Friday, May 1, 2009

Web & Print: Profit from Two Platforms, re-cap

Transcontinental Printing recently presented its Smart Seminar Series--sessions featuring magazine experts with the goal to nurture the industry that they do business in.

On April 30th, speaker Martin White presented at the Calgary Italian Club. White specializes in best practices for integrating print and web. He has consulted for major Canadian media organizations including Rogers Media, Harco Publishing and Kontent Media. He has held management positions in publications ranging from Time Canada and Toronto Life to Wedding Bells and Vantage magazine.

As the world of web grows, think: social networking, user-generated content, multi-media, etc., it can admittedly get a bit overwhelming. In the past, while print and web were seen as competing mediums, White says that view has now changed. The two are more like friends, successfully working off of one another’s strengths.

While the death of print is bemoaned in headlines, White quoted famed communications theorist Marshall McLuhan to illustrate that no medium has ever completely replaced its predecessor.

By this blogger’s estimation, the web is to magazine publishers as water is to humans, that is—good and necessary.

Throughout White’s two-hour presentation, he urged attendees (made up of Alberta magazine publishers, designers, and sales people) to recall their personal experiences with websites—were they good or bad? Why? Each magazine needs to gauge what experience its website will provide to a surfer. The first step is to go through every single page and click on every link to know the website inside out. Then the following should be asked: What works? What doesn’t?

Everyone goes online to do one of three things, explains White—to learn, to do, or to buy. It follows then, that a magazine’s website should do one of those three things. The most important question to ask before any website design plans are made is: what is the magazine’s business objective? Does the magazine truly understand its readers?

Is your website meant to promote awareness of the magazine? Is it to be an expert resource for readers? Is it to build community? Surely these may overlap, but it is important to be clear what takes priority. At the end of the day, a magazine needs to know its readers and what satisfies their needs.

In fact, the customer/reader/consumer is the starting basis for any effective website. Planners must ask: How will the website impact readers? How will readers interact with it? The strength of any business-based relationships lie with the customers.

And those same customers are driving huge ad revenues. In 2007, the online realm was worth $1.25 billion in ad revenues. The breakdown is as follows:

Email: 1%

Classifieds: 25%

Display: 35% (banner ads, etc.)

Search: 38%

Video: 1%

The potential for revenue from the web grows exponentially each year. White mentioned Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue as an example. Four years ago, the issue saw 4% in revenue from sources other than print advertising. This year, the swimsuit issue saw that value increase to 40%.

He emphasized again the importance of knowing your own website. What are the three most popular pages? Any webmaster, publisher, or designer absolutely NEEDS to know this. What pages have a high bounce-rate (people who pop in and out in under eight seconds)? If a page has a higher than 50% bounce rate, then it has no traction and drastic changes need to be made.

For regional publishers to tap into national advertisers, it’s important to know what those national advertisers are looking for. The difference is in perspective—what can you do to create demand for your product?

He proposes a revenue checklist—these are all the things a magazine can do to generate revenue online.

It is a bit overwhelming, like going to a restaurant with a 60-page menu. It makes the most sense to start with what you need. Essentially, these are all ways to have a website generate more income.

- Contests

- Database

- Sponsorships

- Newsletters

- Micro-sites

- Licensing

- Communities

- Direct Response

- Digital Editions

White provided specific samples of each of the points on his checklist—it’s too comprehensive to detail each of those here. Essentially, free programs exist to do almost anything you might want to do online. White suggests first checking YouTube for how-to videos.

It’s about marrying print and web so that readers garner additional value and then some. It’s about extending your brand and finding multiple, endless ways to communicate with readers. It's about knowing your metrics. And, in this current economy, let’s face it: it’s about bottom line and generating additional revenue streams.

So, what are you waiting for?

Additional resources:

Digital editions:

Websites of Alberta magazines: