“Oh, I get it. It’s very clever. How’s that working out for you?”
–Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Well, it seemed like a good idea.
Magazine publishing executives are under a lot of pressure these days after the perfect storm of a wretched economy and the deflating of the emedia bubble have wreaked havoc on their already narrow profit margins as advertising declined precipitously in 2008 and isn’t looking much better so far in 2009. Many people have lost their jobs as a slew of magazines have folded, contracted, or moved to an online-only existence, and the most optimistic projections don’t predict a turnaround before 2010.
Which magazines will still be standing next year is anyone’s guess, but in the midst of much hand-wringing and speculation, Time, Inc. launched an interesting initiative that caught my attention: mine: My Magazine, My Way — a single-sponsored, customized publication, print and digital, featuring content from up to five of their eight most advertiser-friendly brands.
I got my first issue in the mail last night and, if it represents the best effort Time, Inc. can put forward, I’d suggest selling their stock quickly if you’re crazy enough to still own any, and considering a Plan B if you work for a print-centric media company.
From the incredibly generic cover to the completely random and discordant selection of articles to the lazy interior layout, mine is a failure on every level. Instead of my “ideal magazine”, one “designed especially for [me] — by [me]“, it comes off more like a manila folder a casual acquaintance stuffed with a bunch of random articles that they thought I might like, cut out from random magazines they found laying around at their doctor’s office.
mine is the epitome of a product created to serve a corporate need instead of a market need, a well-intentioned but badly executed attempt to battle the over-proliferation of print magazines and free online content that allows readers to be their own gatekeepers, self-selecting what they want to read and how they want to read it.
There’s no cohesion to mine, and it’s certainly not something I’d ever pay to receive, in print or digital form. If this is the best content and packaging a major gatekeeper like Time, Inc. can offer, I’ll stick with my truly personalized “magazine” via Google Reader.
I’m very curious about how Lexus will measure the success, or lack thereof, of their sole sponsorship of this interesting but rather lackluster experiment. I haven’t found any reporting of how much they spent on it, but it’s apparently part of a broader integrated marketing program with Time, Inc., so I wonder if Time is effectively subsidizing a test campaign by using it to add “value” to their overall package.
The customized ads are clever, but not in a positive way, falling right into the trap of personalization backfiring when you don’t have enough information about your prospect:
The all-new 2010 RX has been reinvented with you in mind (just like the magazine you’re reading). With more usable cargo space for your matching designer luggage, and an available Heads-up Display* for keeping your eyes on the road because the Garden State Parkway can be tricky on your way to the Jersey Shore.
The italicized text appears in a lighter gray tone in the ad, the latter two clearly “personalized” according to my address, while the other two are presumably an attempt to make the plug-in personalization a bit less obvious.
Of course, anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I’m not the “matching designer luggage” type, nor very likely to hit the Jersey Shore, never mind that I’m totally not Lexus’ target audience, a point Time, Inc. failed to even attempt to determine in their too-clever psychographic questions. I wonder how many of the 31,000 print editions of the first issue went too similarly dead-end prospects?
As someone who works in magazine publishing, I had high hopes for mine, but with each passing day it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the more established, print-centric media companies simply aren’t able to effectively respond to the seismic shift the Internet has caused.
If Time, Inc. can’t pull off the transition, who can?