence that, in fact, print is very much relevant, desired and profitable — given content that people are more than happy to pay for, time and again. Yes, the magazine industry is under increasing pressure to compete with countless sources of fun, distraction and information, but the success of Moshi Monsters proves that print is anything but defunct.

So how did they do it? Is there some lesson in this success story other publishers can apply to their own titles? Or is Moshi Monsters Mag some sort of fluke? The latter is highly unlikely. Success in print publishing simply does not happen by accident, so something else more fundamental must be at work here. Having a following of 50 million-plus online subscribers certainly makes it easier for the print companion to gain traction in the marketplace, and brand recognition and loyalty may prove to be the very keys to publishing success in the years to come as the dynamics between print and digital media continue to evolve.

Red Hot or Full of Bull?
Another recent entrant into the brand-driven publishing market is Red Bull, the wing-inducing energy drink beloved by legions of avid customers around the world. According to Wikipedia, in 2010 more than 4.2 billion (yes, BILLION) cans of Red Bull were sold — a statistic that alone demonstrates the brand’s power and loyalty with consumers. And to extend its identity with current and prospective customers, the company in April launched The Red Bulletin, “a modern lifestyle magazine focusing on sport, people, art and culture” with a global circulation of 4.6 million copies, distributed with a number of other magazines and newspapers in eight countries, according to the company.

So how does a traditional, presumably “dying” format like print magazines fit in with a trendy, high-octane brand like Red Bull? Otherwise known as “brand magazines” and “customer magazines,” a whole host of titles like Moshi Monsters and The Red Bulletin, including electric! from Richard Branson’s Virgin Media, BM Magazine from retailer Bonmarché and Harrods Magazine, is being churned out these days by companies looking to capitalize on the trust, familiarity and loyalty they hold with their patrons. The strategy makes perfect sense: For brands that already have successful marketing and communications machinery in place, extending their reach and influence into self-produced, self-contained content is the logical next step — a further development of the advertorial content featured in so many pubs in recent years.

And the strategy is working. Brand magazines are racking up sales and securing mindshare in ways that were probably largely unheard of a decade ago. According to MarketingWeek, in the UK “half of the Top 10 titles and 25 of the Top 100 by average circulation are magazines produced by brands as part of their marketing commutations.” So the trend toward brand-driven publications looks to be more than a passing fancy in magazines and might actually be a sign of where the industry as a whole is headed. With so many traditional magazines facing pressure to maintain their circ numbers and shore up their own imperiled brands, we shouldn’t be too surprised if more and more unexpected names start popping up on mastheads at the newsstand.

Whether this is a good thing for the state of the magazine world, however, certainly remains to be seen.

What’s your take? Is this a positive trend, or an industry-wide marketing attack on editorial in the making? Let us know what you think.

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Why the Magazine Publishing Industry Is at Its ‘Shawshank Redemption’ Moment http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/why-the-magazine-publishing-industry-is-at-its-shawshank-redemption-moment.html http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/why-the-magazine-publishing-industry-is-at-its-shawshank-redemption-moment.html#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2011 14:00:43 +0000 http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/?p=84 Why the Magazine Publishing Industry is at its 'Shawshank Redemption' Moment

As covered in a recent piece by Richard Prince at The Root, Jet magazine has announced plans to make its print content more timely and relevant by adding opinion and perspective pieces to its editorial lineup. Perhaps it’s obvious to say that this is a savvy maneuver, but then why hasn’t Jet been doing it all along?

Today’s media consumer has a ridiculous number of options — online, offline and otherwise — for spending his or her precious few daily moments of downtime. And when I say “downtime,” even those moments are often spent wielding multiple gadgets, multitasking, texting, emailing and so on. We live in a pretty sad state, attention-wise, and competition for attention is exactly the battle each information outlet wages every single day. As media options proliferate, the battle grows evermore heated, and magazines in this era will have to work harder than ever before to bring in and hold onto a devoted readership.

Premium Channels in a Rabbit-Ears World
Print publications face many of the same challenges the three major U.S. TV networks were forced to confront with the advent of cable. Way back when, cable TV rather suddenly began to splinter the traditional oligopoly on televised content into dozens (and now hundreds) of choices for viewers. Today, though, all media outlets — including magazines — are up against a staggering number of potential online sources of nearly cost-free information, fun and distraction. That is the new reality, and there’s no sense pining for a simpler time. The battle for eyeballs can be brutal, and to succeed magazines will have to adapt or surrender — like it or not.

And for print mags, up against so many digital bloggers and 24/7 news outlets, the even more daunting challenge is maintaining relevancy without being able to respond to the latest events in real time. They are constantly operating, in effect, with two strikes against them.

