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.