With the rise of tablet editions it is time for publishers to reinvent the ‘back of the book’
As a magazine publisher who previously had been in the newspaper business, one of the first things I thought about when designing my first magazine launch (at McGraw-Hill) was what the back of the book should look like. While the editors and designers fretted over the feature layouts, and most of the ad team worked with their clients to secure full page ads, I worked with our classified sales person discussing opportunities for small ads placed in the back. Should we have lots of one-inch ads? directories? recruitment advertising? what will work best for the new magazine?
Unfortunately, most ad teams appear to have been left out of the room when new tablet editions were designed. At most, ad teams are expected to approach their advertisers and their agencies about swapping out creative for the new digital editions. Few actually do, much to the disappointment of readers. As for the back of the book, in some cases designers simply eliminate the pages – something the AAM rules allow – while others use a replica approach and reproduce the pages as they appear in print.
You shouldn’t have to be a former classified ad manager, as I am, to see that there is a huge opportunity for incremental revenue with the back of the book in digital form.
One of the reasons newspapers lost their classifieds to new digital players was not that newspapers couldn’t compete, it was that they decided not to compete. Classified advertising, at the time I was a CAM, accounted for the largest share of revenue at many newspapers – larger than retail and dwarfing national advertising.
But the fear was always that creating new products, whether in print or online, would lead to a lower margins. If you think about it, it would be like Steve Jobs canceling the iPhone and iPad projects out of fear that introducing those products would cut into Mac sales. Well, they are cutting into Mac sales, but the company is bigger and more profitable today because of it.
The way to start, in my mind, is by handing off the task of designing back of the book revenue opportunities to the ad department. This is a great way to get them started. Ultimately the goal has to be to have new products developed by the ad teams as a way of generating new, profitable digital products. Let’s start small – with the back of the book.