Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Observations: From the Magazine Rack

Observations: From the Magazine Rack

As much as I was drawn to the idea of writing about Twitter and printing in this month’s column, I am postponing that for a month. Although, with the plethora of Twitter buzz in the first half of 2009, I recognize that by waiting, I risk looking like a member of the “late majority” segment when it comes to Twitter.

The magazine segment has pulled me in once again though, and I offer several of my latest observations this month, which is a follow up to our coverage of PC Magazine’s transition to online-only status late last year and a little related nostalgia (Observer, 1/09 and 2/09) and the “magazine-like” publishing efforts I have covered with The Printed Blog (Observer, 4/09) and HP’s Tabbloid solution (Observer, 5/09).

While the newspaper industry’s imperiled status has made headlines, magazines are not in a much better position. Ad dollars, relative to overall advertising volumes and media mix, are at a low ebb lately, and just the physical thickness (or actually lack thereof) of household staples like Newsweek and Business Week is enough to give a chill to long-time readers like me. Clearly the industry is in flux, and the future of the printed magazine seems very much up in the air.

Mine, All Mine

A publication called Mine is Time Inc.’s latest experiment with customized content. Based on a questionnaire you complete when applying for a free, five-issue subscription, you receive a personalized issue that includes articles from eight different (previously published) Time and American Express publications, including Food & Wine, Golf, In-Style, Money, Real Simple, Sports Illustrated, Time, and Travel + Leisure. A sample cover of Mine is shown in the image above. The short list of profiling questions is curious (e.g. “Which do you crave more, sushi or pizza?” and “Who would you like to have dinner with most, Leonardo da Vinci or Socrates?”), but after completing the simple registration a few weeks ago, I got my first copy in the mail.

Lexus is the sole advertiser, and the content seems a bit skimpy. I was served up fare from five of the eight publications—guess which ones I was apparently not refined enough to appreciate? The customized ads include my name and, on other pages, include references to Boise and nearby Yellowstone Park, though the highway mentioned did not mean a thing to me. (NOTE: I've received another issue, with a much more relevant ad, illustrated below.)

Mine is attractively printed and looks good enough to make a digital typesetter champion proud. I love the name and its dual meaning: “I, me, mine” and the reference (at least to me) that comes from “data mining” and personalization possibilities. Truthfully, though, as far as the publication itself, I still have not read it and probably will not. After all, when will I find the time, with all those tweets out there pouring in?

Speaking of tweets, I recently received a relevant one from author and business evangelist Guy Kawasaki. In its 140 characters, the tweet contains a link to a surprisingly positive review of Mine from Slate’s technology columnist Farhad Manjoo.

Speaking of Kawasaki, his most recent business endeavor is Alltop, a Web-based service that organizes RSS and Atom Web feeds into categories, with a home page that reads: “Alltop is an ‘online magazine rack’ of popular topics. We update the stories every hour. Pick a topic by searching, news category, or name, and we’ll deliver it to you 24 x 7. All the topics, all the time.”

As I write this, I have just received the e-mail and Zinio pop-up reminding me that my June issue of PC Magazine is “in”. But frankly I will probably ignore it and neither print nor read it in its current form, as I have treated the last several issues. I am confident I have found or will find important or interesting news elsewhere, lately due to the great tweets from all the Ziff Davis editors that give me an immediate heads-ups on great online content.

1 comment:

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