So given that print magazines can’t compete with the web on speed-based relevancy, how can they shore up the loyalty of their reader base and keep their faithful coming back for more? The key, as is said so often lately, is consistently generating dynamite content — rising above the maelstrom of everyday news items and other background noise, wowing the pants off of readers, and elevating a publication into the realm of coveted premium content.

In short, magazines need to think, act and produce like the premium cable channels of the publishing world — to innovate to the point that a profitable critical mass of readers will happily buy in to their service because it’s just that damn good. Dominating the competition’s content should be jobs one, two and three, and any publication without a laserlike focus on content is probably ultimately doomed to find itself on the long and growing list of defunct titles. Before all else, magazines need to push their editorial and design staff to ensure that each and every issue is something people want. I’m in the magazine design business, so I can certainly attest to the fact that design can add a great deal to the visual appeal and readability of a publication, and design is an essential piece of the overall product. But even so, unique content and insightful commentary still take center stage and represent the vast majority of a publication’s value to its readership. The idea that “content is king” is fast becoming a cliche in the media industry these days, but it has also never been more true.

Print? Digital? Who Cares?!
Somewhat distinct from the content issue, much has been made lately of the print-versus-digital question in the magazine industry. All too frequently — and particularly in pieces about the rise of tablet magazines — authors regurgitate the notion that “print is dead,” that the bread and butter of magazine publishing is in the throes of yielding to a surging digital revolution. Clearly, to those with a vested interest in making iPads and other tablets a fixture in households around the world, and perhaps for those covering the latest technology trends, hastening the demise of the print magazine industry would be a wise objective. I’ve written at some length on why I think all the anti-print clamoring has been dramatically blown out of proportion. But whether you prefer print magazines over digital or not, is the whole print/digital debate truly fundamental to the success of a publishing venture? Sure, if tens or hundreds of millions of tablet users emerge in the next several years with a rapacious appetite for digital magazines (which certainly hasn’t happened yet), then obviously publishers will need to invest heavily in maximizing their digital delivery capabilities. But with tablets still in their infancy as a media-consuming tool, it seems many publishers are placing an undue amount of attention on their digital operations. With the troubles magazines have experienced the past few years (along with just about every other industry), some publishers may be looking to tablets to revitalize revenue streams and even “save” publishing as a whole. But they are completely missing the point.

Whether a magazine is delivered on paper, a tablet, a smartphone or otherwise, far more important than putting every new bell and whistle into the delivery mechanism is making sure that the content of the product itself is unquestionably superior, unique and valuable to a large supply of readers. The tablet market is growing, for sure, and readers who want their magazines delivered digitally will seek them out — so the ratios of printed vs. electronic distribution will inevitably adjust themselves naturally. But no matter how desperate publishers are to capitalize on the tablet trend, they simply aren’t going to win over hordes of readers without focusing on dynamite content first. A title’s delivery mechanism will always be far less important than its caliber of content to maximizing sales numbers and growing readership. Period.

Back to Basics
I’d be willing to make a prediction: If you’re a magazine publisher today, and your first objective isn’t blowing the doors off the rest of the mediasphere with insanely fantastic content, you’re probably not thinking about the right things, you’re probably not thinking boldly enough, and your publication probably isn’t going to fare too well — or as well as it could. Regardless of format, readers will always gravitate to — and stick with — a source they know will deliver the goods, time and again.

So yes, the move by Jet certainly makes sense. But why stop there? Each and every magazine out there should right now have a standing order with its editorial staff to think big, think bold, innovate the heck out of its content and find new ways to connect with readers. Anything short of that is tantamount to giving up eyeballs to the other guys — and that, in today’s media, is death. And to paraphrase Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, it’s time for publishers in this challenging marketplace to either get busy living, or get busy dying. Because there simply is no more time to lose in a battle that at the moment, for many publications, is unquestionably being lost.

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Magazine Publishing Resource: 6 Steps to Follow When Producing a Custom Magazine http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/magazine-publishing-resource-6-steps-to-follow-when-producing-a-custom-magazine.html http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/magazine-publishing-resource-6-steps-to-follow-when-producing-a-custom-magazine.html#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2011 18:04:29 +0000 http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/?p=75 Magazine publishing resourceCame across a great Business 2 Community article today for new publishers looking to put together a custom magazine design — includes tips on getting your content organized, creating your dynamite content (which is absolutely essential in today’s competitive magazine marketplace), and working with your magazine designer.

