3 ways magazines connect the page to the Web
While there's been much discussion about new mobile platforms for magazines, there's also one mobile platform publishers are continuing to develop: the print magazine itself. Particularly in the last year, more magazines have been experimenting with engaging readers by linking the print version to the Web, using both cheap tricks (offering shortened URLs) and extremely expensive ones (augmented reality). Here are a few ways publishers can link the page to the Web.
Sharing through social networks: At the recent Magazine Publishers of America (MPA): Dimensional to Digital Conference, John D. Fauller, senior buyer for promotions sourcing at Condé Nast, offered a few ideas for how readers can share content from the printed page (other than writing themselves a note to e-mail it later). One way is to use short codes (e.g. "text 1234 to this number and we'll give you a link," which can then be shared). Another way is to use a shortened URL code through a number of URL shortening services.
Snub Inc. offers a service specifically for publishers called hy.pr. Publishers can create a custom-branded, short URL and publish it in the digital edition. When readers type the URL into any browser, they are presented with an interface of popular social networks to use to share the content.
In order to successfully implement a share option, publishers need the right technology and incentive for the readers, Fauller said. Incentives could be supplementary editorial content or special offers. “From an advertiser's perspective, offer prizes. People are willing to share information about themselves if there's something in it for them,” he suggested.
What's in it for publishers? Enabling the ability to share not only enhances the brand and provides reach to new audiences, but it might also save money, he said. “We spend lots of time and lots of money figuring out who to target and how to target. Why not utilize those enthused with your brand? They can do it more efficiently and more cost effectively.”
QR codes: We're not all walking around with QR-code tattoos just yet, but barcodes have become more visible, popping up on everything from billboards to boarding passes. For print publications, QR codes can be effective, especially for advertisers. Readers can scan a QR code with their mobile phone and be directed to a website, which could feature advertising or supplementary content.
Esquire first used scan technology for its March issue, which featured QR codes for clothing items. The codes enabled readers “to bridge the gap between inspiration and action,” Richard Dorment, features editor at Esquire, said at the MPA conference. “With these codes you could basically make the magazine experience that much richer for the reader by allowing them to act on their initial impulse and make a purchase.”
Popular Mechanics used QR codes for its June issue to provide bonus videos for a special advertising section. The codes were tied to videos on YouTube, so users who put their phones up to the code were taken to the video, explained Michael Kresch, executive director of marketing. The first introduction prompted 4,000 downloads, which might not seem like a lot for an audience of more than 8 million, but Kresch is optimistic for a first-time take-up rate. “I think that number's going to go up,” he said.
Dorment pointed out that publishers should not add QR codes simplly for the sake of doing them. “You have to make the content valuable ― it has to offer the readers something that they can't just get from the magazine.”
Augmented reality: Delving into augmented reality is probably the most cutting edge (and costly) any print publisher can get. Publishers can use augmented reality to simulate a video experience when readers hold a magazine up to their webcam. A recent report by Jupiter Research claimed that augmented reality will be a $732 million business by 2014, but we are only seeing the beginnings of it in publishing.
Esquire incorporated Augmented Reality into its December issue, featuring a walking, talking Robert Downey Jr. on the cover. InStyle first used augmented reality in its December gift guide issue, including a welcome message from Taylor Swift on the cover. Esquire used AR to drive sales, while InStyle used it to drive advertising. Paul Robertson, senior integrated marketing director at InStyle, said at the MPA conference that the technique worked; the magazine brought in 27 advertisers, or close to 40 pages of business that the magazine wouldn't normally have in the December issue. For many publishers, the process is probably still too costly and time-consuming to outweigh the benefits, but who knows what we'll see in a few years.