Quality and distinctiveness are crucial for online magazines
Being an internet expert, a consultant to the CEOs of major organisations and a successful entrepreneur, Danny Mekić has strong opinions on various strategic issues at play in the Dutch business world. In this article, he looks ahead at developments within online marketing and explains his views on online magazines.
2014 will be a year of stagnation in the area of online marketing, Mekić expects. “Large organisations that used to be progressive with online marketing in the past have now become more conservative with their budgets due to the crisis. New developments that are currently on the rise are mostly coming from small startups. However, these young enterprises need time to grow, which means we probably won’t see the results yet in 2014. Since online marketing is now closely linked to social media, it’s also interesting to follow social media-related trends. I expect the usage of social media to change drastically during this year. For example in the way visitors use a platform and the number of minutes spent intensively on it. It’s become known before that young people use Facebook less and less frequently and switch to alternatives like Instagram and WhatsApp. For that reason several profound changes are under construction at Facebook, and they’re working on setting up various apps. This way, Facebook hopes to tie down the users that are now leaving for other platforms.”
Because the average consumer gets more and more stimuli to process nowadays, the role of marketing in society changes as well, the visionary continues. “When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of which stimulus wins. Personally I’m convinced it’s mostly relevant stimuli that will win out. People forward relevant content through their own networks and thus become carriers of your commercial message. In that context, the great increase in funny videos with a commercial message is a logical development. Think of Nivea’s Stress Test for example, which has been viewed millions of times by now. This success story is a stark contrast to the not particularly successful marketing efforts of many other companies that often don’t have their content properly sorted out. Managing that content is currently a major challenge to companies. Whether it’s about text, images or videos, all communications from a company need to have a consistent thought or message. But they often lack a comprehensive overview of all messages that have been developed, and as a result, texts end up living a life of their own and seeming mismatched as a result of a lack of quality. So in 2014, many large organisations will be investing in searchable systems offering a complete overview of all developed content.”
Due to the digitalisation of society and of human lives, and to the decline of paper media, online magazines are on the rise, Mekić knows. But still he adds some side notes: “the question is whether you as a company are a seen as a valuable partner in the eyes of the rest of the world. A magazine is a way to contribute and show that value. And yet I see online magazines by companies failing en masse. This is because an online magazine is often set up as a replacement for an offline publication. Companies often do this not just to save money, but also to ‘look modern’. The problem with that is that the online magazine now has to compete with all sorts of other content that’s offered online. So you always need to ask yourself where your content will ultimately end up, what it’ll be a part of. After all, the supply of online text is many times larger these days than what physically ends up on your desk or door mat. That’s why I believe you’ll stand out much more with an offline publication. And moreover, in practice it turns out people spend more time reading long texts in physical media than they spend reading walls of text on their phones, tablets or laptops. So when my clients have some important message, or when they want to make sure something is really read well, I advise them to free up some money for an offline publication. Because if you physically deliver something good-looking and valuable to someone, there’s a much greater chance that it’ll be read well than some random email.”
It’s therefore usually not a good idea to completely replace an offline magazine with an online version, the entrepreneur continues. “Still, an online magazine can definitely play a part in a marketing strategy. After all, a magazine is a wonderful way to build a relationship with a customer on a substantive basis. That is to say: not based on products, services or a logo, but based on knowledge, cases, positive experiences and stories. But what happens too often is that companies try to link every article to a direct sales opportunity. I argue for restraint with this. After all, a magazine should not only have solid content, but most of all it should be a gift. This earns the sender the reader’s appreciation. Of course it’s fine for the magazine to be about a certain industry and the products and services that go with it. But it can have anything but the feel of a sales pitch!”
Although Mekić expects that more and more online magazines will appear, he doesn’t believe they’ll actually be read more in practice. “The supply of digital texts, imagery and videos is increasing enormously. Various newspapers now also have their own digital edition. The Dutch newspapers De Volkskrant and the NRC have both published an app that lets people read articles for free. But we still only have 24 hours to spend every day. The supply is simply getting too big, which makes people unable to find their way in it any more. Eventually this will lead to less, not more, consumption of this type of media. That means people will have to look for new forms. For example it’s possible enough that online magazines will still continue to exist, but only as a collection of references to external texts and videos. There will always be a digital supply of content, but the form this content takes and the ways in which it’s presented to the users are still subject to the law of supply and demand. And since the supply is increasingly enormously at the moment, the quality often isn’t stellar. That makes the consumer selectively go look for the best options. To make an online magazine succeed and to gather a user base for it, it is therefore crucial to offer high quality content and not to be lost in the masses. Because the masses are simply getting less and less of the consumer’s time.”