Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Why they’re different audiences

Posted on | August 21, 2006 | No Comments

Sarah Ellison reports in today’s Wall Street Journal about how print magazines are trying to figure out how to place what where.

At Newsweek, driving readers from the magazine to the Web site often takes the form of polls and contests, says Greg Osberg, Newsweek’s world-wide publisher. Such efforts are sold to advertisers as a package deal, with marketers such as Fidelity Investments and AstraZeneca PLC sponsoring various topics. Newsweek’s online efforts for years have been hosted by MSNBC.com, and the two sites benefit from sending traffic back and forth.

Everyone is finding out that the crossover between print and online readership (especially those who started as print readers of a given title) is minimal right now. For the most part, I don’t regularly read online the publications that I get in print. My online reads are confined for the most part to online-only operations and the one major print publication that I do read every day online is the New York Times. I don’t subscribe to the Times in print.

For now, the percentage of readers who read both Time magazine and Time.com is ‘such a low number I’m embarrassed to tell you.’ –Richard Stengel, Time Managing Editor

If I had to bet (and I’ve been known to), I’d say this crossover usage will never occur. If there was a compelling reason to reach into both media, you’d see it now. You’d be downloading podcasts of your favorite NPR shows, but you’d rather listen to ’em in the car. You have a routine. You don’t go to McDonald’s expecting pate, do you? (OK, I’ll admit: a bit outta left field, but the point is there is a time and place for everything). You don’t see a huge take-up in .mp3 player telephones right now. Reason: They’re different habits (and different technologies underlying them).

Online properties of legacy print publications are not an opportunity to have “an online presence.” They’re an opportunity to push the brand into a different kind of journalism for a different (and, in the aggregate of course, bigger audience). The New York Times, for a time, had a video feed that was the right idea way before its time. Seems to be dead for now but there’s plenty of opportunity to revive it as habits change. That extension of the Times brand is a natural.

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