Canadian Magazine Industry News
2 February 2012,     TORONTO
Editors discuss new social media tools and how they boost brands
Newer forms of social media beyond the Twittersphere are being embraced with some success by magazines and newspapers, those on hand at a Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME) learned Wednesday evening.

The session covered social media tools Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram, which are gaining attention from some publications.

Jennifer Campbell, senior digital editor at Flare, said the magazine got on board with Tumblr in August 2011. It allows photos, video, and a chat, and "mixes blogging with the social elements of Twitter", said Campbell.

Jennifer Campbell of Flare talks Tumblr
Jennifer Campbell of Flare talks Tumblr


With over 43 million Tumblr blogs in existence, 50 percent of the users are under 25, making it an ideal channel to reach youth, she said. Tumblr also has a "low commitment threshold," as maintenance takes up about three to four hours per month according to Campbell. That entails one to two posts daily. "We post the best images and let them breathe."

[Click here to see Flare on Tumblr]

But it's the ability to share photos that drew Flare to Tumblr. "Eye candy is a big reason Flare is on Tumblr," said Campbell. "We invest a lot in original photography. It's like an online art gallery." She also noted it's a "niche traffic driver" to the magazine's website. "It's a great position builder."

Flare has 24,000 Tumblr followers, which is growing by 1,000 per week, she said. "Original content gets the best viral play," she said.

Jeremy Barker, social media editor for National Post newspaper touted the advantages of Instagram, a photo-sharing app for iPhone. "It's the newest of all social media getting attention," he said.

The free app is simple; you snap a photo with your iPhone, and then pop it into the app, where filters can be applied and the photo sent across all social media channels. National Post began regularly adding photos to its Instagram feed in August 2011, to share photos from its photographers. "The account took off from there," he said.

The downfall, according to Barker, is that Instagram won't let you link back to a website, but he said the publication's website can be mentioned in the caption. "This is a bit of a branding effort," he said of the newspaper using Instagram. "Putting up a photo a day takes no effort."

Barker said Instagram can be used to release 'teaser' photos of upcoming covers, and noted Rolling Stone magazine wishes happy birthday to celebrities with archived cover photos.

"It's growing faster than Flickr," he said of Instagram.

[Check out National Post's Instagram photos here]

Amanda Factor, online editor for Today's Parent, enlightened the audience about Pinterest, which allows users to 'pin' interesting content from around the web onto themed boards. A link back to the original content is automatically created, she said, although she added that sometimes the wrong photo credit is given because the Pinterest content was taken from a secondary source. A solution may be to watermark photos, she said.

"[Pinterest's] reputation at first was it was a bit girly," said Factor, noting it was nicknamed "Tumblr for ladies... but I think it's breaking out."

She said it is highly visual and customizable, and "free of drama like Twitter". Today's Parent got on board because "it's a popular hangout for moms" — 54 percent of users are female, she added. Factor said the magazine has over 1,200 followers in a short period of time, and that in January, Pinterest is the #3 traffic driver for Canadianparents.com (which Factor also handles) and #11 traffic driver for Todaysparent.com.

[Click here for the Today's Parent Pinterest page]

The ability to share photographers' work through social media channels can be written into the photographer's contract, the audience heard.

While none of the panelists could report a monetary gain for having their publication on these new channels, they said the tools are starting to drive more traffic to the brand's website and create more awareness.

But the new social media tools still have a long way to go to catch up to their older siblings. Added Barker, "Facebook is still king. If I was to map out the hits, Facebook would be at the top, Twitter second, and the rest way below."
— Jeff Hayward
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