I know I said I’d stick to tweeting about media industry news, but I couldn’t contain my thoughts about this particular event to 140 characters so here we are. Two days ago Hearst Corporation, one of the leading magazine publishers, held what they branded as a “magazine Upfront.” Basically Hearst invited media buyers, advertisers, and current cover stars like Vanessa Hudgens and Miranda Kerr (pictured above) to their NYC headquarters for a presentation on upcoming content. When I first heard the idea, I perceived it as some gimmicky scheme to attract new advertisers and try and one-up the competition. TV networks do their Upfronts for similar reasons. But I was thinking of it too simplistically; I just assumed it would be previews of next year’s big feature stories and a few cover teasers. Maybe one of the mags got a big exclusive on some high-profile trending story from this year and want to sell the corresponding ad pages ASAP. That completely misses the bigger picture, though, and rudely ignores all the steps Hearst Digital has taken over the last few months toward the future. For example:
— HEARST Corporation (@HearstCorp) October 15, 2013
So, here are three of the most exciting #HearstMagFront announcements:
1. Seventeen YouTube Channel: EIC Anne Shoket announced that Seventeen will be partnering with Dreamworks’ AwesomenessTV to create a Seventeen YouTube channel of its own and a multichannel network. AwesomenessTV is one of the most subscribed-to channels on YouTube for the teen demographic, obviously an audience it shares with Seventeen, so this partnership makes a lot of sense. Even among the YouTube channels I subscribe to or regularly visit, I can see from the comments section that teens dominate the site—and these aren’t even channels specifically geared toward teens. Magazines thrive on reaching their readers so now that Seventeen’s readers have shifted into viewers, it’s time for the publication to create consistent video content on a platform like YouTube. The proposed channel will apparently feature content on fashion, beauty, style, and dating. And while I’m sure the editors are more than capable of creating this content themselves, I see an opportunity here for Seventeen to collaborate with the dozens of famed teen girl YouTubers whose already established popularity would bring millions of viewers and, more importantly, subscribers to the site. Though it seems that’s already the idea in mind for the multichannel network. I’d also love to see originality with the video content and not just reformatting the magazine’s print and web stories for video. YouTube is a great space for how-tos, tutorials, and service pieces and I personally could see Seventeen capitalizing on that niche very well.
2. Cosmopolitan Conferences: EIC Joanna Coles announced that in fall 2014 Cosmo will host two separate two-day conferences called Cosmo Live and Cosmo for Latinas Live. The conferences, which sound like some sort of Cosmo summit, are geared toward 2,000 “millennial women” and will discuss personal and professional issues important to that demographic. This seems like a way to bring one key area of Cosmo’s content to life and promote reader engagement in the most direct way possible. I’m a little disappointed, however, that the two divisions of Cosmo are segregated for these conferences because I think it’d be worthwhile to fuse the two conversations together. For now, there’s no set date or venue for the conferences nor do we know if they’ll be free or subscriber-only, but I’m interested. Joanna Coles has done a lot in the year since she took over as EIC bringing that Marie Claire flare to rebrand the magazine as one with a feminist voice that goes beyond just sexual freedom and education. I imagine these conferences will be an extension of that vision and hopefully will include Cosmo for Latinas EIC Michelle Herrera Mulligan’s input just as much as Coles’.
3. Elle Video Issue: EIC Robbie Myers announced that the magazine will release a video issue which will include 5-8 videos published per day on Elle.com for an entire month to coincide with the print issue. This idea excites me just as much as it frustrates me. Back when I was pitching magazine ideas for my grad capstone’s tablet competition, my team pitched something similar to this only we proposed that our entire feature section be videos. In other words, those long 7,000 word feature stories we’re accustomed to reading in the magazine would be told in video. Visual storytelling if done correctly can sometimes be more effective than written words, and I see a lot of potential for Elle to do great things with this. But they’ve got to think outside the box. Right now, this idea seems too formulaic and fitted to traditional print methods to be innovative. Why not scrap the whole print issue that month in general and just have an entire issue in video? Make it accessible on the web, on phones, and most importantly on tablets. Sports Illustrated recently announced that it would begin testing out a new kind of paywall where readers would be prompted to watch a commercial before accessing stories. So we know the ad dollars can translate easily to video and I’ve always personally felt commercials are more memorable and persuasive than print ads.