Mine Magazine “Computer Error” the Least of its Problems

Time Inc. recently launched a new magazine/online initiative called “Mine,” allowing users to select up to five magazines from eight available titles from which the company would create a custom magazine tailored to the user’s interests – hence the title “Mine.” Combining the targeting of online with the tactile experience of print, the publication offers a more targeted audience, and thus a more attractive value proposition, to potential advertisers.

In a twist of irony, however, due to a computer error many trial testers of the service received copies of the magazine that combined stories from magazines which the recipients did not select, including yours truly. Check it (Right-click and select “View Image” for a larger version):

Mine Magazine E-mail

Mine Magazine – an assessment
Service to the reader: C+
Value to the advertiser: B-
Short term business move: A
Long term business move: B

Computer error not withstanding, I applaud Time, at the very least, for its efforts. Here’s my shot at a fair assessment of the publication.

Service to the Reader: C+

Glancing through the first issue, and ignoring the fact that I received articles from Golf, Sports Illustrated and InStyle, the articles from Travel+Leisure and Time were, on the whole, interesting to me. Score one for Mine.

On the other hand, a trend article on solar panels in America followed a profile of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, a second to the Dalai Lama. Both interested me, but they lacked any cohesiveness. Surely given the archive of content at all of these titles, it wouldn’t be impossible to pull together articles that felt less disjointed.

Finally, what really brings down the score, is the following spread:

10 Tips To Get Your Kids Moving

Keep my kids moving? I entered in my birthday when I signed up – do they really think a 25-year-old has a 12-year-old kid?

A spread like this undermines the idea that is “my” magazine, and merely proves how far targeting, even in print, has to go.

Value to the advertiser: B-

In the first edition of Mine, Lexus sponsored the publication exclusively. Ostensibly, this provided a great deal of brand exposure for the luxury line, as well as an understanding of the demographics and interests of the audience in question. For that, Mine achieves good marks.

Furthermore, if nothing else, Lexus delivered me an ad that I not only noticed, but passed around to my friends to look at:

Beyond that, however, I’m skeptical of the return on investment for Lexus. Bottom line: I’m not in the market for a car, and when I am, I’ll almost certainly never buy a Lexus. Period. In that sense, when you hold up the advertising model to a new media standard, it’s efficient. A wasted impression.

Admittedly, my background is on the editorial side of the wall, so I’ll concede I’m probably harsh on the advertising side. I mean, we are sitting here talking about Lexus, so that can’t hurt…

Short term business move: A

Take existing content, repackage it and then feed it back to the consumer with a new label. Kind of like Southern Living cookbooks, only this time around it carries a high-profile sponsor. Not a bad move at all.

Long term business move: B

This isn’t the next big thing. But if Time can learn something from this experiment, it’ll help it to move from repackaging old assets to creating new ones for a new medium. And again, we’re sitting here talking about it, so that doesn’t hurt.

One thing I’ve noticed is the temptation to compare Mine magazine to the customization offered online. That’s misguided. Mine magazine is a magazine printed on ink and paper. It can’t compare with online, and I didn’t think it was trying to.

Your thoughts?

The best new magazine Web site of 2008

PopSci LogoI just wanted to take a moment and recognize the folks over at Popular Science magazine for their Web efforts. They quietly launched a redesigned site, PopSci.com, in 2008. It’s built on the Drupal platform and one way of looking at it is that, functionally, it’s a group blog. Each navigational bucket along the top represents a category, but all posts/articles/stories appear time-stamped in reverse chronological order on the home page.

PopSci home page

If you haven’t checked it out, I recommend.

It offers a unique model for a traditional print company to leverage their assets on the Web. It also gives me hope that old media companies will come to realize that a blog is just as easily (and perhaps more helpfully) understood as a medium, not as a genre.

Ravelry, the future of online communities, and what it means for journalism

Medill logoAs part of an independent study I’m doing on online communities with another Medill student, I moderated three focus groups yesterday looking at why and how students used social media. Once we got beyond Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, one student brought up an interesting site I’d heard of, but must admit I’ve never checked out: Ravelry – a knit and crochet community.Ravelry logo

The student explained that before she discovered Ravelry, she would spend a lot of time trying to find free patterns online. Now, she can log in to Ravelry and trade patterns within the community easily.

The future of online communities…?

Her insights helped highlight some of different motivations people have for joining and contributing to online communities. People overwhelmingly have the same responses for joining Facebook and MySpace: my friends are there, I want to find old friends or it helps me keep in touch. Topically oriented communities offer something entirely different.

TripConnect logoI’m sure other examples of topically oriented, niche sites abound. The only one I’m personally familiar with is TripConnect, to which I contributed reviews.

Magazines and newspapers

At first glance, it seems that Facebook accomplishes what local newspapers once accomplished, although in a more extensive and personalized way, whereas topically oriented online communities are more analogous to magazines.

What’s your take? Are there any vibrant online communities that particularly impress you? Or any old media companies doing anything particularly interesting in this arena?

This is a thread I’ll hopefully develop more fully in the future.