My one suggestion for new publishers to add to the story would be to bring a designer on board at the beginning of the process — even before the editorial is under way — as design considerations can often have a huge influence on the nature of the editorial itself. For instance, if you’re looking to create more of a graphic, photography-driven magazine with a modest number of pages (due to printing budget restrictions and other factors), you should probably consult with an experienced magazine designer to establish recommended word counts prior to writing the editorial. But no matter what your vision is for the magazine, having your editorial and design expectations aligned properly is essential to creating a world-class publication.

Regardless of the subject matter of your mag, planning is key to the success of your entire venture. And beyond what is covered in the article, of course creating a professional magazine media kit to market to prospective advertisers is essential. We’ve also put together our own magazine publishing primer and compiled a list of Top 10 magazine printing tips for new publishers.

Be sure to check back here often for more valuable resources on getting your magazine published — we plan to be updating our blog more frequently going forward!

Original story — Source: Business 2 Community

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5-Second Poll: How Many Magazines Do You Read Each Month (Both Consumer and B2B Mags)? http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/5-second-poll-how-many-magazines-do-you-read-each-month-both-consumer-and-b2b-mags.html http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/5-second-poll-how-many-magazines-do-you-read-each-month-both-consumer-and-b2b-mags.html#comments Tue, 24 May 2011 19:08:48 +0000 http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/?p=67 5-Second Poll: How Many Magazines Do You Read Each Month (Both Consumer and B2B Mags)?

Are you a magazine fanatic, just a casual reader or somewhere in between? Take our super-quick poll and share with us how often you read.


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Print Magazines: Rage Against the Machines http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/print-magazines-rage-against-the-machines.html http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/print-magazines-rage-against-the-machines.html#comments Mon, 09 May 2011 15:02:30 +0000 http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/?p=62 Magazine PublishingData Overload
We’ve lost our minds when it comes to modern gadgetry. Seriously, they’re taking over, and they must be stopped.

It truly is the rise of the machines.

Okay, most of us have lost our minds, anyway. I assume there are still a few folks out there who aren’t glued to their various devices all the livelong day, jumping from one task to another — one distraction to another — in the name of productivity. And there are likely a smattering of humans left who can go 15 minutes without checking Facebook. But their numbers are dwindling. Fast.

For better or worse, I’m right there in the middle of that overcaffeinated pack of multitaskers engaging in a continuous balancing act of priorities and trying to stay on top of every last development that makes its way into the 24/7 news cycle.

As a lifestyle, it’s not that much fun, really. So why do so many of us buy in to it?

Somehow, little by little, life just got this way. And somehow, bit by bit, we’ve turned into information junkies. The advent of the Internet gave us access to an (increasingly) unthinkable amount of information, and some of us just can’t get enough — especially these past few years, with the rise of the blogosphere, social media juggernauts like Facebook and Twitter, and countless online media outlets.

Sometimes I wonder: What if we could travel back in time to 20 years ago and give ourselves a peek at the future of 2011? Would we be taken aback by what we saw in the crystal ball, or would we look on with a sense of awe and excitement? Either way, one thing I’d personally probably wonder is: Just what in the world are we doing with all those gadgets in 2011 to occupy so much of our time?

ADD Nation
A month or so ago I happened to catch the documentary Crackberry’d: The Truth About Information Overload on CNBC, which talks in depth about the often-negative effects that today’s superabundance of data — and distractions — can have on our brains, behavior and overall well-being. According to the program, it seems we’re becoming a society of comparatively shallow thinkers who have lost the ability (willingness?) to focus on any one thing — be it a task or an idea — long enough to give it our full attention. And perhaps we’re losing the capacity altogether simply to engage in only one thing at a time.

You know, like driving a two-ton SUV in heavy traffic, for instance. Or operating a commuter train full of passengers. Without texting.

Just what is behind all this need to stay connected to the grid is a topic for another forum. But for myself, being heavily involved in the magazine design and publishing business — a distinctly non-cutting-edge media industry currently facing an onslaught of challenges from the digital zeitgeist of our era — I do wonder what roles “old” media like print magazines can still play in a world that has become so very inundated with rapidly developing news stories and breaking updates around the clock. Does in-depth magazine commentary — not delivered in real time — still have a place amongst the 140-character capsules of wisdom flitting about the globe?

Kill Your Smartphone
Print magazines aren’t only still relevant to our culture — I’d say we desperately need them. Our brains are awash in real-time data — it’s a data-plethora out there, if you will. What we certainly don’t need, the bulk of us average folks, is more trivial, superfluous information — more status updates, more Tweets and the like. We are drowning in them already. No, quite to the contrary, what we need is a break from all that. Somewhere inside, I’d bet most of you reading this know just what I’m talking about and secretly (or not-so-secretly) yearn for a few minutes just to unplug and detach. And what better way to do so than kicking back, feet up, with your favorite print mag?

