Thursday, December 22, 2011

Design Thinkers Conference Inspires UPPERCASE Magazine Publisher

[Travel bursaries for voting magazine members are just one of the many benefit programs that we provide at the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association. We've asked bursary recipients to share their professional development travel experiences]
Having heard great reviews of DesignThinkers conference over the years, I finally got to experience it firsthand this year thanks to a bursary from AMPA. With an eclectic variety of speakers, presenters were from a graphic design background (advertising legend George Lois, book designer Chip Kidd, lettering goddess Jessica Hische) and from big companies (speakers representing Google, Oprah Magazine, and Method Home). The conference was very broadly about design thinking—about how creativity can affect change, enhance communities, engage consumers and entertain audiences. As magazine publishers, these are our goals.

Surprisingly, I found the most useful information for succeeding in publishing from two guys who make nice-smelling soap. Method, by combining eco-conscious products with innovative thinking and eye-catching design in a very traditional product category, has become an extremely successful company. Conference keynote presenter Eric Ryan (founder of Method) has a background in advertising; his friend (and co-founder) Adam Lowry was a climate scientist in his previous career. Theirs is an entertaining story, honestly presenting the failures alongside the success.

So how does running a cleaning products company relate to publishing a magazine? It's all in the attitude and using the Method method of business thinking. Here are some of the most relevant points:

Inspire Advocates
Create a product that people love and they will not only become dedicated customers but advocates for your brand. If you publish a magazine that people love (not just like), they can't live without it. The magazine becomes part of their way of life—they identify themselves by it. They proudly tell others about it, they're invested in the content and they support it financially. My magazine UPPERCASE is built on this notion; it was heartening to see this approach work so successful on a bigger scale.

Kick Ass at Fast
If you're not one of the "big guys" then you have to be better in other areas. For Method, this means that the relative small size of their company and manufacturing processes allows them to quickly seize opportunities of trends or customer feedback and implement change swiftly. For magazine publishers, it means that interacting and reacting with readers in real time is vital. You can no longer exist just in the realm of print—social media engagement is a vital and required offshoot of publishing content. Readers expect a dialogue; create a platform where this can happen and it will result in a stronger base for your publication. Smaller publications can achieve this much more easily than large publishing conglomerates, since readers can access us on a more intimate level.

Relationship Retail
Having fewer but more reliable customers is better than having lots of one-time customers. Method realized that their version of laundry detergent will never compete with "Tide", but they realized that their ideal customer will pay more for a product that they respect and understand. So fewer newsstand sales is fine if you have a strong subscriber base—a long term relationship is what magazines need to cultivate.

Win on Product Experience
Method is all about delivering an exceptional product experience. They take the mundane such as toilet bowl cleaner and reinvent the category, elevating the product design and packaging into something unique, useful and memorable. Whatever topic your magazine covers, yours should be the ultimate: the most reliable reference delivering the most intelligent expertise in the most engaging way possible.

Design Driven 
To differentiate your product on the shelves, your design needs to be different. And not just different for the sake of different, but different for good reason. When Method launched its first product, they hired Karim Rashid, a superstar in industrial design, who created a bottle that not only looked unique, but one that functioned in a whole new way. Theirs was so innovative and unique on the shelves that other companies had to struggle to catch up to this new standard. Good design comes from good thinking. Make sure that the packaging of your magazine is in service of its content and that it recognizes the intelligence of its readers.

I'm eager to take more of what I learned from Method and the DesignThinkers conference and apply it to my publishing adventure.

I invite you to read more highlights of DesignThinkers on the UPPERCASE blog.
--- Janine Vangool
Publisher, Editor, Designer, UPPERCASE Magazine

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Alberta Magazine Awards – Call for Entries!

Fame. Fortune. Freakouts! Okay, maybe not freakouts, I was thinking of a different kind of winning (see below). But it is Alberta Magazine Awards time again, folks! Time to salute the great achievements of Alberta magazines over this past year with praise, trophies, recognition, and yes, moola! The Alberta Showcase Award winners each receive $250 cash, not to mention bragging rights. This year, we’ve added a new category—Best Digital Presence—to highlight publishing digital innovations. Both online magazines and magazine companion websites are eligible.

I’ve seen several award-worthy pieces over the past year, and the only way to get the recognition they deserve is to submit an entry. This is your time to shine so don’t hem and haw about whether to enter, just do it!

And don’t forget about the Achievement Awards either. This includes the oh-so-coveted Editor of the Year Award. (We’re pleased to affirm that last year’s winner K├Ąthe Lemon is still living and working in Alberta—stop stealing our talent, rest of Canada!) It’s also time to nominate supastars for the Achievement in Publishing Award. (Who could forget how genuinely surprised and touched Rob Tanner was winning the inaugural award?) This year, it could be your turn to be publicly verklempt!

So get your nominations in by January 31, 2012—earlier would be greatly appreciated. We strongly encourage you not to wait until 4pm on the 31st to come crashing into the AMPA office—you know who you are! And mark your calendar for March 22 at the Alberta Magazines Conference when the winners will be announced. It’ll be a fabulous night of oohing and ahhing, not to missed!

Be a winner--but maybe not this kind. (As if I could pass up the chance to reference the Sheen-ster!)
For some inspiration, check out the list of last year’s winners.

--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence

Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Integrate Your Magazine with Social Media: Glamour Magazine's Facebook Scavenger Hunt

Now that Facebook is up to 800 million active users, (confess already, you just logged in and checked your Facebook, didn't you?) it really does make sense for magazines to use it for promotional purposes. Glamour did just that with its September 2011 issue: the print magazine was integrated with Facebook using the new Social SnapTag technology.

A Social SnapTag is similar to a QR code, but users do not need a QR scanner or smartphone to interact. In Glamour, the SnapTags redirect users to sweepstakes entries, exclusive celebrity interviews and invitations to Glamour sponsored events, if they “liked” the publication or brand. Twenty-five advertisers took part and the publication hosted 20 of its own editorial tags for a total of 45.

So, did it work? Heck yes. The promo generated over 500,000 impressions and increased Glamour’s number of Facebook fans by 50,000.
The creative services director for Glamour told Audience Development:
“The idea was to drive as many likes as possible for advertisers. If you hovered your phone over a Lancome ad and liked them with your phone, you could then be eligible to win a trip or eye-make up for a year--the consumer would always get something back.

“It was like a scavenger hunt where readers would look for the [SnapTag/Facebook] logo throughout the issue and it was distinct. Not only could you download it and scan it, but if you didn’t have a smartphone you could take a picture of it and text it. We wanted it to work with as many phones as possible.”

Glamour also plans to unveil a “shopable” issue in March, where Facebook users will have the ability to like brands and purchase goods directly from the magazine with their cell phones, and be given incentives to do so.

What do you think? Would you SnapTag your mag? Would your advertisers? Or, as a reader, would you interact with a SnapTag?
--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence