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Reader-driven magazines

Reader-driven magazines

Reader-driven, as opposed to advertiser-driven, content is what some call the key to saving the magazine business. But what if both existed in one publication? In an experiment beginning today, Lexus and Time Inc. are partnering to push MINE, a magazine where readers will pick the articles they wish to read interlaced with car ads customized to their personalities.

A total of five issues of MINE will be published every other week. The magazine is free but limited to 31,000 mailed print copies and 200,000 electronic copies featuring the same content as print versions.

Potential readers go online to sign up for MINE. For the advertising side, they answer a series of questions, including “what do you crave more: sushi or pizza?” and “do you like to sing in the car?” Based upon the responses, Lexus will tailor advertising for the reader.

For their editorial, consumers get to choose the magazines their articles will come from: Food & Wine, Golf, InStyle, Money, Real Simple, Sports Illustrated, and Travel+Leisure. Editors will then choose what articles are included based upon a reader’s selection.

Lexus is the sole advertiser, and the idea for the project originated with the company. It’s no surprise, then, that the readership of the magazines chosen for the content are in the demographic group of potential Lexus buyers.

The automaker said customer-inspired ads directed at the correct demographic present a unique delivery method for their messages. Time hopes that letting readers guide content will help create the type of potential emotional bond found in reader-loyal magazines.

With more than two dozen major magazines having folded in the last year, that type of bond is crucial if the magazine industry is to recover, wrote Gabriel Sherman in Slate. “It’s not that magazines are dying; it’s that magazines that were created solely for advertising or market-share purposes are.”

Which makes MINE a rare hybrid of creatures: its creation was advertiser driven, but the editorial side uniquely reaches out to readers.

For a magazine to survive over a long period of time, that’s a crucial aspect, said Sherman.

“Magazines still retain emotional capital, and publishers need to remember that they’re not in the advertising-delivery business. If a magazine can speak directly to the reader, advertising dollars will follow. Titles launched to capitalize on a booming market segment will never survive over the long haul.”

Whether MINE establishes that relationship strongly enough for imitators to sprout up remains to be seen.

–Michael Blankenheim

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