Recently, Andi Gabrick wrote a great piece on the TMG Custom Media blog entitled “Printervention: An Ode to Magazines,” in which she extols the virtues of real, tangible paper mags. One observation she makes is particularly keen, I think. “Print,” she says, “creates moments.” Especially in this day and age, print is not only sometimes preferable to digital media — it’s the escape from digital media. Along with printed books and newspapers, print mags are one of the few formats left that allow us to separate from all the connectedness in which we live the bulk of our lives. They let us stretch out on the couch, or sit back in a coffee house, or relax on a bench and just be with a story. And focus on one thing. Assuming you can shut off your team of little gadget friends, print allows you to achieve that rare modern feat: doing one thing at a time — and nothing else.

When you don’t get to experience the feeling of uninterrupted thought very often, finding such a rare moment truly feels wonderful. And what’s more, it makes us feel human again, rather than a thing — a processing machine seriously in need of a total reboot. And it is with that in mind that all the talk in the magazine industry lately about moving away from print and into digital, tablet-based magazine content simply makes me cringe.

Magazine Apps: What’s to Love?
For starters, being able to partake of tablet magazines requires a significant investment in the hardware itself. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what the incentive is to plunk down $549 or so just to keep getting the same content that’s already delivered right to my door on a regular basis. Convenience, you say? Maybe it’s just me, but print magazines are plenty convenient for my needs. They’re compact and easy to carry — and don’t require periodic recharging. Unless you tend to read 8 or 10 mag issues at a time, I don’t see how tablets make things easier for the average reader.

Second, what exactly does this new digital mutation of my beloved magazine have to offer that makes it worth the effort and expense? Advertisers, app developers and tablet makers alike tout the benefits of the “interactive” ads, often including animation and/or video, available to readers in magazine tablet editions. If reading a magazine to look at the ads is your thing, then I guess you’re in luck, but I’d bet the vast majority of readers want less obtrusive ads, not more obnoxious ones begging for our attention. Haven’t we already been down this road with all the heinously animated web banner ads out there? Personally, as a reader, I want no part of a content-driven medium that places more emphasis on selling me something and less on the content itself — and I know I’m not alone. One of the reasons print magazines are such a wonderful medium is that the ads are so un-obnoxious. They demand nothing of me, and I truly appreciate that. If magazine publishers believe what readers want is more poking and prodding from advertisers via an iPad app, I think they’re sadly mistaken.

Another bizarre trend that seems to be emerging in tablet magazines is the “click-to-buy” phenomenon, whereby readers can purchase items featured in magazines right there inside the app. For some mags — probably those with lighter content, I would think — some consumers might find this a worthwhile feature. You see a cute dress or a snazzy golf club in a magazine article, and — click! — it’s on its way to your door, simple as that. In effect, such magazines double as catalogs, which might be appealing to those in need of a dose of retail therapy. Once again, though, I have to wonder why we feel the need to add activities to the already fulfilling act of reading for its own sake. Do we seriously need another venue in which to buy things?! I view this “benefit” as just another source of distraction — one that detracts from, not one that enhances, the kick-back pleasure of diving into a compelling article.

Oh, and one more thing: Print mags don’t come with the often painfully long download times required by tablet magazines.

Standing the Test of Time
So call print magazines passé, old-fashioned, and behind the times, but they’ve been a staple of American culture for a long, long time because of the inherent value they bring to the reading experience. And in today’s world, print is a refuge from the ceaseless chatter of our Web 2.0 world and provides us valuable separation from the countless online distractions that chip away at our precious few minutes of daily peace — a welcome opportunity to silence the gadgetry and just enjoy a good read. And for those of us old enough to remember, print mags allow us the very un-guilty pleasure of reliving a few moments from a time before gadgets became our masters, when phones came with cords, mail came with stamps and news came rolled up on the doorstep — and “www” meant absolutely nothing at all.

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Poll: What’s Your Favorite Format for Reading Magazines? http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/poll-whats-your-favorite-format-for-reading-magazines.html http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/poll-whats-your-favorite-format-for-reading-magazines.html#comments Sun, 08 May 2011 13:22:55 +0000 http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/?p=65 5-Second Poll: How Many Magazines Do You Read Each Month (Both Consumer and B2B Mags)?

Vote in our reader poll and weigh in on your favorite way to read magazines: print, tablet (magazine app) or desktop/laptop (PDF or digital flipbook)?


