Our options for reading entertainment and enjoyment grow fewer and farther between.
There’s always been competition: Look v. Life, Time v. Newsweek, People v. Us, The Saturday Evening Post v. Reader’s Digest, Ladies Home Journal v. Good Housekeeping, National Geographic v. Smithsonian, Playboy v. Penthouse, et al.
Yet only the strongest survived.
And even then, only after a fashion.
Gone, by and large, are in-depth stories and original narratives, replaced by “posts,” catchy photos with captions, and different spins on the same subject matter cluttering our lives.
Time – or our lack thereof – is one of the major thieves of being engaged in a magazine. Reader’s Digest realized that in its condensed versions of bigger magazine pieces. Heck, even Cliff Notes and Classics Illustrated understood that we had other things to do with our time than read long-time classics.
Magazines filled a niche, appealing to our special interests, creating communities of like-minded people who read what most interested them specifically—including the ads. Indeed, magazines were one of the first media to sell advertising targeting consumers by psychographics as well as by their demographics.
Few take the time today to appreciate the balancing act that comprise magazines.
Like newspapers and newsletters, they’re periodicals published at given intervals … most often weekly, monthly, or that frequency reserved for the realm of magazines: fortnightly.
But unlike their brethren, they weren’t designed to be all things to all people or to cover some subjects to many. Nor were they constrained by geographic boundaries or time-sensitive data. You could leave a good magazine on your bedside night stand or beside the bathroom throne, eager to thumb through its pages and pick up where you left off.
Newspapers came to us in sections – national and international, local, sports, entertainment, classified advertising – while magazines, like sandwiches, were divided among columns and departments, with features filling the well in between. For their part, newsletters were a mishmash of topical content condensed into four to 16 pages.
“All the news thats fit to print,” the slogan of the New York Times, is perhaps the most famous phrase in American journalism. Words dominated images, cramming as much information as possible onto the front page. And if an article didn’t fit in the space allotted, it “jumped” to a page farther on back. It took People magazine to rethink the anatomy — down to the fonts (sans serif “Helvetica” rather than more formal “Times”) and type faces — and using more expensive color photography only on the cover and paid advertising, with black and white the editorial mainstay.
Along came the Internet and challenged all that …
If newspapers, magazines, and newsletters wouldn’t give up the ghost to be swallowed and spit out in bits and bytes – numbers! — they could try, at least, to exist side-by-side boosting their namesakes. Especially if they (or parts of them) were free.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by search engines, taught Madison Avenue money managers that, “the key to getting more traffic lies in integrating content with search engine optimization and social media marketing.”
There it is, folks: Publishers want traffic and numbers rather than readers and loyal subscribers. No longer does it matter who reads an article, editorial, even comic strip, but how many people search for it and (best of all!) “click through,” scanning the first words.
Search engine optimization is the practice of optimizing web pages to increase a website’s visibility “organically” in the search engine result pages (SERPs).
SEO is completely different from search engine (paid) advertising. With paid advertising, you’re paying search engines like Google to show your website on the search result page. Instead, with SEO, you’re optimizing your website so it organically shows up on the first page of the search result. The number of visitors who come to your website through these search results is defined as organic traffic (because they found your website themselves).
Portugal Living Magazine used Facebook advertising to increase its own numbers: reach (how many people saw the ad) and engagement (how many people clicked and responded to it). An ad reaching 3,402 people in our defined audience, for instance, reached 2,131 through a mobile app feed and 593 from an Instagram feed. The other 679 came from a slew of sources.
To promote our website, a more aggressive ad on Facebook reached 19,200 people: 211 engaged, 198 clicked on the link, and 13 reacted. Cost per click: €0.08. And where did they see the ad itself? Three-quarters (73%) or 12,888 viewed it via a mobile app, while slightly more than a quarter (27%) or 4,776 saw our ad on the right hand side of their desktop.
When three-fourths of the population see information on a mobile application compared to one-fourth who see it elsewhere, there’s no question that we are a mobile society. We depend on our mobiles not only to make calls and send messages or to get directions and seek answers to questions, but to read and watch on those miniscule screens. Witness the success of Amazon’s Kindle and other computerized “pads” especially designed for reading.
I’ll briefly share how that impacts a 100+ page magazine like Portugal Living Magazine next.
For now, let’s just say that magazines are migrating to websites, where they’re configured quite differently for readers, writers, publishers, and advertisers.
The whole no longer is greater than the sum of its parts.
Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine.