Thursday, June 05, 2008

what i learned at MagNet part I: texas monthly editor evan smith on how to diversify your offerings

It's a busy week for magazines, what with Mags U, MagNet and the National Magazine Awards. Yesterday I attended a session at MagNet called "Survival of the Fittest: A guide to the Multiplatform Universe" with editor and executive vice president of Texas Monthly Evan Smith. An entirely entertaining presentation, Smith had these nuggets of wisdom to share:
• Publishing a monthly is a bit like chain-smoking: as soon as you're done with one issue, you butt it out and light up another, without a pause in between.

• We are no longer magazine companies, we are content companies. It doesn't matter how that content is delivered, whether we offer it via print, tv, radio, internet, mobile, events...

• The balance of power has shifted. Audiences want content whenever and wherever; they will not sit around waiting for the next issue to come out in a month.

• Print and online audiences are not the same people, the demographics are different. Think about whether you really can sell them to advertisers in the same way.

• Directly engage your readers by being there in person, through conferences and events.

• Offer a point of view. The strongest media have something to say.

• "Readers bite back – hard." If you're going to offer yourself up to reader comments through blogs and the like, be prepared for some nasty comments. And suck it up.

• You must be a multitasker. Magazines are not simply hiring writers anymore – they're looking for bloggers and tv personalities, too. You have to be able to do more than simply sit down and write.

Everything is your competitor. It's not just about the other magazines in your category anymore. You're competing with television, the internet, billboards and golf tournaments. They are all vying for viewers, they are all vying for advertising dollars.

• "Quality control is (inevitably) a casualty." You have to operate more quickly and it's not reasonable to impose 20th century methodologies – fact-checking, extensive editing, etc. – on 21st century delivery systems like blogging.

• Credibility is what will save us. When we're competing against 14-year-old Joe Blow blogging from his basement in Ottawa, the authority of our brands is what will draw readers and advertisers.

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