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Nope…the Sky Isn’t Falling on Print Magazines http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/why-print-magazines-arent-exactly-dinosaurs.html http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/why-print-magazines-arent-exactly-dinosaurs.html#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2011 07:10:58 +0000 http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/?p=32 Magazine Publishing: The End is Near?Have you heard? According to the powers that be in the media industry and the harbingers of all the digital wonder that awaits us in the Apple Store around the corner, print has officially been declared dead. That’s right — you heard me. Print magazines, our tried-and-true, curl-up-on-the-couch companions have gone the way of the dodo.

Or so it would seem.

Reading the headlines lately, from news outlets and bloggers alike, I’ve been simply blown away at how many stories and posts have been written about the current state of the magazine publishing industry. And most seem to point to one supposedly inevitable conclusion: that, yes, print is pushing up daisies. And iPad and friends, the slick, dazzling newcomers on the scene? They’ll be taking over.

Proclamations like that from the technology sector, which usually come from those who stand to make a pretty penny by selling you the next best gadget ever, really make me chuckle. After all, didn’t Bill Gates, among other prognosticators, promise us a “paperless office” way back when? How long ago was that: 20 years? 30? More? (According to this source, the vision for paper-free workflow actually came sometime in the mid-70s. That’s right — pre-disco.)

I think we all know how that has turned out.

I don’t mean to be a naysayer here, but I can’t help but think that all the attention paid to the dismantling of the print magazine industry lately is a tad overblown. I admit that I haven’t completely thought this through yet, but I feel compelled to bring up a few points for our readers to toss around:

1. Industry-wide decline — or consolidation? It’s no secret that the global economy is still struggling to recover from the worst economic crisis since (in the U.S.) the Great Depression. Yes, magazines have been having a tough time of it — but so has just about every industry. Mags are largely a discretionary expense, so why is the industry necessarily headed for doom just because of the downturn? From personal experience, I haven’t been very enthused about plunking down five bucks at a newsstand the last few years — there’s just too much to do these days, budgets are tight, and leisure reading hasn’t been much of a priority.

Perhaps, rather than the worst-case scenario, there have just been too many titles on the market (i.e., too much supply and not enough demand), and this rough patch is just part of the typical consolidation phase that comes with cyclical economic activity. Airlines have had some difficult years lately, but surely that doesn’t mean the end of air transportation — instead, airlines have been merging/consolidating to adapt. Retailers likewise have been grinding it out trying to stay afloat, with consumers reluctant to spend. But that doesn’t mean the end of shopping malls everywhere (heaven forbid); rather, retail chains have closed unprofitable stores and consolidated their operations to adapt to the circumstances. And according to the official press release for the “Magazines: The Power of Print” campaign launched last year, “Magazine readership has risen 4.3% over the past five years (Source: MRI Fall 2009, Fall 2005 data).” With the economy apparently (slowly) on the upswing, perhaps we should wait a bit to see how readership responds before jumping to dire, industry-wide conclusions.

2. Oh, the gadget hype. Every single day, scads of news stories cover the iPad and its many emerging competitors in the tablet wars. Why? Because tablets are new. They’re cool. They’re gadgets (and we know how some people love their gadgets). And where mag apps are all the rage in news stories — the tasty, bleeding edge of data consumption — print magazines are, well, the staples. There’s not much new to get excited about where print is concerned. All the attention is on the new kid.

But for all their hyping, are tablet mags really worth it?

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch posted a great article recently on just how mediocre the initial efforts at porting print magazine content to the iPad have been to date, in which he makes an excellent point:

Despite the poor reviews and uninspiring number of downloads, media companies sold millions of dollars worth of advertising last year for their iPad apps because advertisers want to be associated with anything shiny and new. Make no mistake: advertising dollars are driving media companies to embrace the iPad, not readers.

Dead on. Reading his post made me stop and think: Does anyone, short of those who stand to profit and those who adore technology for its own sake, really even want magazines to make the jump to digital? And is it even legitimate to call something a “magazine” if it’s taken out of the print medium and crammed (thus far without much finesse) into a disappointingly small screen — for which it was never designed?

As a print magazine enthusiast, I’ve never really understood what all the fuss over the iPad is. When they debuted in 2010, iPads were a novelty and even, I’ll admit it, kind of neat. But let’s be frank: They’re a lousy tool for displaying magazine content — I don’t care how cool or innovative they are in other ways, for other purposes. I’m sure they add value and flair to any number of different tasks, but displaying print mags isn’t one of them. I think there’s a sizable minority of gadget aficionados out there (I know several) who will stand in long lines whenever the new iPhone, iPad or iWhatever comes out — who will, like advertisers may be doing now, chase after the shiniest new gizmo on the shelf. But with regard to magazines, is tablet mania really pointing to the future of publishing, or is this trend toward moving mags online just the ugly, uninspired sister of all the other genuinely cool things tablets can do?

The iPad does a lot of things really well, and it’s a well-crafted new way to interact with information. But that thing I just downloaded isn’t like any magazine I know. It’s klunky. It’s awkward. It takes too long to download. It requires too much zooming in and out. It’s just plain too much work. What, exactly, makes this a better experience than the print version? Anyone? No, this isn’t a magazine — this is technology run amok. This is Frankenzine. What a mess.

3. Look at the numbers. Clearly I’m not alone in being underwhelmed. Magazine sales on the iPad are weak — and sliding. True, the tablet magazine newsstand concept hasn’t really been worked out yet, and Apple is still wrangling with publishers over who controls what. But are those really the core issues? Or is this just a case of a technology looking for another reason to justify its own existence? Ultimately consumers will decide, but I truly can’t imagine that any magazine in a format close to its print edition would be a good fit for tablets. If print mags are struggling and trying to peddle their content in other formats, can’t that already be achieved via a plain old website with a paywall? Publishers trying to recreate the print experience on the tablet have a long, long way to go. And those magazines grasping at the iPad like a life preserver better have a backup plan.

Oh, and P.S.: (via Gizmodo) “According to an 88-page report about the future of tablets by RBC analyst Mike Abramsky, only 0.3% of this planet’s inhabitants had tablets by the end of 2010. The other 99.7% didn’t seem to care about purchasing one of those gadgets.”


So why all the overblown coverage of magazine industry doom? Is print really dying? Or is it just one more industry trying to make it through tough times? I’m very leery of any talk that the arising of one medium causes the death of another. The newcomer may challenge the old guard and force it to adapt, but seldom has a medium truly succumbed to another. When was the last time that actually happened — when the telephone forced the telegraph into obsolescence?

Magazines are under stress, to be sure, but I’d bet the current cycle is, as happens in all industries, just a consolidation phase that will weed out the weaker players and yield a healthier whole. But that’s a long way from any kind of suggestion that print is doomed. If magazines continue to create unique, compelling content, the readers will come back. But until the tablet/app industry can come up with something that faithfully approximates the magazine reading experience, I’m not buying the hype.

More on this topic to come, so stay tuned.

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Magazine Publishing 101: A Crash Course for New Publishers http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/magazine-publishing-101-a-crash-course-for-new-publishers.html http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/magazine-publishing-101-a-crash-course-for-new-publishers.html#comments Mon, 21 Feb 2011 04:03:32 +0000 http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/?p=55 Magazine PublishingWhen new clients contact us about a magazine publishing project, one of the most frequent questions they ask us is, “How does your magazine design process work?” Especially for new publishers, the transformation of their editorial copy and photography into a gorgeous, professional work of art worthy of display on any newsstand anywhere might seem a bit mysterious and complicated. At Picante, we want you to be as informed and knowledgeable about your publication as possible, and we go to great lengths to make the process as simple and effortless for you as we can. With that in mind, we thought we would try to shed light on some of the mystery and show you just how easy our design process is from the client’s standpoint.

Step 1: Understanding Your Vision
Before we set about doing any kind of actual design work on your project, the first thing we undertake is to find out exactly what your vision for the magazine is. We’ll send you a brief design survey to complete, which covers general questions such as who the target audience is, who your major competitors will be, what kind of look and feel you’re after, advertising information, etc. — these questions help us collect the background information we need and also are intended to get you thinking about any issues you might not have considered yet in the broader scope of your publishing venture.

Once we have that preliminary information, we’ll set up a design briefing call with you to discuss the publication in more detail and ask some more specific questions to help us understand your vision more completely. At the end of the call, we should have a very good sense of what you’re looking to achieve with the magazine and an excellent feel for what you expect your customers to see when the first issue launches. Our design styles and capabilities are remarkably versatile, and we create designs for a wide range of topics and markets — so whatever your subject matter may be, we’ve got you covered.

Step 2: Crafting Your Initial Design
At this point, we’ll take all of your input and custom-craft two distinct, well-thought-out initial design directions for you, which will give you two different approaches to consider in determining the final look of your publication. Each design option typically consists of a cover design, a feature spread design and a department page design. Feature stories, being the most prominent interior pieces in the magazine, will generally have their own individual designs from story to story — but the initial design sets the general tone and feel. Departments, the recurring sections, will typically be a bit more formatted and consistent. Regardless of the content, though, we design everything from scratch to give your publication its own unique design identity.

Once you’ve had a chance to review the two design directions, we’ll listen carefully to your feedback, discuss any needed adjustments, focus on one of the directions (of your choosing), and go through a revisions process until we arrive at the final look for the magazine — and until you are completely thrilled with the design of your blossoming publication.

