S+B: What is lead generation?
CARRIGAN: It means earning permission from members of your audience to provide information to them, or offer services and products to them, on a targeted basis, ideally when they need it in the buying process. Any media company that does this is providing a great service, especially on mobile devices. Our audience includes a lot of IT and tech professionals, walking around with smartphones and tablets in their workplaces. They’re looking for content, but their devices are not optimized for viewing in-depth reports. So we place an app called Tech Briefcase on their mobile device; we distribute it through the iTunes store but ask users to register with us when they first open it. We learn their preferences through the registration process, and then the app provides those users abstracts of the types of white papers they want. They can bookmark the ones they like and retrieve the full document later on their laptop.
We went to great expense to create this mobile app; we did focus groups and utility tests. It was more like software development than traditional magazine publishing.
If you give people exactly what they want and you respect their preferences, they’re willing to give you information about themselves. We progressively capture richer and richer data about them, and then we can reach very specific subsets through highly targeted programs, drawing in material from any of our publications.
S+B: In other words, Tech Briefcase is a brand without walls, your own private-label aggregator.
CARRIGAN: Yes, as opposed to a digital replica of a print magazine. Many publishers seem to think that digital replica apps are the future, and they love it. They think they can put the genie of online publication, with all that loss of control, back in the bottle. They may add animation, slide shows, or video.
Just to be clear, we publish app replicas of some of our own magazines, and we believe in them. But as a sign of the future, they’re not all that exciting; in fact, they’re somewhat limited. We’ve found more substantial opportunity in creating service-oriented software-like applications that blend our magazine content, conferences, and websites. For example, Macworld is the most successful Apple-oriented computer magazine in print. Instead of creating a digital replica, we created the Macworld Daily Reader app. It’s gotten more than 250,000 downloads. It doesn’t look anything like the magazine; it’s a dynamic, very slick, mini version of our website. These apps, and our mobile device innovations, are all part of our evolution from print media to a more interactive media company.
We spend a lot on app development, in part because we have ideals around quality, but largely because we see our best opportunities with interactivity and name capture. For example, to really use Tech Briefcase or Macworld Daily Reader, you have to register with us outside of iTunes; Apple doesn’t share the data it gathers on iTunes, so we do it ourselves. When we capture someone’s attention this way, we recognize the lifetime value of his or her name. That is gold to us.
S+B: How does capturing a name translate to gold? What’s the transaction at the end of the rainbow?
CARRIGAN: First of all, we have relationships with about 12 million audience members around the world and counting. It’s a big number. Which is not to say that we have their permission to sell them anything we want. We earn their trust and permission over time. The more we interact with an individual, the better the business opportunity for us and hopefully the richer the IDG experience is for that person.