I really don’t like golf — at all. So I was surprised when, this weekend, my first issue of Mine (Time Inc.’s slick glossy foray into custom magazine publishing) included selected articles from Golf magazine.
Nearly a month ago I signed up on the Mine site to receive five issues of this custom biweekly magazine. I opted to include articles from these titles: Time, InStyle, RealSimple, Food & Wine, and Money. My issue of Mine arrived with only three out of five right — instead of Money and Food & Wine, it included stories from Golf and Travel & Leisure.
I found this amusing, because I remember thinking when I filled out the subscription form for Mine how little information about my lifestyle, interests, or preferences Time was asking for. I wondered how any publisher could deliver anything approaching a custom magazine based on my address, picking five out of eight general-interest magazines, and my answers to these four questions that are nebulous bordering on ridiculous:
- Which do you crave more: pizza or sushi?
- Do you like to sing in the car?
- Which would you like to learn: juggling or celebrity impersonation?
- Who would you like to have dinner with most: Leonardo da Vinci or Socrates?
According to the Associated Press, my experience wasn’t unique…
“Many readers got versions that didn’t match their picks. Time Inc. Media Group President Wayne Powers apologized for the problem in an e-mail Wednesday to the group that may have been affected, blaming a ‘computer error’ and promising a sixth free issue, instead of the five originally planned.”
Fine, fine… Only I don’t even want to read this first issue. It’s very pretty, but not worth my time or attention. Mine offers far less real customization than most news sites, mobile applications, and widgets. If custom content is what I want, I’ll continue to turn to my laptop or iPhone. Or perhaps I’ll try my hand as a custom print publisher in the public beta of Printcasting.
Apparently, Time could have been more careful with its editorial selection and preparation for Mine. AP reported that: “Several of the stories picked by editors from each title [for the first issue] were up to two years old, and some could be found on the Internet. One Sports Illustrated story about soccer fans, for instance, refers to a World Cup qualifier match ‘two weeks from now.’ That game wrapped up last June.”
From a business perspective, the biggest missed opportunity of Mine was its lazy approach to print advertising. My issue includes four full-page ads for a new Lexus model. The extent of the ad customization involved inserting my name, my city (Boulder, CO), mentioning a couple of nearby places (like Vail), and incorrectly assuming for some reason that I’m into trendy handbags and shoes. There are no other ads in the issue — nothing matched to any of the articles, or to my interests.
Worse, these ads tell me nothing about Lexus offerings near me. Where are my local dealers? What advantages might a Lexus offer in the driving conditions of Colorado? Are any special local deals coming up I should be aware of?
Which goes to show that for custom publishing — in print or online — both the advertisers and the publishers should be able to customize their offerings in relevant ways. It wasn’t just Time that wasted a lot of money on this issue of Mine. Lexus did, too.
(NOTE: I originally published this article in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.)