It is Time for Advertisers to Embrace Digital Technology?

MPP Global Posted by MPP Global on Friday, 17 February 2012

There is nothing quite like the latest issue of a favourite magazine. The new articles, features, editorials, new ideas, and even advertisements can easily have a reader spending upwards of four hours on a single issue. In fact many people save their favourite magazines and refer to them frequently. The magazine is something special – different from a book and more in-depth than the newspaper. A good magazine can give readers insight into their passions or interests – think sport-specific magazines, business-focused magazines, women’s interest magazines, music magazines, and cooking magazines.

Frankly, magazines are big business. Walk into any big box bookstore and there are shelves devoted to magazines and people milling around browsing these new magazines. The future of publishing and the future of books is an often-debated and discussed topic – how will the rise in ereaders, tablets and the dollars and sense of publishing of ebooks versus print books impact the way people read?

But what about the magazine industry? Are people shifting to reading magazines online – either on websites or on their tablets? What makes a person download or subscribe to a digital version of their favourite magazine rather than stopping by the newsstand, buying their magazine and sitting down with a warm mug of coffee to linger over their favourite read?

This is the hurdle that magazine publishers need to address. The bottom line proves that it is more cost-effective to produce digital magazines – production costs, shipping costs, and even advertising costs are reduced. While there is tremendous growth in the ebook industry with more and more people converting to digital reading, the uptake in the magazine industry has been slower. Yes, there are early adopters – primarily those who are interested in technology and business magazines or those who have had an iPad or other tablet from the early days – these people are downloading and using digital paywalls to subscribe to their magazines.

But how do publishers convert the majority of their readers to this digital movement? This is where smart marketing, savvy offerings, interactive features, and of course a dollar advantage to the reader come into play.

At a recent magazine publishing conference, James Ranson, the advertising sales director of the technology group at Future Publishing, sent a clear message to advertisers. He urged advertisers to get fully on-board with the advantages of digital magazine production – the interactivity. Users are getting more interactive digital magazines with pop-ups, mini-videos, behind-the-scenes content, extra features, and links to “secret” sections of the magazine’s website – making it appealing to switch to a digital subscription.

But advertisers need to help with this push towards really moving to a digital readership. Using Future Publishing’s well-known consumer technology title T3 as an example, Ranson highlighted the interactive features of the magazine on the iPad. The amount of time spent on the digital version of the magazine sits at 108 minutes and the average amount of time spent with the paper version is at around 300 minutes. So there is still a high discrepancy in how much time a user is spending with the two versions of the magazine.

Readers are willing to pay for the digital magazine, and Ranson says that this is where advertisers really need to get involved with the benefits of the medium. In other words, providing interactive advertisements – incorporating videos and other interactive features in the advertisements. This gives the user a fully-digital experience and the advertisements actually no longer feel like advertisements – they become part of the entire magazine experience.

A well done advertisement such as the one provided by Renault in T3, averaged three views per user, and 4,000 users clicked the embedded website link. With numbers like this, it is easy to see how this can lead to a higher conversion rate for the advertisement. How often does a reader see an advertisement in a print magazine, put down the magazine, open their computer and visit the website for the advertiser? Exactly, not very often – there are simply too many steps.

But make a digital and interactive advertisement for a digital magazine that makes it easy for the reader to connect to an online store, website, or other extra online feature and the numbers start to change. Of course to be done properly and to be truly effective, this must be a seamless experience for the reader, no reader wants to feel like their digital magazine is simply fully of snazzy advertisements pushing them to buy. With intelligently designed integrated payment solutions and website integrations, readers will barely notice the leap from the magazine to the advertisement to the secure online payment system.

Digital magazines are catching on, but to truly be appealing for consumers, publishers and advertisers must work together to develop a complete package. The market is here, the technology is here – the time is now to really give consumers that extra value.