By Doug Worple
and Steve Kissing
The iPad is the latest—and arguably most compelling—reason for marketers
to back further away from traditional media companies and engage consumers
directly. Previously, brands needed print and broadcast media to reach their
consumers efficiently and effectively. This is no longer the case. That’s because with
technologies like the Apple iPad, brands are more capable and empowered than
ever to go it alone when it comes to creating and disseminating content. As such,
marketers who think like media executives stand to gain share and improve loyalty
for the brands they serve.
In this whitepaper, we’ll examine the tremendous opportunities and upside of the
“marketer as content provider” model. We’ll do so by focusing primarily on one
medium—magazines—to illustrate our point of view, which just as easily could be
applied to newspapers, televison and radio media.
Goodbye Glossies. Hello “Glassies.”
As has been well reported, traditional print magazines have been on life support for years
now. The plug has even been pulled on a host of once-popular titles such as Cookie, Cosmo
Girl, and O at Home. Nearly 400 magazines closed shop in the first half of ’09 alone. Still
others, such as PC Week, have migrated to a web-only format. And even for those print
magazines still kicking, many do so with anemic heartbeats. Pick up virtually any once-hefty,
ad-filled glossy, and you’ll find yourself holding a weight-reduced version
of its former self.
But the industry is now all abuzz over a bright light seeming to grow
brighter by the day. It’s not the shine of cherubs and angels on the other
side of publishing life, but rather a glow nearly as miraculous and certainly
far more practical: the Apple iPad. It’s on this device where the glossies
of old shine brighter than ever with pages backlit under touch screens,
creating a new nickname for the old medium: “glassies.”
Thanks to the iPad, and the other tablets on their way,
such as the Dell Slate and the HP Streak, the digital
magazine’s future is, indeed, bright. So are things
really looking up for the magazine industry? Well, not
entirely. That’s because the smartest, most creative,
most popular digital magazines aren’t likely to be
those from old school players, but new and yet-to–be-
concepted magazines created by entrepreneurs as well
as marketers for the brands they serve, just as television
content is increasingly being produced independent
of the long-term industry players and being served up
directly to consumers via YouTube, Hulu, et al.
But, first things first: Why does the iPad and its coming competitors have magazine
publishers and content producers, as well as magazine fans and advertisers, bubbling over
with optimism? Even more so than the web has or could, the iPad is particularly suited to
taking magazines to an entirely new level. Here’s why:
Colorful, super-sharp images and crisp-looking copy
have long been the hallmark of magazines and a big
reason for their broad, long-standing appeal. The iPad’s
high-resolution, back-lit screen only makes the magazine
experience even more dramatic and emotionally resonate.
And even the new “wrapper” looks great, as the iPad’s
design is as beautiful as any magazine cover—ever.
The iPad’s light-weight, thin body, its horizontal
orientation and its touch-screen combine to create a
magazine reading experience far more “natural” than
reading on a computer. In addition, the tablet’s portability
adds to this natural experience by allowing for much
easier and comfortable reading in bed and on busses,
in coffee houses and on planes and trains. Magazines
are read mostly for leisure on a weekly or monthly basis. As such, they feel right at
home on a device that’s neither as physically or psychologically heavy as our laptops
and desktops, which are often associated with all sorts of work stress and distractions.
That’s why the iPad has been described as a “lean back” versus a “lean forward” device,
such as a laptop. The iPad’s impressive ten-hour battery life means there’s a lot of
leaning back to be had with just one charge.
Perhaps most importantly, the iPad not only makes for a “natural” magazine experience,
but a “super-natural” one, too. The tight integration of video, music, social media, and
custom apps breathe entirely new energy and unlimited opportunity into the magazine of
yesteryear. Consider just two examples: Book reviews can now include an audio excerpt
from the work—read by the author; and how-to articles can include augmented reality
experiences allowing, for instance, a DIY’er to see how the table he’s thinking of building
will look in his own living room.
Of course, the inclusion of video will likely be the most dramatic way in which magazines
enhance their traditional approach for the tablet-driven world. For example, people
profiles, long a magazine staple, can now include video of the subject doing his or her
“thing,” be that singing, fly fishing or dog whispering. The London Evening Standard,
speaking with Joan Sola, president of Zino Global, which creates digital magazines
for major publishers, reported that many magazines have already begun asking their
photographers to shoot video as well as stills.
