Friday, August 19, 2011

Magazines & Depth Psychology

Yes, I realize the above title might be considered an oxymoron given the content of many lifestyle magazines. To be sure, there is much popular psychology in men's and women's magazines these days and that is probably just about right in a world driven by bumps, grinds, and tweets. It was not always the case.

I came across a few pages from "The New Eve: A Magazine of Feminine Charm" from December 1926 and 'Mademoiselle: The Magazine for Smart Young Women" dated September 1943.  Eve focused on society, fashions, sports and theatres.  Mademoiselle seemed to pay most attention to brides and fall fashions, in this instance.

1943 is wartime and the cover shows a sailor with his hat off sitting at the desk of a towering executive woman, perhaps asking for a job or recruiting her, which seems unlikely. Chesterfied supports the war and the cigarette advertisement that has a banner stating America Needs Nurses---Enlist Now, also shows three nurses smoking. And promotes "So Proudly We Hail" a war movie epic about nurses featuring Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, and Veronica Lake.

In tone and spirit these titles contain the elements of contemporary women's magazines. Eve actually contains "An Editorial for Advertisers" that sketches the demographic shifts from the flapper to the new woman, in the kind of breezy language that would please advertisers. But this does not sound like "church vs. state" stuff. It seems more like an early 20th century magazine trying to find its way.

What most struck me about these magazines were the analytical psychology articles written by M. Esther Harding, MD, an influential Jungian psychologist. a student and friend of Carl Jung, and an analyst profoundly important to the adoption of Jungian psychology in the US.  An article "Till You Meet Again" describes war time romances and the dangers of projection, building up illusions, and not establishing psychological boundaries to protect oneself.

In an article in Eve Dr. Harding psychoanalyzes a play 'The Captive."  The editor in her note sets up the analysis by suggesting that the "performance is something akin to an agony of tense silence" and the audience leaves subdued, chastened and wondering. So there must be something more to the play than its objective plot.

Harding explores the archetypal implications of a Mother fixation and a male tendency to want a lover idealized and "harmonious" like the mother but at the same time hungers for the other woman representing the vulgar, of a lower class than his own.

These observations have spawned an industry.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Now the Unsexy ARPU

Online metrics used to be easy, until they didn't mean anything and became little more than competitive hammers in the marketplace.

Metrics are becoming hot again mainly because so many IPOs are coming to market.  In his column for the Nieman Journalism Lab Ken Doctor takes a knife (and fork) to this fantasy world of online metrics (  He mentions Groupon's foggy metrics and balance sheet nonsense: "adjusted consolidated segment operating income." He also cites the Huffington Post claims to have surpassed the New York Times in online traffic.

Doctor suggests that publishers add another metric to the mix: Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), as the telcos and cable TV have done for years, to change the focus from customers or visitors to how much money we are making.  By his back-of-the envelope analysis each unique NYT customer in 2010 was worth about $3.54; the Huffington Post about $.96.

In this tale of the tape "unique visitors are a great dumb count." In the future he sees a mobile ARPU,a smartphone ARPU, and so on.

In the last year I have been working closely with network operators.

I think they can teach publishers a few things about digital business models and metrics.

Tablets & the Value Proposition

There are hockey sticks and then there is tablet growth. According to ABI Research more than 17 million tablets shipped in 2010. The firm expects 46 million tablets to be shipped in 2011 and an estimated 126 million media tablets to be shipped worldwide in 2016.

Only three media tablet vendors can claim shipments of more than 2% in 2010. Apple led the pack with 85% of all shipments with Samsung at 8% and Archos at 2%. Or 95% of all products. Apple's market share might have dropped below 75% so far in 2011, but no one is likely to match Apple's appeal.

So what happened to the 80-plus media tablets we saw at CES in 2011? Not surprisingly, many of these tablets were from first-time vendors who were trying to differentiate product mainly by price. According to ABI this strategy could lead to a "netbook" effect, meaning end-users expectations are set higher than what products deliver. "Should this occur with media tablets, market demand will cool and hinder the transition from early adopters to the early majority."

ABI suggests fragmentation within the OS software will hinder growth of this device category. As we know application develops must choose an initial software platform. If the market upside is not significant, application development might be delayed. "The benefits of open software platform development have yet to be realized for media tablets."

While some of my publisher friends have privately stated that the tablet game is over with the Apple anointing and Samsung declared a worthy #2, the pesky eco-systems rules that the ODMs and OEMs live and die by suggest that the tablet value proposition remains unclear.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Time Magazine--Digital Genius

L2, a think tank for digital innovation, has provided publishers with a huge service in rating the web efforts of the top titles.

In his introduction to the "Digital IQ Index" Scott Galloway, Founder L2 and Clinical Professor of Marketing, NYU Stern, reminds us that "There is no shortage of smarts or innovation in the magazine business. However, even with the total advertising down more than 20% from its pre-financial crisis peak, no company or individual has been able to paint a cogent picture of what the industry's next interation will look, smell or feel like."

Galloway notes that online CPMs dropped 30% in the 12-month period ending March 2011. He adds that the iPad has not lived up to its hype and "as of December 2010 all magazines reporting data experienced declining digital edition sales."

On the bright side: "In 2011 the amount of paid content traveling through the ether surpassed free content and several pay walls appear to be gaining traction." The researcher cites PwC analysts who have suggested that by 2015 annual digital circulation revenues associated with magazines could grow to $611 million by 2015."

The L2 study attempts to quantity and rank the digital competence of 87 top magazine brands. The study also explores the relationship between digital savvy and ad revenue per page. The end game here is to provide publishers with tools to help better quantify return on incremental digital investment. This has been a decade-long lament; pouring significant investments into online efforts but not always having a clear sense of return.

I'll dig deeper into how this range of magazine online brands rate in my next post. The point I'd like to make here is that most digital innovation and business advances are coming from the larger companies with the resources to take strategic bets. It is not surprising Time magazine rates at the Genius end of the spectrum and is rated #1 in this study and is in four of the top ten positions.

In the language of the study:  Time magazine has a"strong presence across nearly every platform; inspiring."

This is good news for everyone.