Branded Content: Possibilities, Pitfalls, and Predictions

Branded content business models are evolving and it’s important for publishers to stay on top of brand expectations in order to stay competitive. Moreover, with audience control shifting from content creators to walled gardens, paid distribution of the branded content needs to be baked into the plan from Day One.

A seismic shift happened in the 2010s: Platforms took control of audiences away from publishers and brands. The result is the need to pay-to-play, which comes with a host of challenges. Brands need to find ways to efficiently expand their reach, while publishers need to create sustainable revenue streams that don’t fully rely on volatile organic traffic sources.

Enter branded content. Not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination, but one that is increasingly becoming a key pillar of revenue for a lot of publishers.

On the surface, branded content is a win-win for all sides. Publishers use their core skillset (storytelling and content distribution) to give brands reach that they can’t achieve on their own. In return, brands pay publishers for their expertise and access to their audiences.

With that being said, branded content business models are evolving and it’s important for publishers to stay on top of brand expectations in order to stay competitive. Moreover, with audience control shifting from content creators to walled gardens, paid distribution of the branded content needs to be baked into the plan from Day One.

Impressions Alone? 

Publishers use a variety of models to package their branded content offerings. Those can be anything from selling based on pageviews on their site to video views on Facebook. The focus does, however, tend to revolve around soft engagement metrics (views and impressions) across the publisher’s channels. There are publishers who work on lead generation and other concrete goals, but those still tend to stay within the publisher’s ecosystem, rather than working with the brand’s own site.

This is advantageous for both sides: For publishers, it helps maintain their tone of voice and trust among their audience — they don’t need to incorporate a “hard sell” into the content, which can be a turn-off for readers. For brands, there aren’t necessarily any concrete goals, and general “brand awareness” metrics can often be enough. When brands want to measure activity and business goals on their own site, they are generally hesitant to share those metrics with external partners, including publishers.

That’s not to say that sales-heavy content pieces don’t exist. Affiliate content, for example, has been on the rise over the past few years. Publishers showcase a range of products in an article and link to an online retailer, which in turn pays the publisher commission for any sales that result from the referral traffic. Most commonly, these affiliate links lead to Amazon, where publishers get a small cut of the sale. Branded content models are evolving to include this approach as well. For example, Walmart partnered with Popular Mechanics to sponsor an article that featured 15 bike camping gifts for outdoorsmen alongside links to their respective product pages on walmart.com.

Synergy Is Key to Success

When it comes to branded content, synergy is much more than a buzzword. An alignment between the brand and the publisher is absolutely critical for success. Users engage more often when a publisher’s tone of voice meshes well with a brand’s core values and audience. Here are a couple of examples of this synergy in action:

National Geographic with Brita

https://www.facebook.com/23497828950/posts/10156676165733951

 

In this partnership with Brita, National Geographic created a beautiful content experience that educates users about the consequences of bottled water. The piece is fully aligned with National Geographic’s reverential coverage of nature. On the brand side, Brita positions its water-filter products as alternatives to bottled water. This combination creates a value powerhouse for everyone involved and engages Natgeo’s user base in an innovative way with content that is unique and engaging.

Win Schuler’s and Food Network

https://www.facebook.com/FoodNetwork/videos/1220718271463314/

 

In this branded video, Food Network does what it does best: shares a yummy recipe with its audience. Adding Win Shuler’s cheddar into the mix feels natural, and the result is fantastic engagement numbers for the post, bringing value to the publisher, the brand, and most importantly, the user.

Common Distribution Pitfalls

As I mentioned earlier, paid distribution is usually a critical part of making branded content succeed. At Keywee, we’ve worked with hundreds of publishers over the years, helping them distribute their content on Facebook. As a result, we’ve pretty much seen it all, and the truth is that branded content done right isn’t as easy as it seems. Here are a few common pitfalls:

1) Going for the aggressive sell: Publishers don’t always create custom content. Sometimes they post a direct advertisement on their feed. This may fit within a brand’s reach demands, but it doesn’t do much for the publisher’s credibility. These posts diminish trust and are likely to grab more ire than likes or clicks.

Exchanging quality and value in return for a user’s attention is critical to keeping users around. If a publisher doesn’t want to go as far as creating custom content, a smaller-effort initiative like a sweepstakes in conjunction with the brand is a nice middle-ground solution that benefits the user.

2) Over-estimating organic reach: Most publishers commit to a set number of views when selling a content package. There’s usually no separation between paid and organic traffic. When publishers present the results to the brand at the end of an initiative, there’s only “traffic.” It’s not uncommon for a publisher to overestimate its organic reach and then, with a few weeks to go on the initiative, deploy massive paid campaigns to fill in the traffic gaps. The result is a hastily conceived campaign that can quickly become costly.

Fortunately, publishers can easily avoid this with a bit more planning. Whether running their own campaigns or buying through a vendor, it’s fairly simple to work more strategically. If they start executing a conservatively paced and well-planned paid campaign from day one of the initiative, the overall cost and performance will only benefit. The worst-case scenario is that the promised numbers are reached earlier than expected. Even in that situation, there’s a good chance that advertising dollars will be saved overall.

3) Limited reporting: The publisher-brand relationship is very similar to that between an agency and client; there is a customer who is paying for a service and requires proper attention. It’s incredibly common for a customer to want as much information as possible. If a campaign was sold based on impressions, that doesn’t mean that this is the only metric the customer will want to see.

When planning a campaign, remember that the customer will want to see deeper metrics. For example, a publisher could be promoting a video created for the brand. Even if the main metric is an impression, the publisher should keep an eye on the 3- or 10-second view numbers because the client will certainly have an eye on them. Another example is demographic breakdowns. If the publisher committed to a wide array of locations and audiences, and the content is being viewed only by a small subset, then pivoting the targeting strategy becomes critical for success and the brand’s satisfaction.

4) Publisher – brand misalignment: As I mentioned earlier, synergy between a brand and a publisher is critical for success. On the flip-side of this, misalignment can easily turn into a failure on all ends. When putting together branded content packages, the publisher should ask if the content would fit into their editorial vision if it wasn’t a part of the sold package. If the answer is no, then there’s a good chance the content won’t resonate with the user.

Looking Ahead

As long as digital content and advertising prevail, so will branded content. That being said, there are big changes afoot that will significantly impact the brand-publisher relationship.

1) 5G: There have been a lot of predictions about how 5G will affect everything from online shopping to people’s health. What branded content creators should probably keep in mind, at least in the short term, is that video streaming on smartphones will have far less friction than before. 5G is expected to be about 100 times faster than 4G, making streaming on mobile devices easier. Though earlier “pivot to video” pontifications were a bit overblown in hindsight, the strength of improved streaming options shouldn’t be overlooked. Publishers should expect brands to have more aggressive viewability demands as a result.

2) Performance content: Facebook has been encouraging brands to share select performance data with publishers and influencers. For Facebook the value is clear: Performance marketing usually leads to incremental revenue. For brands and publishers, these are choppy waters. Content plays a significant role in the buyers’ journey, but it’s still very difficult to fully attribute it to purchase decisions. A person reading an article about sneakers will not automatically go out and buy a pair. In other words, content consumption does not directly correlate to purchase intent. So far publishers have been hesitant to adopt this innovation, and brand adoption is yet to be seen. That being said, publishers will probably benefit from preparing themselves for a scenario in which brands will ask for more performance-driven metrics.

3) Shop the ‘gram: Instagram is slowly rolling out a new feature that creates a direct funnel to the brand checkout page on the platform. In other words, users will be able to click on a tagged product and immediately be directed to its checkout page. This allows for a seamless user experience and is expected to be a boon for ecommerce brands. Publishers should be on the lookout for requests of this type in the year ahead.

All in all, when it comes to branded content, the bottom line is simple: The combination of synergic content, expectation managing, and proper planning can create a value powerhouse for everyone involved. If publishers stick to these fundamentals, they can easily set themselves up for success.

Social Video Standards Need to Look More Like TV

Current social video measurement presents no way to standardize views cross-platform, which means publishers with large social video audiences are held back from full revenue because they can’t prove the complete picture of their audience.

Every month, 14.9 million creators (including media and brands) upload 100 million new videos, generating more than 2 trillion views across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Twitch. Social video keeps expanding as a viable means to grow global business for both brands and publishers, alike. But without measuring the content similarly to the way TV inventory is evaluated, it’s hard to tap into those same billion-dollar budgets.

This ever-changing media environment has been pushed along by sweeping technological advances. Audiences are more global, mobile, and social than ever before. And anyone can be a creator, whether they’re traditional or digital-native publishers, brands or influencers, or building up media empires from scratch.

Because they’re shareable in nature, social videos have previously been evaluated along the lines of likes, comments, and views. Those metrics remain part of the conversation, sure. But relying solely on them is what holds social video back – especially as these platforms are progressing toward more premium inventory.

Mismatched Metrics

Current social video measurement presents no way to standardize views cross-platform; some platforms have adopted IAB and MRC standards of at least two consecutive seconds, while others have not. For Facebook and Instagram, it’s three seconds. YouTube counts video views once play is initiated, but ad views are counted differently (30 seconds, or the duration of the ad). That leads to inconsistency from platform to platform, plus there’s no way to deduplicate audiences or gain further insights about their viewing habits.

Content creators are forced to grade their own homework, relying on mismatched metrics and small panels that don’t reflect digital realities. Publishers with large social video audiences are held back from full revenue because they can’t prove the complete picture of their audience – which today includes social – to advertisers.

Establishing Social Video Value

It’s time for an evolved approach to measuring social video. To show social video audiences at parity with those of traditional media channels, there need to be uniform market standards that attach similar values regardless of global location, screen, or platform. Deduplicated audience engagement and time-based metrics like total and average watch time normalize attention and reach globally, clearly reflecting how an audience cultivated through social platforms can stand toe-to-toe with some of traditional media giants… and how agile traditional media companies keep pace digitally.

With trillions of video views generated across the world’s largest social platforms, it’s essential for the buy- and sell-side to have TV-like time-based metrics to transact on and deliver ROI with confidence. On TV, metrics like watch time, average minutes watched, and unique viewers have long been a staple of how money (and lots of it) exchanges hands. When these standards grow into essential social video measurements, combined with audience demographics and location, what’s truly stopping all of this video content from being viewed with the exact same revenue capabilities in mind?

Social video doesn’t have to stop being itself. It has advantages inherent by design, just as traditional TV does. But in order for social video’s strengths to be valued on par with TV’s, measurement needs to look more similar. Known standards will give publishers and brands access to a massive audience (and resulting revenues) they’ve previously missed out on because they’ve lacked a way to understand that audience and model ROI.

No, B2B Media Doesn’t Have an Ethics Problem

It broke my heart when I read the recent blog post “B2B Media, The Ethics Virus & The Pursuit of Consumer-Grade Experiences,” which argued the majority of B2B/trade publishers have a problem of selling out editorial integrity to advertisers. In the piece, Publishing Executive editor-in-chief Denis Wilson wrote, “If you think your organization is immune (from editorial integrity issues), I’d wager you’re a minority or just wrong.”

It broke my heart when I read the recent blog post “B2B Media, The Ethics Virus & The Pursuit of Consumer-Grade Experiences,” which argued the majority of B2B/trade publishers have a problem of selling out editorial integrity to advertisers. In the piece, Publishing Executive editor-in-chief Denis Wilson wrote, “If you think your organization is immune (from editorial integrity issues), I’d wager you’re a minority or just wrong.” Also, that “B2B media has an especially nefarious legacy of playing fast and loose with the journalistic craft.”

I may have taken the post personally, having been a B2B publisher on and off for 40 years. I never sold a word and, must admit, I have no memory of thinking my competition did either. I do not suggest all B2B publishers are beyond reproach when it comes to bending to advertiser pressure. I do say the vast majority do not do so, nor do they have a culture of selling out.

When I came up in the business, there were storied trade publishers like McGraw Hill, Chilton, Gralla, Penton, CMP and many others. There were fat magazines with solid content that industries relied upon, such as Variety, Automotive Week, Billboard, American Banker and Aviation Week. I used to read Crain publications like the old Ad Age with as much enjoyment as consumer books. Women’s Wear Daily, famously known as WWD, had such quality journalism it gained a significant consumer readership.

In the post, Wilson talks about how B2B publishers today are finally learning “quality original content drives audience engagement and monetization.” Those publishers mentioned support my view the industry was built on quality content.

The ASBPE Focus on Ethics

Ethics was indeed discussed at the ASBPE conference. As Wilson points out, that is to the credit of the journalists in attendance. I heard everything Wilson did, but recognized that those few stories of difficult advertiser pressure were presented not as the norm. The example of one publisher giving into ad pressure was worthy of discussion, because that publication had never crossed a similar line before.

We heard about when the rigid wall between church and state required an editor to stop dating an advertising sales assistant or be fired. Another example described when a feature story was written about an industry problem for which a big client happened to advertise a solution. The advertiser relationship had not driven the story. The fact the publisher had to pull their hair out over whether to run the ad opposite the story opener speaks to their integrity. They were worried that although ad and story had no causal relationship, it would simply look like they did. In my opinion they made the correct decision to run the ad opposite the opener, that it was helpful to readers and no lines were crossed.

Yet Wilson and I reached different conclusions as to why ethics was discussed so prominently. To me, it was a reflection of a profession that thinks that is how important editorial ethics are, not to cure endemic problems.

Think back to all the articles Publishing Executive and other media publications ran when native advertising first became a thing. Despite most of us having published advertorials in the past, there was overwhelming pushback that native adverting crossed a line. It was not just theoretical venting. Truly, a majority of B2B publishers during those days told me their staffs would not let them entertain the notion of native. The knee-jerk resistance speaks to a culture not in the habit of doing things for advertisers.

Editorial Contributions

The article correctly acknowledged the importance of editorial contributions from industry experts who happen to work for advertisers or potential advertisers. I’ve been an editor and publisher my entire career, but today as I write for Publishing Executive I am a vendor. My instincts have me steer clear of writing about what I sell and Wilson and I discuss anything I fear may be too close to the line. That has worked out well.

In his post, Wilson attributes industry contributors to low budgets. No doubt that is a huge driver; but there is more to it. I was associate publisher of a trade book called Modern Horsebreeding in the ’80s. Guess who knew much more than all of our writers? The veterinarians and pharmaceutical companies. We did occasionally run articles by their experts — there were no such thing as blogs — though never once tied them to advertising.

When I published a magazine and then website about RFID technology, we were thrilled to get some deeply knowledgeable pieces from industry experts. Sadly, most were not advertisers. But this was terrific content and simply had nothing to do with advertising. If a prospective advertiser really liked that we ran their engineer’s helpful information, great. We’ll take all the good vibes we can get with prospective advertisers. Conversely, when an advertiser complained that we didn’t run their content, we would invite them to suggest a topic. We provided written guidelines they must adhere to, advertiser or non-advertiser. We edited each piece and were glad to consult as they worked on it. I believe approaches like these and those of PubExec are the norm.

The Opposite Reality

From what I have seen, advertiser pressure is something ad salesmen feel more than it being a routine reality. I personally sold ads for decades and ran ad sales teams. Ad salespeople are always hopeful the magazine runs articles plugging clients; it’s in the blood. They sometimes whine to editors about running more copy on their clients. In my experience, editors mostly ignore them with thinly veiled pity.

One speaker at ASBPE said advertisers were purposely overlooked and not written about to avoid the appearance of corruption. As Wilson wrote, “the sticky politics of accepting vendor contributions wasn’t worth the trouble.” In my experience, this is far and away the bigger secret we all carry: advertisers tend to get screwed. We heard how one company mandated that editors not use advertisers as sources for stories. I have personally seen multiple situations where editors avoid calling executives at advertiser companies for quotes out of fear it would look like the publication was kissing advertiser butt.

Big advertisers are often the larger companies in any given industry. These same companies have the biggest budgets for research. These companies are often actually involved in many newsworthy issues and situations because of their commercial reach. It would be self-defeating to avoid tapping their knowledge; yet because of the fear of appearing unethical, I have seen this time and time again.

Advertisers, too, might surprise you. I will never forget at my RFID publication a news investigation that we ran on the cover slammed perhaps the largest company in the industry at that time. They were not advertisers and I thought, well, we’ll never see a dime from them. But it was an important, well-reported story. To the lasting credit of an SVP of Intermec, he told his ad department to place some cover ads in our new magazine. He felt the industry had to support quality journalism.

I repeat: Of course I have heard stories of pay-to-play. The few I’ve heard are memorable because they are rare, not pervasive. One former VP of editorial told me long ago he was made to run feature interviews with some advertisers. Again, that stood out in his mind because it was the opposite of everything else in his career.

I am not saying B2B publishers are ethical saints. Wilson made some excellent suggestions in his post on what editors should watch out for. However, I do believe the B2B publishing industry overall is not rife with virulent ethical lapses.

Postal Rates and Internet Sales Tax Present Perfect Storm of Marketing Woes

This week I’m turning the blog over to some old friends at the ACMA. For anyone who uses direct mail, there’s a good chance postage will be going up dramatically soon. Whether you’re aware of that or not, this week’s post will bring you up to speed on the issues and how you can get involved in protecting your postage rates.

Note: This week I’m turning the blog over to some old friends at the American Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA). For anyone who uses direct mail, there’s a good chance postage will be going up dramatically soon. Whether you’re aware of that or not, this week ACMA’s Hamilton Davison and Paul Miller (former editor of our sister magazine “Catalog Success”) will bring you up to speed on the issues and how you can get involved in protecting your postal rates.

A Perfect Storm Headed Our Way

By Hamilton Davison & Paul Miller

Had enough snow-sleet-rain-wind-fire this past winter? Spring and summer could see even far worse storms in Washington, DC, that will affect all remote sellers — catalogers, publishers and e-commerce companies — for decades. Unless a strong industry push back is made, the resulting consequences will undermine your company’s profitability and add new complexity for both you and your customers.

These two major industry issues should have everyone’s attention:

  1. A potentially significant change (not for the better) in how future postal rates are to be set;
  2. The ramifications of a forthcoming Supreme Court ruling on the future of remote/internet sales taxes that could overturn over 50 years of precedent businesses nationwide have relied upon.

Our industry must mobilize to take action to respond to these industry-wide threats! The time to do so is right now. Inattention will be costly. Without a concerted, coordinated response, the outcome for both will be dire.

In each matter, it will remain with Congress to provide a solution. Moving bills through Congress is a challenge even in the best of times, but at this point in our political history, with charges and counter charges, with facts and fiction being obscured, even more effort is necessary. There are 535 different members of the federal legislature. Members of Congress respond best to the people that vote for them. So we need immediate constituent pressure on every member of Congress to let them know an important sector of the economy in their home jurisdiction is at risk.

ACMA is calling on every company with interests in remote selling, including all industry suppliers and other service providers, trade media to get engaged and help mitigate these very real threats facing our industry today. Whether with ACMA or some other trade group, history shows that professional associations are the best means to coordinate an industry response. Moreover, whether you are an AMCA member or not, ACMA will help you get connected to Congress. It is that important!

Let’s now examine these issues, explore where and how we go from here, and what must be done.

Postal Rates Going Up

A big change is in store for the postal rates-making process that may well lead to enormous rate hikes very soon. Here is how it happened:

  • The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, passed in 2006, called for postal rate increases to be capped annually at the consumer price index rate.
  • The system has worked well for most types of mailers since; postage rises only with inflationary pressure, something widely available and understood.
  • But the law called for the USPS’s oversight body (the Postal Regulatory Commission – PRC) to conduct a comprehensive review of the rate-setting system after 10 years.
  • Released this past December, the PRC review determined the price cap system hasn’t quite worked out as well as originally hoped. Medium- and long-term financial stability is allegedly not being achieved. In fact, the PRC proposed a significant change in which catalog postage rates will increase approximately 7% for Marketing Mail Flats and 5% for Carrier Route each year over the next five years. All mail will face significant increases.
  • The following five years, the PRC may elect to continue above-CPI increases or return to a CPI-capped maximum.
  • Assuming a level 2% CPI rate, this amounts to a cumulative 40% increase over the first five years (28% for carrier route) and upwards of 56% over the next decade (42% for carrier route). If inflation rises above 2% annually, total postage increases will be even higher.

