Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Re-imagining the magazine... digitally: Advertisers, it's time to get your interactivity on

By Kathryn Rubin Goodman

67% of tablet users say they would rather read an electronic version of a magazine than a paper version.” (GfK MRI iPanel). 

The road to digital hasn’t been a smooth ride for many publications, particularly magazines, so which major magazine publisher wouldn’t be content with a statistic like that? However, before breaking out the champagne, there are still a few hurdles to overcome before the 'tablet formula' is perfected. Consumers still feel that the overall tablet magazine experience falls short of their expectations; and the number one culprit is surprise surprise…the ads!

In a world where interactivity is king, the ads are as still as ever

In July 1932, Vogue became the first magazine to publish a color photograph on its cover. This caught the eye and later the ad dollars of leading designers, igniting a powerful relationship between advertising and journalism that fueled the publishing industry for the past century. Today, eighty years later, the ads are still exactly the same. Sure the graphics have improved, and the messages are more targeted, tapping into ‘deeper’ consumer insights; but the advertisements are still as ‘flat’, motionless, and as impersonal as ever. And why wouldn’t they be, when most advertisers are still re-purposing the print ads on digital editions.  However, today consumers seek more interactivity and digital-specific experiences, and they want personalized ads that support e-commerce capabilities. When going from print to digital, both the advertisers and the magazine publishers need to start considering these factors when designing an experience for the modern day consumer.

So what does all this mean for the advertisers and the magazine publishers?

Unlike other media, where ads disrupt the user’s engagement, in fashion magazines the ads complement the editorial content – they are not only accepted, but they are also expected as an essential element of the magazine mix. This is no more apparent than in fashion magazines, where the ads literally become ‘one’ with the editorial content, and it is sometimes even hard to notice when your eyes wander from content to ad. Tablets and eReaders, such as the iPad and the Kindle, take this relationship to the next level as they “enable an enhanced brand advertising experience in digital magazines because they immerse the reader in a highly designed advertising/editorial context and then extend that with engaging interactive features.” (Adobe)

For the advertiser the tablet provides the unique capabilities to create a personalized, targeted message. Advertisers have always viewed print consumer magazines as a direct way to capture audience’s attention and drive purchase behavior; however, the digital capabilities of the tablet device take this relationship to the next level, by creating direct link between purchase intent and the actual transaction. For the fashion magazine publishers, the combination of the editorial content that captivates the reader combined with the interactive capabilities of the tablet devices, gives them a powerful platform to deliver the message – thus keeping the advertisers running back for more.

How to turn the reader into a consumer

1.     Use targeted interactive ads to foster brand engagement:  “Nearly three-quarters of Tablet magazine readers say they like electronic ads that are personalized to their interests.” Consumers should be able to touch the ad, rotate it, and be fully immersed with the ad. A study by Adobe found that “interactive advertising via digital magazine platforms such as Apple’s iPad can better engage readers and create stronger purchase intent than the same ads featured in print magazines.” By combining video, slideshows and audio, the advertiser can create a favorable brand experience for the consumer. When readers are more engaged, they are more likely to interact with the ad, thus leading a higher purchase intent.

2.     Link to company website and product information to facilitate purchase process: 70% of digital magazine readers digital would like to be able to buy items by clicking on the ads in a digital magazine.” By ensuring that ads not only link directly to the company’s website, but also to the specific page where the product/service can be found, and then bought, the advertiser is making the purchase process much quicker and easier.

3.     Link ads with social media to foster create a stronger connection: More and more fashion consumer magazines link their web editorial content to Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks; however, this strategy can be taken to the next level so that consumers can share their favorite interactive ads with their friends, network and followers. 

The arrival of these new digital platforms has revolutionized the magazine publisher industry, and its time to start taking advantage of these capabilities from both the editorial and the advertising side. 

Kathryn is currently a graduate student at Northwestern's Medill Integrated Marketing Communications, concentrating in Direct & Interactive Marketing and Media Management. She is particularly interested in the fashion magazine and beauty industries. Follow her @KatRubinGoodman and connect with her on LinkedIn: Kathryn Rubin Goodman. 

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