Step 3: Editing the Copy
Some clients come to us with their editorial copy complete and polished, so this step is optional. Picante does offer professional copyediting and proofreading services, so if your copy could use another set of eyes prior to publication, we’re happy to help.

Step 4: Laying out the First Issue
Once the initial design and editing phases are complete, we will then carry out the rest of the magazine layout for the first issue, using the initial designs as a base from which to work. During the layout phase, there will generally be two or three rounds of layout revisions to get the magazine ready for press — almost.

Step 5: Perfecting the Publication
Prior to sending your magazine to press (or outputting digitally, for ezines and online editions), we put the issue through a number of detailed checks — known collectively as “prepress” — to ensure that it’s ready for primetime. At Picante we’re passionate about producing world-class publications, and the details are every bit as important to us as the big-picture design. The prepress process helps us make sure the files are as immaculate and professional as they can be before we send them off.

Step 6: Getting the Print Bids
If you plan to print your magazine, you’ll definitely want to do some shopping around to find the best printer for your needs — and your budget. Picante does offer print management services, so you can certainly let us know if you’d like our help with this aspect of the project (and in any case, be sure to read our article on the Top 10 Printing Tips for New Publishers). This step can be fairly time-consuming, so you should probably start soliciting print bids while the magazine is still in the initial design phase, to be sure that you have your printer lined up and available to meet your publication/distribution schedule.

Step 7: Going to Press
After prepress, for printed publications we output and upload the files according to your printer’s specifications. The printer will then either produce digital (on-screen) or printed proofs to allow you to check everything carefully and give your final sign-off. Once proofing is complete, the issue is ready to print! And once ink has actually been put to paper, the printer will finish the job by trimming, folding and binding the magazines. Most large printers also offer mailhouse services, so if you’re mailing to a subscriber list, they can even have them sent directly to your readers — or the printer can have the entire print run packaged and shipped to any number of destinations for distribution, according to your specific needs.

Step 8: Taking It Digital
These days, most magazines produce a digital issue — sometimes as an add-on to the print edition, and sometimes as the sole outlet for the magazine’s distribution. There are a number of ways to produce the digital edition (a topic we’ll cover in a future post), from Flash flipbooks to iPad apps and beyond, many of which are compatible with both desktop and mobile devices (depending on the device platform). And some of these digital formats allow you to include interactive, animated and video content to enhance the digital reading experience (and boost value for advertisers who may want to feature more than just a static ad). With tablet devices becoming ever more popular with readers, the trend toward digital content is almost certain to intensify in coming years, so be sure to consider digital editions as part of your overall marketing and distribution plan.

Beyond the Premiere Issue
Once you have your initial issue under your belt, you should have a good grasp on the publishing process. When the time comes to start working on the next issue, Picante will be ready to help out in whatever capacity you might need us. Almost all of our magazine design clients have us continue to produce their ongoing issues, and we like to think of ourselves as tried-and-true, long-term partners in the success of our clients’ publishing ventures. We can think of at least 10 great reasons to hire Picante as your ongoing design and production team, and we’re confident that those reasons will be quite evident by the time we’ve wrapped up your first issue.

We hope this crash course in magazine publishing has taken some of the unknowns out of the design and production process, but we invite you to call us toll-free anytime at 1.877.296.3181 with any questions you may have, or to fill out our easy 30-second form today to get a free quote — or even just some free, friendly advice — on your magazine design project.

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Top 10 Media Kit Tips for Magazine Publishers http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/top-10-media-kit-tips-for-magazine-publishers.html http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/top-10-media-kit-tips-for-magazine-publishers.html#comments Wed, 16 Feb 2011 02:12:32 +0000 http://www.magazinedesignblog.com/?p=38 Magazine Media Kit Design: Energy of the CityFor entrepreneurs new to magazine publishing, media kits are an indispensable marketing tool that will serve as the face of your publication with prospective advertisers. You may only have one chance to make an impression with any given ad buyer, so getting the design, feel and messaging of your media kit right is essential to hit the ground running with your marketing plan.

To help get you started in the right direction, we’ve put together our top 10 media kit tips to take to heart as you plan the launch of your magazine (or even if you’re just looking to make your existing media kit more effective and compelling).

1. Engage Them Quickly. Advertisers receive tons of media kits, and your chance to catch their eye is fleeting at best. Remember, your entire business model may be resting on the early success or failure of your media kit, so don’t be tempted to just wing it and hope for the best. Establish credibility instantly with a great media kit design and grab their attention quickly with compelling headlines and graphics. Your media kit is a marketing piece, not an editorial piece — so it should be bolder and designed to compete with all the other media kits and publishers in search of advertising dollars. Engage your audience, keep your pitch concise, and get your key messages across quickly.