The estimated percentage increases listed above primarily apply to mailers of catalogs and periodicals, because portions of these parts the postal system are considered to be “underwater.” Based on questionable data, some claim the Postal Service loses money in delivering such mail. But without question, the reported costs for flat shaped mail have risen rapidly since the purchase of the colossal Flats Sequencing System and now represents an existential threat to catalog and periodical mailers.

The PRC’s December review was termed a “proposal” and requested suggestions for alternatives. More than 100 commenters stepped up; the ACMA submitted four comments — one on its own, and three other joint comments with other industry groups. No time frame for a decision has been released, but the case is expected to be litigated.

Internet Sales Tax

Meanwhile, on April 17 the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) will deliberate for an overturn of its 1992 decision in Quill v. North Dakota, which held that businesses lacking a substantial nexus (or physical presence) in a state cannot be forced to adhere to their sales tax collection and remittance requirements. The case involves South Dakota’s 2017 suit against three online retailers: Wayfair, Newegg and Overstock.

What Target Marketing Readers Want … We Think

We want to improve the quality of the content and the user experience on Target Marketing, and I need your help to do that. We’re in the middle of a reader survey to get a better idea of what our readers, like you, want to see. Click through here, and I’ll tell you a little bit about the answers we’re getting so far, and give you a chance to add your input, too.

We want to improve the quality of the content and the user experience on Target Marketing, and I need your help to do that. To that end, we’re in the middle of conducting a reader survey to get a better idea of what our audience members, like you, want to see.

The results so far have been pretty surprising. For example, I never would’ve guessed that PDFs would be one of our readers’ favorite formats for content, but it came in second, right behind articles and blog posts, and above webinars, video, and other format that seem more popular. On a scale of 1 to 5, here’s what the average responses looked like for each format.

Target Marketing Reader Survey - Favorite FormatsWhen it comes to the type of content respondents think are valuable, best practices, research and tips and tricks are rising to the top, followed by case studies and interviews with marketing practitioners.

Target Marketing Reader Survey - Valuable TopicsAnd Another interesting response comes from the topics survey takers thought were valuable. Here are the top six topics they found most valuable:

  1. Marketing Strategy
  2. Content Marketing
  3. Customer Acquisition
  4. Email
  5. Customer Retention
  6. Branding, Creative and Content

And the bottom six they found least valuable:

  1. DRTV
  2. Mergers and Acquisitions
  3. Legislation and Taxation
  4. Personnel, HR, Career Development
  5. International Marketing

So, my question for you is this: Do you agree with these results? Are there other points of view you’d like us to keep in mind when we planning our content for 2018?

I’d love to hear your feedback. You can let me know in the comments or, if you haven’t already, go and take the survey yourself! We’ll leave it open for about another week to try to collect more of your point of view.

A Promising Print (and Vinyl) Comeback

Sometimes Christmas comes a little early, and this time, it was an email that reminded me.

On Monday, I saw an announcement that didn’t immediately register as I scrolled through the messages in my inbox. “Paste is Back in Print: Introducing Paste Quarterly” is what the subject line said.

Sometimes Christmas comes a little early, and this time, it was an email that reminded me.

On Monday, I saw an announcement that didn’t immediately register as I scrolled through the messages in my inbox. “Paste is Back in Print: Introducing Paste Quarterly” is what the subject line said.

I’ve been really swamped all week, and you know how it is. You make a mental note to check something out, and if you’re lucky, you get back to it a few minutes or hours later.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Paste, I should explain, is a website that covers music, as well as books, TV, gaming, and a lot more. When it was a print magazine in the early 2000s, it was focused almost entirely on music, and I was very happy to count myself as one of its subscribers. Through its coverage, I was introduced to up-and-coming musicians like the Hold Steady, Tift Merritt, and Drive-By Truckers. I also gained a new appreciation for established artists like Johnny Cash.

Each issue included a compilation CD with a dozen or more songs, and sometimes other content. Even after I read through each magazine, and often bought the artists’ music, I held on to those CDs.

Another great feature was the magazine itself. With good writing and photography on heavy-stock paper, it was actually a pleasure to hold in your hands.

