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AMPA 2017 Conference – Trends and Tips

Infographics rock. Vanessa Wyse, former founding creative director of The Grid, recommended adding infographics even in smaller magazines as a way to tell a complicated story in an enjoyable way to make your magazine more attractive to readers. (Readers also share great infographics online a lot more than other content.)

She cautioned creators to focus on developing a great experience using a single overall theme for a clearly defined viewer/reader, even if it means paring down facts or making the infographic plainer.

Examples of great infographics can be found at Popular Mechanics, Field & Stream, Information is Beautiful, and a number of other magazines and sites.

Yes, writers do have to do social media. Having a presence on social media is now part of a writer’s job according to John Bennet of the New Yorker. He recommends a) getting comfortable using the technology and b) doing it on a regular basis, but c) being careful to not let it take over your life to the exclusion of your actual writing.

Have them phone it in. In addition to having sold-out pop-up shows with orchestral accompaniment and original scores, and without simulcasts, recordings allowed or promotion (hands-up, all of you who are grinding your teeth with envy), Sunday Magazine in San Francisco offers phone stories, where people can call in at an arbitrary time (e.g. “before washing hands”) and have a pre-recorded story told to them. Leo Jung of Sunday Magazine reports that this service is very popular.

It may be journalism, but it’s still a story. Curtis Gillespie of 18 Bridges suggests small magazines can use narrative journalism, the pairing of a novelist’s techniques with a reporter’s research and observation skills, to create a more penetrating, entertaining view of reality. Narrative journalism may include: intense observation of the surrounding environment and characters, a dramatic arc, descriptions of emotions including the writer’s, swift transitions between scenes, dialogue, and stylistic language (up to a point).

Although this does not have as strong a tradition in Canada than elsewhere (think Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Kathryn Schultz’ “The Really Big One”, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, and others), and needs a higher skill set, Curtis feels that small magazines can assign stories that may benefit from this treatment to staff in-house and create great opportunities for those passionate about the genre.

Think app-like, not apps. Andrew Rolf, Innovation Media Consulting Group, presented research from a report in 2017 showing that 95% of apps costing an average of $50-$100K were gone within 90 days of downloading. The report suggested using progressive web apps instead to deliver an app-like experience. (From: 2017–18 Innovation in Magazine Media World Report)

Other trends from the report:

  • More people use messaging apps and chatbots such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger than social media. Need to engage with them within these spaces consistently, meaningfully, over a long period of time.
  • Try for more precise offering of content, focusing on changing behaviours and needs throughout the day, not devices.
  • Check load times on your site: it’s the main way publications lose their audience.
  • Diversify revenue streams. Membership models with tiers of access and benefits are becoming more popular, but can also try online shops, digital subscriptions, curated content, etc. Analyze your own audience before investing heavily in any of these; some may not fit your demographic.

— Sylvia Skene, Executive Director, Magazine Association of BC

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