Magazine Media Kit Design: The Bride's Book2. Get Noticed. Emailing media kit PDFs is a quick, efficient, cost-effective way to get yourself in front of advertisers, and this method can work just fine in many cases. But for larger advertisers with bigger ad spends, you may need to crank it up a notch to get noticed. If your marketing budget allows, consider having a custom die-cut pocket folder created in which to distribute your information, complete with business cards, a tri-fold brochure, slip sheets and any other information that will help you make the sale — this should add credibility and flair to your presentation and help you stand out from the competition more than a simple (and easily disposable) email attachment.

3. Benefits, benefits, benefits. A classic marketing mistake many businesses make is focusing too much on features (the what) and not enough on benefits (the why) — spending too much talking about themselves and their offerings and failing to address the needs of their customers. While you do need to let advertisers in on your vision for your magazine and talk a bit about who the target readership will be, ultimately their decision to advertise will come down to how well you communicate the benefits of your publication to their bottom line. So don’t spend too much time on fluff in your media kit — get down to business quickly and  highlight as many advertising benefits as you can.

4. Position Yourself. In addition to emphasizing your publication’s benefits to advertisers, go one step further and make it very clear to prospects what it is that makes your publication unique, and why they should advertise with you over a competing magazine. For instance, are you taking advantage of a hot new emerging trend? Or tapping into a segment of the market that is currently underserved by magazine publishers? You will likely already know how you plan to position yourself with readers — make sure you communicate that to advertisers as well.

Magazine Media Kit Design: American Moms5. Show Your Stuff. Particularly for new publications, establishing credibility with advertisers, as mentioned above, is critical. So including covers and spreads from an actual magazine issue (even if it’s your first issue in progress) is essential. You can go on at length about why an advertiser should commit some of their budget to you, but ultimately they’ll want to see exactly what your publication will look like — and what they’ll be associating themselves with by advertising. So the initial magazine design really should be undertaken prior to, or simultaneous with, the media kit design.

6. Prototype It. Even better than including some of your gorgeous magazine artwork in the media kit, producing an abbreviated prototype issue (either in PDF format or printed digitally in limited quantities) to distribute to advertisers can be very effective in getting noticed, earning credibility and establishing your image as a real, tangible product that’s more than just a fledgling idea.

7. Break It Down. While developing your publishing business model, you will likely already have gathered copious amounts of market research data pertaining to your target readership, including demographic information like buying power, age, gender, ethnicity and so on. For advertisers, that kind of information is critical to making an ad buying decision, so be sure to spell it out in your media kit with as many relevant bullet points, tables and charts as possible. What’s more, showing this kind of market research up front shows that you’ve done your homework and aren’t just launching your magazine on a wing and a prayer, once against boosting your credibility.

Magazine Media Kit Design: Southern California Golf Association8. Cover the Bases. In addition to the background info, data and benefits-rich sales pitch in your media kit, be sure you make it as easy as possible for prospects to convert into ad buyers. Make sure your advertising rates and technical specifications are finalized in time to include in the media kit, and feature this information on a dedicated page of its own. That will allow interested advertisers to make decisions quickly and efficiently — and, once they’ve made the decision to buy space, communicate the necessary specs to their ad designers. Also, make sure your contact information is prominent and easy to find in the media kit, in case ad buyers need any clarification prior to giving you the go-ahead.

9. Think Beyond the Printed Mag. With digital and online technology playing such a pivotal (albeit emerging) role in today’s media market, be sure to consider all your options for maximizing your advertising reach and capabilities. Will you be releasing a Flash-based flipbook of the magazine, complete with interactive, media-rich ads? Are you planning to sell ads on your magazine website/blog to boost revenue? Have you considered having the magazine distributed and sold via outlets like Apple iTunes or Zinio? If any of these are in your master plan, make sure advertisers know, in as much detail and with as many benefits as possible, what your vision is for growing your advertising platform and allowing them to reach their target markets in new and innovative ways.

10. Integrate Your Media Kit into Your Master Marketing Plan. Starting a new magazine — or revitalizing an existing one — is as much about instilling confidence in advertisers as anything else. And while a gorgeous, well-thought-out, thoroughly planned media kit is an essential part of any magazine’s business plan, ultimately you’ll need to use common-sense sales strategies and form person-to-person relationships with ad buyers to see your venture take off. So even after sending out your eye-popping media kit to the world, don’t just expect advertisers to necessarily beat a hasty path to your door. You’ll need to put in some effort, work the phones and pound the pavement to leverage your media kit to its fullest potential as a powerful tool in your overall sales arsenal.

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