Before going further, it’s worth pausing to make an arguably obvious point: the Version 1.0
iPad will certainly get better. There’s already talk of future versions including picture-taking
and multi-tasking capabilities, to name just a couple. Some of these changes will be inspired
by competitors’ tablets. For instance, the HP Slate will be Flash compatible, which the iPad
is not. The Dell Streak, with its 5-inch screen (the iPad’s is 9.7 inches) won’t be for everyone,
but its ultra-portability (and its anticipated Kindle app) will make it the better choice for
many. Business Review USA reports that ARM, a maker of tablet processors, expects 50
iPad competitors to emerge yet this year.
Why Marketers Shouldn’t Rely
On Magazines To Make The Most
Of Digital Magazines
The consumer love affair with magazines (more than 12 billion are printed every year in
the U.S. alone) means brands should rejoice at the industry’s iPad-inspired resurrection
and re-invention. At the very least, this development opens up new and interesting ways
to advertise to consumers. But there’s so much more to iPad-delivered magazine-like
experiences to set marketers hearts to racing and minds to concepting. More on that in just
a bit, but first a few words about traditional advertising in digital magazines.
When it comes to the promise of digital magazines, what holds true for the editorial content
holds true for the advertising content: It can take a giant step forward. (Remember a
few decades back, when pop-up ads in the middle of print magazines were considered
breakthrough? We have come a long, long way indeed.) More robust advertising means
more compelling and engaging advertising—and there’s data to support that claim as
it relates specifically to digital magazines. For instance, consider a study conducted by
Smarter Media Sales of more than 5,000 people already engaging with digital magazines.
Called “The Case for Advertising in Interactive Digital Magazines,” this piece of research
revealed that 70% percent of the respondents were more likely to ignore web-based ads
than those in digital magazines. And 82% said they found digital magazine content more
engaging than the same content found on websites. (Recall the difference between “leaning
in” and “leaning back.”)
This said, to view digital magazines as just another really cool media from which to buy
space to insert your ads is to miss much grander opportunities.
Magazines can now be created and distributed without the huge investment in capital
equipment and the like. For savvy marketers, this begs the question: Why still rely on
someone else’s magazine when marketers can so easily and at less than eye-popping
expense create their own, a dozen, even? The answer becomes even more obvious when
you consider how the iPad comes with built-in distribution and e-commerce: Apple’s app
and iTunes store. To date, more than 125 million people have used their credit cards at the
store, resulting in 12 billion downloads so far.
There’s another reason why marketers don’t necessarily want to lean on established
magazines as their ticket to digital magazine nirvana: They may not have the chops to get
you there. This comment from Allan Hoffman, a columnist with the New Jersey Business
News, which sits near the world’s publishing headquarters, New York City, sums up this
tablet sentiment well: “Millions of consumers will have an all-purpose computing device they
can hold in their hand and display soon-to-be-invented ideas of what books, magazines
and newspapers will look like. It remains an open question whether slow-moving media
organizations will have the business acumen, as well as the creativity and resources, to
deliver wow-inducing publications.”
But if there’s anyone who does have the expertise, the know-how and the “right to win”
when it comes to creating those “wow-inducing” experiences it’s marketers. We’re the
ones who have again and again amazed people with great creative in the
print, TV, radio, mobile, and online worlds. And what is a digital magazine
if not, in essence, an aggregate of all those media types—and then
some? Excitement is already building within the advertising industry
regarding how tablets, and the magazine experience they can
enable, could launch yet another creative renaissance. We
believe that’s quite possible, likely even.
Tim Bajarin with PCMag.com put it this way:
“The iPad could give rise to a new creative self-
publishing crowd that could, in turn, become
competition for the established publishing
industry.” We believe marketers who
embrace magazines will be the stiffest
competition of them all. Traditional
magazines may soon find
themselves being bit by the
very hand that had been
feeding them forever.
The iPad And
Don’t Need Media
Way They Used To.
We have so far put our focus on the iPad
because it’s timely and, with all things Apple,
super sexy. But let’s put the iPad aside for a
moment, and see that it’s just the latest in a
trend that has been developing for 75 years, long
before Steve Jobs was even born.
