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International: Publishers: Web to reflect users

05-March-2007
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International: Publishers: Web to reflect users

User-driven content and video will take on a greater role at magazines’ Web sites as they seek to make the most of the Internet’s unique properties.

That was the message publishing execs sent from the Magazine Publishers of America’s annual digital conference, titled Connecting with the Consumer, taking place in New York Feb. 27.

Marthastewart.com, the umbrella Web site of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, this summer will introduce new ways for audience members to share information with each other, said Susan Lyne, president and CEO, MSLO. And as MSLO looks for growth avenues, it’s looking at community sites, among other acquisitions, Lyne said, speaking on a panel.

Having erred early on in trying to replicate themselves in their online versions, she said, magazines face the question, “What is it that’s different about this medium and what can it do that’s different?” Added Lyne, “The more we think about how they work in tandem limits what they can do.”

Dennis Publishing also is embracing user-driven content, though in a different way. Stephen Colvin, president and CEO, who joined Lyne on the panel, said Dennis’ Maxim magazine has in the works MyMaxim.com. Launching in three to four weeks, the new site will let visitors customize the text, images and video they see when they go there.

(Dennis recently announced it put Maxim, along with spinoff Stuff and music magazine Blender, on the block.)

“Being able to tailor and create their own experience is the Web of the future,” Colvin said.

On a separate panel, Betsy Frank, chief research and insights officer at Time Inc.’s Media Group, pointed to Time Inc.’s recent creation of a video content production studio as indicative of the way magazines are heading as they extend their brands to other platforms. In the future, she said, “Doing video will not be a ‘nice-to-have’, it’ll be a ‘must-have.’”

In other efforts to strengthen its visitors’ experience online, MSLO also made longer visits as a core goal of its site relaunch, which it plans to unveil March 10.

“Now, people spent 18 minutes on the site,” Lyne said. “We think we can get them to stay a lot longer if we give them more to click through and never leave them at a dead end.”

Even as they grow more distinct from the print side, these Web sites still play a strong role in directly lifting the core print magazine. Executives noted that the Web has become a strong source of new subscriptions and in so doing, helped magazines lower their direct mail costs.

Case in point is Blueprint, the lifestyle/shopping magazine MSLO launched with a test issue in May 2006, and which will publish bimonthly this year. The magazine derived two-thirds of its subscriptions for its first two issues from the Internet, Lyne said.

“It’s going to be a far better way to develop new subs,” Lyne said. “We know it’s a great source for us.”

Also at the conference, the MPA announced the winners of its first-ever digital awards. The winners of Website of the Year, by category, were, for Business/News, Time.com; Fashion, InStyle.com; Entertainment/Celebrity, EW.com; Sports/Enthusiast, SI.com; and Service/Lifestyle, NYMag.com. Other awards were given for best blog, online video, podcast, mobile strategy, online community and Web-only tool.

Source: Mediaweek

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