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Research Highlights

Magazines Must Boost Their Digital IQ

By Scott Galloway, Clinical Professor of Marketing

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Any product that can be distilled to zeroes and ones will have digital at the center of its future. We believe Digital IQ is a proxy for a brand’s ability to survive and prosper.

Magazine publishers have had a hard time figuring out how to make online and social media work for them, with “black hole” just one of the epithets used to describe the millions of dollars that have disappeared in failing efforts.

But new research, the first of its kind, shows that the truly digitally dedicated are in fact reaping rewards in the form of higher per-page ad revenue, the Holy Grail for that industry.

The Digital IQ Index, developed by NYU Stern Marketing Professor Scott Galloway and L2, a digital think tank, measured the digital footprint of 87 magazine brands. The experts from L2 assessed the magazines’ efforts across four dimensions: site, digital marketing, social media, and mobile. Each brand was assigned a Digital IQ and labeled accordingly: genius, gifted, average, challenged, or feeble.

Just 37 percent of the magazines achieved gifted status, but only Time merited the genius designation.

In fact, Time Inc. had four magazines in the top 10, followed by Condé Nast, with three, contributing to the researchers’ conclusion that publishers with large magazine portfolios were able to achieve economies of scale in the digital realm.

Most magazines focused their digital efforts too narrowly on the Apple iPhone and iPad, the researchers found, ignoring the multiple other platforms such as Android, tablet, and e-reader. Other misguided strategies included relying on large traditional print circulation as a guarantee of online success. Social media prowess, at the level that garners higher ad revenue, takes active, sustained effort, according to the findings.

Publishers, take heed, says Galloway: “Any product that can be distilled to zeroes and ones will have digital at the center of its future. We believe Digital IQ is a proxy for a brand’s ability to survive and prosper.”