Perhaps the biggest watershed advancement in
the history of brands creating their own content
was the invention of the soap opera by Procter
& Gamble in 1933. Other examples include
Hallmark’s television movies and, more recently,
the 30-minute infomercial. But those innovators
still relied on traditional media channels to
disseminate their content. But thanks to the
internet, relying on media companies to create
and even disseminate your content is already
feeling old school. That’s because no media
company owns the most powerful, far reaching
and creatively inspired medium of them all:
digital. You don’t need NBC to get your brand-
inspired sitcom “out there.” You don’t need
Reuters to spread your brand news. And you
don’t need Newsweek Magazine to provide
insights into how your brand can help improve
people’s lives. When it comes to media, these
days, it’s: have brand, have digital, will travel.
The Agency Model
As marketers think and act more like
media companies, so must the advertising
agencies that serve them. Here at Barefoot
Proximity, we’ve been changing the make-
up and structure of our staff to reflect
the new realities of content creation and
distribution—which includes traditional
advertising, but is increasingly including
web videos, feature articles, Facebook
posts, tweets and much more. So, while we
still have copywriters, account executives
and creative directors, you’re just as likely
to meet one of our agency’s editors, video
producers, script writers, online community
managers, and others who don’t have
traditional agency titles or responsibilities.
Copywriters don’t necessarily make good,
let alone great, feature article writers, no
more than traditional designers can create
a stellar digital magazine, no more than
a VP of account management can serve
as an executive publisher of a website
property. But regardless of titles and
responsibilities, what matters most when it
comes to building a top-notch agency team
these days is a strong drive to think of even
better ways to bring brand and consumer
together, with—and most definitely
The Opportunities Available
To Marketers Who Think Like
While not right for every brand, our point of view is that many could benefit from creating,
curating and even distributing their own content. This is not to suggest that advertising and
partnerships with established media companies have no place in the marketing mix. They
do. But there are clear benefits in the “marketer as content provider” model. Let’s quickly
review some of them:
A tightly targeted approach: Your digital magazine, weekly webisode or email newsletter
can speak to any slice, large or small, of your consumer base that makes economic and
A closer relationship with customers and prospects: People love engaging, helpful and
entertaining content. And if you embrace the right overriding philosophy—meaning your
content is about informing and entertaining the consumer not hard selling him or her
with self-serving content that overpowers and cheapens the experience—your brand is
sure to score points. Better still, you’ll be able to do this on an on-going basis.
The creation of a community whose “club house” is your brand, not someone else’s.
Imagine if, say, Runner’s World Magazine was owned not by Rodale’s but by New
Balance. Or if “Extreme Home Makeover” was owned not by ABC, but Home Depot.
This is the promise of the “marketer as content provider” model. Your brand can be
the authoritative voice in a particular space. (Again, assuming your content isn’t self-
More in-depth and timely data about relevant consumer interests, trends and needs. No
longer will a media company stand between you and your consumers. You’ll have direct
access to how users are, or are not, engaging with different types of content, as well as
the ability to survey them directly about whatever you desire to know.
The ability to rally brand champions. Those who interact with your content are bound to
be among your most engaged and interested consumers. Your content plays can be a
tool for not only deepening their passion for your brand, but also soliciting their
help in persuading and recruiting others to join the fold.
Three Quick Examples
Here are three examples of brands being led by marketers (and their agencies) who
think like media companies and who engage directly with their consumers.
Home Made Simple
Our first example is one of our own clients, Home
Made Simple. It is a media brand with multiple
touch-points. It includes established media, but the
bulk of the content is brand-created and distributed
which our firm manages. The aim of Home Made
Simple is to provide a medium for five Procter &
Gamble homecare brands (Swiffer, Dawn, Febreze,
Mr. Clean and Cascade) to connect and engage
with their consumers by providing ways to make
their homes and home lives more satisfying.
Home Made Simple’s helpful—and very soft
sell—content engages millions of people each
month through an online newsletter and website, magazine inserts, educational seminars via
a national craft store chain, and even a weekly TV program on cable channel TLC. Twitter
and Facebook are also utilized to help build and strengthen community. In addition, a Home
Made Simple book, which debuts in September, 2010, was written by our firm, and will be
published by the highly regarded St. Martin’s Press.
