How to Leverage
Rich Media Dos and don’ts for developing a plan to engage audiences and advertisers. By Jim Calder
ich media: buzzwords publishing executives are being served up more often these days than their morning mocha frappuccinos. But how many of us fully understand how to utilize rich media to create powerful integrated publishing? By now, most understand that “rich media” essentially means using multimedia tools with an interactive twist. The trick is finding the right twists for your audiences utilizing streaming video, blogs, podcasts, webcasts, e-newsletters, message boards, polls, etc.—and then creating interactive advertising opportunities for your partners. Publishing Executive interviewed experts in the field to get some point-
ers on how to put rich media to use successfully.
Wired Into Technology Wired magazine, a print and online publication owned by Condé Nast Publications, reports exclusively on how technology affects culture, the economy and politics. Jay Lauf, publisher of Wired, says that Wired Digital (which consists of Wired.com and Reddit.com) has approximately 7 million unique visitors a month and about 60 million page views across both sites. He adds that blogs account for 25 percent of Wired.com’s traffic—and that percentage continues to grow. “Wired has found success with a variety of rich media content offerings. Specifically important to us is the two-
Wired.com’s blog utilizes YouTube videos that are relevant to its readers.
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way conversation made possible by blog commenting, and our proprietary Reddit technology that allows readers to contribute their own content and vote ‘up or down’ any content on the site,” he says. “In this way, the readers en masse are deeply involved in determining what is prominent on the site.” Lauf believes that rich media content that allows for reader feedback and interaction is important for developing a loyal audience and for creating interactive advertising opportunities. “The most powerful media mixes have parts that complement each other and take the reader/user/viewer through a topic seamlessly and logically from print to Web to video,” he says. Lauf believes it is important to present content in the appropriate media channel. “Some content is better presented as a short video, some as a printed magazine article,” he says. “Rich media for rich media’s sake can be underconsumed, not to mention expensive. … A podcast of a long story being read might be tedious and impractical. Video of rocket launches as a complement to our ‘Rocket Boom’ cover story in the June issue makes a lot of sense—it’s a natural extension.” Wired is currently experimenting with social networking by “crowdsourcing” to its readers some article topics that it plans on including in a future print issue. Crowdsourcing is essentially the Wikipedia type of business model, where a job traditionally performed by an employee is “outsourced” to a large, undefined group in the form of an open call via the Internet. “Social networking is a powerful means of building a community and loyal reader base,” Lauf says. “We use these [techniques] to our advantage in the sense that these deeper engagements with our audience translate into immense
Wired is currently experimenting with “crowdsourcing” some article topics to its readers.
opportunity for our advertisers to participate and connect in a unique and effective way. … Build a smart, integrated user experience, and smart, integrated advertising opportunities will follow.”
Blogging: A Big Bonus Rex Hammock, president of Hammock Publishing—a Nashville, Tenn.-based custom publisher of print and online media—has built a large, loyal following in the publishing field utilizing another form of rich media: blogging. “Great bloggers are great linkers,” Hammock says. “They point to lots of information found in a wide array of sources. … Good blogging is about learning how to filter and read lots of incoming information.” Hammock says he couldn’t imagine blogging without first mastering the use of an RSS newsreader; he suggests publishers use Google’s Reader. He also feels that social networking is a must when it comes to capitalizing on rich media. In fact, he suggests that all publishing executives open LinkedIn, Facebook and Flickr (a photo-sharing site) accounts. He suggests Flickr because it will instill basic photo-sharing techniques that can be used for posting photos in blogs and other forms of rich media. “I suggest LinkedIn because it’s a business networking service, but I think you’d learn more about the ‘ethos’ of social networking on the other two,” he says. For publishers who up until now have only had a print issue and a basic Web site, he suggests integrating rich media into what is already there. “Adding video to a Web story requires no great investment,” Hammock says.
Video Vacancies It also doesn’t require an immense time
investment. “I think publishers (or perhaps their editors and writers) are beginning to see that video doesn’t have to be a high-end production to be compelling to readers and, therefore, [to] advertisers,” he says. “How-to videos are my current obsession. Make magazine’s Web site is the benchmark for these, but I’m now seeing them on a wide range of consumer and b-to-b sites. …” For more technically advanced publishers, Hammock recommends what he calls “video sidebars” that are embedded within the edit well of a story—like a sidebar in print—and help the reader understand what the article is about. However, he explains even the smallest publisher has no excuse not to be involved in video today. “The ability to [upload a video utilizing] free and drop-dead-simple services like YouTube, and then embed the video in [other] Web sites, makes the use of video a snap for even the smallest publisher,” he says. YouTube’s popularity can make a publisher’s content accessible to a much wider audience than they otherwise might reach. According to Jennifer Nielsen, a YouTube spokesperson, Nielsen NetRatings reported the site had 48 million unique users in the United States in May. The April report rated YouTube as the 8th most trafficked site and the No. 1 entertainment site on the Internet. “People are watching hundreds of millions of videos a day on YouTube, and uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily,” says Nielsen. “A publisher can create a channel that would give current and potential readers a look into what the magazine offers. Publishers can create news, feature stories or other types of content that are designed to entice readers to look to the magazine and its Web site for the full story.” She says that YouTube enables publishers to engage with readers through comments, responses and video uploads.
It’s Flashy, but Does It Work? Rich media for many, however, delves deeper than YouTube and “continues to evolve, from Flash and Flex to sites > now done in AJAX (Asynchronous PubExec.com
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1. Enable two-way conversations with your audiences online. Allow your audience members to comment on stories, blogs, videos, etc. 2. Enable your audience members to vote on content. This can provide direct feedback to editors on what the audience likes and dislikes, as well as which content should be most prominent and plentiful on the site. 3. Use rich media to enhance the reader’s experience. Lead them from print to Web to video. 4. Present rich media content that is relevant and appropriate to the medium. A short video of something referenced in the article may enhance the user experience, while a 20-minute podcast of an article that also appears in print may just be time-consuming. 5. Consider “crowdsourcing”—a Wikipedia style of article development. 6. Enable your audience members to vote on top products or other items for articles, as Wired magazine is doing for its “Greatest Gadget of All Time.” 7. Integrate yourself and/or your staff. Start a blog. Master the use of an RSS reader so you can link your readers to all kinds of useful information and other blogs. 8. Open LinkedIn, Facebook and Flickr accounts to experience the nature of social networking. 9. Create “video sidebars” to enhance the story for the reader. 10. Tap YouTube’s free video services. 11. Encourage advertising partners to develop programs that capitalize on rich media’s interactive abilities. 12. Check your Web analytics to see if your audience members have the necessary technology (browser versions, bandwidth, etc.) to view what you are offering them. 13. Watch and listen to your audience.
1. Get distracted by bells and whistles that are of no interest or use to your audience. 2. Engage flashy rich media tactics that hinder usability/deliverability. 3. Use old metrics to analyze rich media.