Juan Senor, UK director of Innovation Media Consulting Group, a UK-based design and consultancy firm, presented a survey on Innovations in Magazines - 2011 World Report, carried out by his company at the 38th FIPP World Magazine Congress, which took place in Gurgaon.
To help publishers re-invent their titles for the digital age, there are four important things to note -- how to profit from social media, where the money lies in the digital age, how to grow the print magazine, and whether apps are the way to salvation.
"Life was easier when an apple and a blackberry were just fruits. But, it was not as exciting and potentially profitable as it is today," said Senor, stressing on the fact that the iPad is the greatest platform innovation since Guthenberg, but that there is a lack of innovation from publishers for the platform. The iPad has infographics, unique video, slideshows and caricatures/art that need to be used in a better fashion by the publishers.
To further validate his point, Senor threw ratings of a few magazine innovations on iPad Apps 2.2 (Source App Store), according to which, GQ magazine' apps were rated the highest, followed by Vanity Fair and National Geographic, while Time Magazine, Newsweek, and The New Yorker rated lowest.
Senor said that there is an app in the near future of every publisher, and cited the examples of Hearst Magazines, which is expected to get $10 million in subscription by next summer, and Conde Nast that will make $15 million this year in subscriptions and ad revenue.
He further said that whether iPads and tablets offer a second life to magazines depends upon the publishers to re-invent their titles. He emphasised on the need to reinvent the title for different platforms. "You cannot pour old wine into new bottles. You have to have customised content for each platform. We have to reinvent the way we tell stories because at the end of the day, we are in the business of journalism and not the platform," he said. There has to be different content for different platforms. For example, paper should have long narrative, tablet content should have depth and experience, mobile is for instant news, and internet is for breaking news, browsing, archives, aggregating and hyperlinking.
Senor said there is a need to create stories that can be read, watched and touched, and a design for eyes and fingers. The emphasis should be on creating a unique experience because experience is more important than the brand itself. An app can be successful only when there are more demos and less memos of the device.
There is a need for multiple platforms to leverage the content and reach the target audience, and not the other way around, said Senor.
Senor also stressed on the fact that one magazine can have several apps for different sections, and supplements. "We must unbundle the bundle and disagreggate into three strands -- information, services, issues and passions," he said.
He said that while making the digital content strategy, publishers must keep in mind that free is expensive, therefore, produce more for those who pay, and less for those who do not pay. Offer fun, valuable, and unique content instantly via mobile phones and make print pages come alive in creative ways.
Moving on to the year gone by, he said that the year 2010 was a banner year for 3D covers -- from glasses to augmented reality 3D covers and spreads, magazines did it all. "3D is not a gimmick. It drives sales and boosts brand awareness, but it's a once-a-year type of tactic. Combined with augmented reality, 3D can be a lot of fun and generate a lot of buzz," said Senor.
He concluded by saying that though the publishers need to think digital, just digital is not enough as the world will soon move back from the digital world to the physical world -- to the physical versions of the magazines. And, therefore, there is a need to take successful web-only sites into print domain, and at the same time, determine what works on web and what works on paper.
Senor said that the historical platform (print medium) has his vote of confidence. "If you enjoy reading, or if you love to be stimulated by great visuals, or if you are looking to be surprised, then print can still win," he said. He added that the future of magazines is not in either this or that, but both (print and tablets). While paper will be haute couture, online and mobile will be used as mass mediums -- a pret-a-porter.