Friday, June 8, 2007

Sick of ads on your favorite magazine site? Use a newsreader.

I was doing some research for an article I was contemplating for PopSci magazine. I'm not a subscriber to PopSci, but their podcast has nearly caused me to become one. Prior to today, I was considering PopSci a model for the magazine industry faced with the inevitable and inexorable change that is digital media. Now, I realize they have some work to do.

Consider first the advances PopSci has made. They have RSS feeds, a content-rich website, a print magazine and a podcast. As mentioned, it was their podcast that drew me in. Rather than other magazines that just read out a digest of a few stories each week or so, PopSci gets Jonathan Coulton to interview either the journalist of subject of one of the articles in the current issue. What a great way to get a feel for the content of the magazine by giving extra contant you can't get from the magazine. Additionally, their website is great -- heck, they've even embraced blogging.

But they are missing huge opportunities with their RSS feeds. First, they are making the classic blunder of excerpting their feeds. Rather than pushing out the full text and images of a story, they only give you a few dozen words, hoping you'll come back to the site to read the full story. This is a huge mistake, and it's made for one simple reason: They want me to come to the website so that they can:
  1. impress me with an ad (read: additional revenue stream)

  2. have more interactions with their website

noads.jpgBoth are the wrong approach. First, my news reader (NetNewsWire - It rocks) acts as it's own browser. When I click a link in my reader, it opens the page internally and doesn't throw it to FireFox. I'm not sure how PopSci has encoded their ad units, but they don't show up in my reader's browser. There's a bonus for me. Oh, and it doesn't have to be that way. They ads should display, they just don't. See the image to the left. The top is the site when displayed in FireFox, the lower in my reader. An easy fix!

Second, PopSci might think they want me to interact with their website, but they really don't. What they want is me interacting with their content, which I'm trying to do -- but on my own terms. Not only could they solve the ad problem above, but they could also do so much more with their feeds:
  • Embed advertising inside of the feed. You guys are already using Feedburner. You have the technology. Call 'em up and ask for help! You're leaving money on the table, and those of us who subscribe via RSS are going to be OK with it.
  • Give me the full text in the feed, but sprinkle in messages and incentives to get me to subscribe. I know that the magazine business lives and dies by ad revenue and subscriber fees. So flood my reader with so much news and information from your journalists and contributors that I can't possibly keep up with it all and will be begging you to give me a monthly digest in print-form.

You're close, PopSci. And I hope you make it to the next stage. I'll be waiting.

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