5 tips from IABC’s digital re-launch of its print magazine

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Thinking of re-launching your print magazine in the age of the iPad?

You’re not alone. Increasingly, in-house and member publications are asking whether mailing dead trees is the way to best way to reach their readership.

The International Association of Business Communicators’ magazine, Communication World, has ditched its print identity and reinvented itself as a digital monthly. It is seeking to reach its worldwide membership, save money, and create new kinds of content for a savvy digital readership.

The magazine began offering the mobile edition in May, with a cover story on transmedia, the use of multiple media to tell a unified story. The June cover story deals with “how building trust can have a positive impact on your organization’s bottom line.”
                                                                   
The new version is optimized for the iPad, but can be viewed on other tablets.

“This really is how people are consuming content now,” Natasha Nicolson, executive editor of Communication World. “Rather than waiting until the future is upon us and we’re catching up, it really is incumbent on us as a communication organization to be in the forefront.”

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A digital magazine can allow for a richer experience: The transmedia story, for example, includes a link to a video on a campaign for “The Dark Knight.” But it’s not all about the flash.

The browser edition will be available to communications professionals free for the next four months; after that, they will have to pay a subscription fee.

Here are some tips for launching a digital magazine, drawn from an interview with Nicolson:

1. Use big media as your model.

Nicolson wanted a top-quality experience, so staffers studied digital versions of Vanity Fair, Wired, and National Geographic. She then scaled the ideas in ways that would work for a communications organization.

“I didn’t want us to look at what are other associations doing or other organizations that have a publication that has gone digital,” Nicolson says. “I really wanted us to look at what can we do with a smaller budget, but how can we have something that’s much more like what the larger organizations are doing.”

2. Keep it simple.

A board member connected IABC with the head of user experience at Time magazine. This media expert provided great advice, but one thing in particular stood out.

He told the IABC staff, “Be careful not to get too carried away with all the fun things you can do.”

Where you have a smaller budget, you have to keep it clean and simple, Nicolson says. Excessive bells and whistles drain your time and distract readers.

“We didn’t want to have too many gadgets,” Nicolson says. “Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.”

3. Offer multimedia.

So no bells and whistles, but still: Provide the multimedia that digital publications allow, such as video and podcasts of interviews.

“You have to think differently,” Nicolson says. “You have to ask, ‘Where can I find multimedia?’—especially if you don’t have a lot of money to create your own multimedia.’”

IABC, which often uses industry professionals as contributors, asks them to point out visuals and other multimedia.

4. Change your way of writing.

When people read content online, they’re looking for shorter articles. The eye will find its way better and the experience will work better if the content isn’t presented as giant blocks of copy, Nicolson says.

“It’s about our creating an experience for the user that allows them to take in the content the way they want to take it in,” she says.

5. Monitor.

IABC will keep developing the digital publication based on feedback from the members.

The tablet version includes a social media sharing function that enables readers to share content and add comments, Nicolson says. Communication Weekly staff will keep an eye on how iPad and Android readers share content through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, as well as Pinterest, Google Plus, Delicious, Reddit, and Stumbleupon.

“As people gain access to the magazine, we’ll be looking at how they share the content on social media, what they say about their experience and what kind of content seems to resonate most for them,” Nicolson says. “This will allow us to take in and respond to feedback both in real-time and with a long-term view.”

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