It ceased print publication in 2010 to focus only on digital, including a daily email digest … until now.

paste1Wednesday’s email reminded me of the big news: “Paste Is Back In Print!” Turns out that it’s going to be a 120-page,12”x12” quarterly. Besides stories, reviews, and interviews, each issue will also include a vinyl record with exclusive music recorded at the company’s studios.

Vinyl’s been staging its own return in recent years. It’s still only a small share of the music market, but a growing one. And last week in the U.K., record sales beat downloads for the first time ever.

To help support this return, the magazine started an Indiegogo campaign that’s raised about 40% of its $100,000 goal. Participants can get more perks depending on how much they donate when subscribing.

But will the promises of “a clever illustrated spread, stunning photos bleeding off the edge and long-form stories that pull you in page after page” be enough?

I’m hoping that the value of a tangible printed magazine will be attractive to enough readers. They’ll need to be engaged audiences who are excited to discover (and pay for) more well-considered content, and interesting photography and design.

In his blog post yesterday, Chuck McLeester talked about some of the barriers to a full-scale revival of analog music by millennials. I’m wondering if the music will make the difference this time in keeping the print magazine going.

I’m betting that it will. And I’ll be subscribing again. Now, where can I buy a turntable?

So, what’s your take, marketers? Can this work? And what favorite products, print, digital, or whatever, would you like to bring back?  Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

4 Must-Reads On My Summer Book List

Maybe it was in the mountains. Or the backyard. I used to be such a big book reader over the summer. It was when I would catch up on the unread books piled up around the house, or on my desk at work. I’d pick up the habit of reading again, wherever and whenever I could.

Maybe it was in the mountains. Or the backyard. I used to be such a big book reader over the summer. It was when I would catch up on the unread books piled up around the house, or on my desk at work. I’d pick up the habit of reading again, wherever and whenever I could.

Last year, real life got in the way. I read a grand total of two books in three months.

Now, here we are in July, and I’m facing some of those unread books again, and a lot of new ones.

I’m a firm believer in print, by the way. I like how paper feels on my fingers, how it smells, and how it makes inks do things you just can’t see otherwise. And my eyes need a break after staring at multiple screens all day.

leoSo, here are a few of the books on tap for me over the next few months:

Shareology by Bryan Kramer

Melissa Ward, our Managing Editor here at Target Marketing, told me about this one. Kramer looks at sharing and how it can transform connections between individuals.

It’s about what he calls #H2H, human-to-human communication that establishes and deepens trust because it is simple, empathetic, and even imperfect. There are big implications here for how marketers can make their content more relevant. Thanks for sharing (see what I did there?), Melissa!

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

My Australian friend Melanie McCartney turned me on to this book just yesterday by simply tweeting — sharing — a passage about “horizontal hostility.” Grant writes: “We assume that common goals bind groups together, but the reality is that they often drive groups apart … Even though they share a fundamental objective, radical groups often disparage more mainstream groups as impostors and sellouts.” Doesn’t that perfectly describe our politics in 2016?

There’s a lot about productivity, originality, procrastination … and more. I’ve already ordered this.

Retention Fundraising by Roger Craver

I’ve had this book for a while, and coming from a true pioneer and visionary in fundraising, it was truly a must-buy (and we carry it in our online bookstore!).

The cover shows a leaking bucket for a good reason. Nonprofits are losing donors and members because they aren’t doing what they should do to keep them. I read a ton of direct mail and email for Who’s Mailing What!, and am often mystified why this happens. How can fundraisers remove barriers to keeping these people? How can they deliver the experiences contributors need to stay invested for life? I can’t wait to find out.

The Secret Language of Symbols by David Fontana

When I was at the Strand bookstore in New York last Fall, I picked this up. I was intrigued because we’re surrounded by symbols — from icons to emojis. It has over 300 full-color illustrations, so it’s a very pretty book to look at.

It covers how symbols have evolved starting in antiquity. It encompasses history, art, literature, religion, and so much more across multiple cultures. Cats, as an example, stood for different things to ancient Egyptians, Celts, Chinese and South Americans.

This just scratches the surface of my reading list. There’s more. I have the last two issues of Mohawk Paper’s “Maker Quarterly” waiting for me. And A Game of Thrones, plus some C.S. Lewis …

What’s on your list? Or what have you read recently that’s worth sharing? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.