Why Brands, Readers Both Win in Details' Big Book Play
Occasional attempts to sell serialized books online, such as Stephen King's abortive effort to get a buck per installment from readers of "The Plant" in 2001, have been far from rousing successes. Mr. King suspended publication after five chapters. Now magazine publishers, who consider marketers a better source of cash than consumers, have figured out a different tack: Get the advertisers involved.
Last week, Cond? Nast's Details released a 272-page, $30 book, the "Details Men's Style Manual" -- an admittedly conventional move for a magazine. But starting in December, Details will begin to post installments from the book online for free. And once the content is on the web, it's going to be linked to many, many advertisers.
"Ninety-nine percent of this book is nonbranded content," said Chris Mitchell, VP-publisher of Details. "It'll give you a primer for wearing gray jeans or white jeans or dark-blue jeans, but it isn't telling you what brand of jeans to wear. If we tell you within a section on jeans that blue straight-leg jeans are universally appealing, it's a natural opportunity online to have a pulldown menu where we can have advertisers give us their runway or look book or advertising shots and have those lead you to Seven For All Mankind or Levi's."
"In this day and age when everyone's looking for integrated programs, we realized that we had 250 pages of perfect content that is totally web-centric," Mr. Mitchell added. "It's not about taking the book and putting it online but about taking the book's content and repurposing it online, making it cross-referenced and tying in advertisers."
The move echoes other magazines' expansions into new platforms, titles and business models. New York magazine, for example, just published a $24.95 compilation of installments from the title's "Look Book" feature and plans to introduce a spinoff magazine, "New York Look," next month. Earlier this year, Vogue, a Details sibling at Cond? Nast, introduced ShopVogue.TV, a video site intended to serve as a destination for fashion entertainment and shopping.
Magazines benefit from taking down walls between platforms, allowing consumer sampling and offering different ways to approach to their content, said Beth Fidoten, senior VP-director of print services at Initiative. "You always want to encourage people to try something new, especially when it's cross-platform," she said.
Linking the book's content with advertisers via drop-down menus also fulfills one of the most compelling strategies of the new-media world: making ads more like tools than impositions for consumers.
"Importantly, they are giving their advertisers another meaningful way to connect to the guys that love fashion and love Details," said Jack Hanrahan, a longtime agency executive who is opening a consultancy called Hanrahan Media Services. "More and more, we see the vitality of strong magazine brands as they create multiplatform extensions to serve both audiences and advertisers."
The program, not incidentally, also reinforces the print magazine. Advertisers can't just pay their way into the online menus; placement will be available only to marketers that buy ad pages in Details magazine.