The ROI for this program has been off the charts. A key reason for this, we believe, is
because of the aforementioned soft sell approach. Our mantra on Home Made Simple
is: “It’s not about the brands, so it can be about the brands.” If content were too brand-
focused, consumers would lose interest and Home Made Simple would become Home No
This is an excellent example of a brand using its
popularity and credibility to bond with consumers
directly via a robust website, as well as email and
direct mail. Kraftrecipe.com is a virtual treasure
trove of recipes of every imaginable type. The
design is clean and simple, and the photography is
Embracing best practices, Kraft builds community
by inviting consumers to rank and comment on the
recipes they try. But they go a step further by also
encouraging consumers to share and swap their favorite recipes.
Consumers can also get their food-related questions answered via message boards,
view helpful videos, as well as subscribe to Kraft’s email newsletter and its print
magazine, Food & Family.
One of the most interesting and helpful apps on the site allows visitors to type in the
ingredients they have on hand at home in order to discover recipes that work with
those items, saving one a last-minute trip to the grocery store. Smart. Very smart.
Kraft could, of course, spend the dollars they have invested in this program and buy
more traditional advertising, but instead they have cut out the middle man. And we
have no reason to believe that any one misses him.
Man Of The House
Over the past couple of decades, men’s roles have
been changing significantly. Married men with
families spend more time at home and manage
more home and childcare responsibilities than our
fathers did. (This includes a greater role in shopping
for the family as well.) As a result of these role
changes, today’s dads often find themselves in
unfamiliar territory. Barefoot Proximity recognized
this trend—as well as the fact that no one on or
offline publication was helping guys navigate their new roles. Lots of other publications
speak to the younger male who has yet to marry and start a family. But no media, we
believed, was doing a great job reaching a critical mass of dads by offering a broad
spectrum of content to help them with all they are expected to do these days: from chores
and cooking, to health and grooming, to parenting and relationships. That’s how our firm
came to concept and create ManOfTheHouse.com, which launches in June 2010.
As with Home Made Simple, the articles and video content on ManOfTheHouse.com
are being created by our staff as well as some of the most popular and well-read daddy
bloggers out there who we recruited. Several Procter & Gamble brands, including Gillette,
have signed on as content sponsors, and we expect other, non P&G, brands to sign on
soon. (And, yes, we are preparing an iPad app for ManOfTheHouse.com.)
So, as you can see, we as an agency are practicing what we preach, by thinking like a media
company, finding white space and capitalizing on it.
There’s Always A But.
Of course, nothing good comes without challenges and potential drawbacks. Such is the
case here. Deploying the “marketer as content provider” model offers tremendous upside,
but there are some watch-outs, some tough questions a marketer should ask him or herself:
Are you committed to creating and curating relevant, timely and captivating content on
an on-going basis? This is a major undertaking and can’t be left to just junior staffers
or your efforts will fail. Think of it this way: There’s already an over-flowing abundance
of poorly concepted, poorly prepared and poorly executed content. No one’s looking
Can you find suitable white space for your content? Taking ESPN head-on with general
sports-related content would be like trying to beat Shaq at a game of one-on-one. Good
luck, right? But if, say, track-and-field athletes are a ripe market for you, there’s plenty of
room to run.
Can you comfortably adopt and adhere to a philosophy that puts the consumer and the
content first, and your brand second? Many marketers give lip-service to the power of
the soft sell, but can’t seem to resist any and all opportunities to force brand messaging
and imaging into the content.
Do you have a higher-order purpose or cause embedded in or existing right behind your
brand that provides the consumer-relevant⎯and wanted⎯reason for your content to even
exist and attract community around it? If you’re, say, a manufacturer of paper cups,
you might not be able to gather enough people who really care to gather around your
content. However, if you adopt a cause, perhaps clean drinking water, your content can
have greater power and reach. Another way to manage this sort of situation is to team
up with other brands, as we have done with Home Made Simple and Man of the House.
So, in the case of the paper cup manufacturer, if they teamed up with other party-centric
brands, they could create a media platform focused on seasonal celebrations, as but
Traditional media has historically been a gatekeeper
between brands and their consumers. But thanks largely
to the internet and ever-evolving digital technologies,
such as the iPad, the wall supporting the gate has
eroded, leaving it dangling on one hinge, wide open.
Marketers who seize the moment and think and act like
media companies, will stand to gain both market share
and profit. It’s time to storm the gate. And we’re happy
to help you.