“Pushing the envelope,” the main feature in the September issue of Direct Marketing News mentioned a provider of digital catalog solutions called Issuu. Recently, Issuu announced it had established a partnership with VICE, a New York-based international arts and culture monthly magazine distributed for free in independent bookstores and record shops.
Issuu’s platform enables VICE to produce a digital version of its magazine, retaining the layout and aesthetic of its print layout but adding features such as click-throughs for ads. Additionally, Issuu offers targeting capabilities—for instance, an article’s content can determine the ad run alongside it, similar to a website.
Mik Stroyberg, Issuu’s director of consumer engagement, and Ashish Patel, VICE‘s head of social media, discuss the role digital magazines play in VICE‘s online strategy.
(Noted: The interviews were conducted separately, but spliced together for flow)
Direct Marketing News: How did you meet?
Stroyberg: I started talking to VICE because they needed to go digital in a way that’s as beautiful as print.
Patel: We heard about Issuu about three months ago. We started using their platform two months ago to increase the reach of our print magazine. We really like the user interface, which mimics reading the magazine.
What’s the benefit of having a digital magazine as opposed to a downloadable app with full magazine content?
Patel: Honestly, we’re working on that. A platform is already built out and it’s easy to upload the magazine. We thought: Why not get our magazine out there in the interim? But having an app won’t limit us from using Issuu, as well. We want to increase our reach and, secondarily, we think we can drive more value for advertisers.
Stroyberg: If you’re a magazine, we suggest you go to all platforms, if possible. There’s no reason to limit yourself. And with apps, people download it and don’t use it again. [Issuu is] on HTML5 and we’re mobile browser-friendly. We see ourselves as Pinterest for print.
What was the extent of VICE‘s digital presence prior to Issuu’s digital platform?
Stroyberg: Before they didn’t do much digitally. Now they have a digital magazine that’s online and what they can do is embed it onto their own site. They can distribute through network, distribute based on what people are reading. They can push local traffic to local advertisers.
How specifically does having a digital edition of the magazine affect local advertising?
Patel: There’s definitely some value there. We can run specific ads in specific markets. We could have localized ads for California and localized ads for New York.
Stroyberg: Instead of closing big deals, they can also close [local] deals. Currently, VICE has a big circulation and the advertisers don’t know who the readers are. They don’t know how much time is spent on reading VICE and they don’t know where they’re from geographically.
Is VICE currently offering more targeted ads in its digital magazine?
Patel: In terms of ad targeting, we haven’t taken advantage of that yet. We haven’t implemented a plan yet, though we recognize how it delivers more value to our advertisers. It’s something we still need to familiarize them with. Also, the Issuu pages are clickable, but we haven’t seen much traffic return.
Do you anticipate that changing?
Patel: Yes, we definitely anticipate seeing more return. The more we work with [Issuu] on optimizing the magazine, the more we should see increases. As our user base grows, we think we can capitalize on that.
On average, how many readers are you getting from the digital magazine, and are those readers digital-only or do they also read the print magazine?
Patel: We’re averaging 5,000 readers per magazine we upload. We don’t know if those are digital-only or if they have a subscription. The [print] magazine is a little difficult to track since we’re free, distributed through independent record stores.
Is that 5,000 number what you expected?
Patel: That’s on par with our expectations. And that’s just the average. One issue had 18,000 readers. Another had 2,000. The way the magazine looks has something to do with it. One of our less successful uploads had just a plain white cover.
Going forward, what’s next for VICE‘s digital magazine as it relates to advertising?
Patel: Right now our salespeople are not out there directly selling [the digital magazine]. Hopefully, in the future we can increase it. We’re looking to start moving in the next month. The more we can segment and the more hyperlocal we can get, the more valuable the digital magazine is to advertisers.
What will be Issuu’s role?
Stroyberg: We’ll go deeper into the segmentation. We’ll get closer to what they’re reading about, whether it’s fashion or art or design. People aged 25-35 that like art and design, we’ll reach out to them with ads. Nobody will see it as an intrusive ad, but as promoted content.