Time Inc.’s Personalized Mine Magazine = FAIL.

22 Apr

Time Inc. and Lexus launched a personalized magazine called Mine. There were high hopes of ‘revolutionizing’ print magazines by using digital presses and user preferences to send each recipient custom content AND customized Lexus ads.

When we first pitched this idea to Time Inc., one of the very first things we said to them was, we think we actually have a new business model for you, and, actually, the magazine industry. – Paul Silverman, the executive media director of Team One, Lexus’s media agency and part of the Publicis Groupe – To The NYTimes

Yet for all the hyperbole and hoopla about new business models, for anyone who’s ever received a piece of direct mail, or even a catalog, this technology is not new. Ever get those creepy credit card mailings that know everything about your financial history? What about a direct mail offer that plasters your name all over the envelope and mailing? That’s variable printing.

Until recently, printers were only able to customize certain elements of a print job, but in the past year or two, new digital presses have come online that allow for customizing every single element on every page of a printing job- making personalized projects like Mine Magazine possible.

But for most readers out there, this publishing idea is really just a stagnant RSS feed. Why bother with a personalized magazine when you can read online. And who really want to receive personalized print ads from Lexus, especially when online advertising is already extremely personalized and relevant to the users’ searches and content?

It doesn’t help that the first issue of Mine ran into all kinds of glitches, such as a computer error sending readers the wrong content. (Cooking enthusiasts do not usually want to read Sports Illustrated). Also, the editors on the project chose older content, some articles being up to two years old. Perhaps they should take a page out of Direct Marketing 101- RELEVANCE and TIMELINESS are key. Readers don’t want outdated material, even if it is customized for them.

Finally, Mine readers did find the personalized Lexus ads creepy. Now this is something that direct marketers have been struggling with for years- how much personalization is too much? It seems that Time and Lexus were so impressed with this cool new printing technology that they forgot about their prospects and crossed a line with some of them:

Joshua Benton, the director of Harvard University’s Nieman University Lab, said that his issue of mine contained a Lexus SUV ad that used his name, referred to where he lives, and even referenced a highway that he often takes. Time Inc. has always been a pioneer in the realm of direct marketing for their titles, but mine may have gone too far. – via Fast Company’s blog.

I think this idea is too much about Time Inc. and Lexus and not focused enough on the reader. It reeks of direct marketing and not publishing and I hope they put this one to rest.

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