WalletPop spoke to several experts in the digital magazines and digital advertising industries and discovered three ways that magazines will change during the switch to digital: frequency, interactivity and richness, and ad relevancy.
Before we dive deeper into these three areas we wanted to get a pulse on the magazine industry's desire, and need, to go digital. "Not all magazines need to make a shift to a completely digital product; just those whose business models are weakened to the point of breaking, whether because of the recession, or the media transformation or both," wrote Jim Gaines, editor in chief of the digital multimedia publication StoryRiver Media and former corporate editor of Time Inc.
"The fact is that for a lot of purposes, you can achieve a vastly superior product for the consumer or for clients, with less time, money and resources spent, with digital communications solutions than with print-not in every case, but in a lot of them," Gaines wrote.
Perhaps the most immediate change readers will see from magazines as they experiment with the digital format is a shift from being a once a month publication. "The days are dwindling where it's sort of a once a month phenomenon," Mike Sprouse, CMO of Epic Advertising and former manager of Playboy's digital ad sales, told WalletPop in a phone interview. "The heavy days, so to speak, always occur five to seven days after a new issue comes out. I think those days are gone."
More frequent content won't mean that readers will have to give up on long form articles or sacrifice quality for a more frequent content delivery. Instead the feature length stories will be spread out over the month.
Interactivity and Richness
Widespread broadband, currently in place and planned as part of the FCC's Broadband plan, will make it easier for digital magazine publishers to deliver content that provides an amazingly rich experience for readers; perhaps transforming them into viewers during the process.
Publishers are already working on delivering a rich experience with digital magazine covers that provide a video-like background and slide in text and are preparing to blow your mind with interactive features that look more like a short movie than a magazine feature.
As time goes on you can expect to see interactive and video content come to more areas of magazines like the ads.
To the reader, ads in print magazines seem to be hit or miss and very cookie cutter in nature. That's the only way I can explain the ads for Marc Jacobs clothing line in my last issue of Spin which appears to be selling the, "I made this out of an old sleeping bag" line which interests me about as much as an old sleeping bag. Comparatively, the ads I see online are extremely targeted based on my history, which means I usually end up seeing ads for things that interest me such as ScotteVest, Lenovo and a few other computer companies.
While ads in print magazines aren't exactly cookie cutter, Gaines recalls thousands of geo-demographic editions when he worked at Time. Print ads aren't up to par with the advertising most Web users are familiar with. The possibility of using cookies and user surveys to create relevant, personalized, ads and ads that users can take instant action on, by tapping to buy a song or shirt, may arrive sooner than we expect. As far as the number of ads you will see, "Quantity won't drastically increase, but quality will." according to Sprouse, who also expects that we will see new ad formats as the industry adapts to the new medium.
Just don't expect to skip the ads on your digital magazine anytime soon, at least not if it's Wired, who recently demonstrated its proposed digital magazine experience of Wired on an iPad and made sure to point out that all those ads at the beginning of the magazine can't be skipped!
While digital magazines are young, expect to see variations in pricing as publishers attempt to learn what consumers will pay for a digital copy. The Wall Street Journal reports that initial pricing for digital magazines on the iPad will vary with Men's Health offering a preview version and a $4.99 version which is the same as the newstand price. Esquire will also be rolling out an advertising free version for the iPad at $2.99, $2 less than picking up the paper copy at the supermarket.
It may take some time for the technology to catch up to expectations and for publishers to figure out exactly what consumers want in terms of content and ad types, but this new medium is an exciting one with plenty of potential. Gaines sums it up best: "We're in a full-blown media revolution, and revolutions tend to be painful and bloody. Some of them lead to a better world, though, and I am firmly persuaded this is one of those instances."