Interactive publications are blurring the boundary between editorial and advertising, says an executive for one of the first such publications, NautilusCD.
"Where content ends and advertising begins is not a discrete thing that you can segregate," said Mary Vaughn, VP-marketing at Metatec Corp., a Dublin, Ohio, CD-ROM company that has been publishing Nautilus for more than three years. "The fact is that you are offering value along with the promotional element. You can't just say that Chevrolet is a great product but you can offer the information that allows the consumer to make the decision."
Each $9.95 monthly copy of NautilusCD contains audio selections from some Windham Hill record artists, excerpts of Doubleday books and demonstrations of new software along with traditional editorial in areas of interest to computer users.
A recent issue contained a section called Electronic New Car Showroom, offering pictures and information about U.S. and Japanese automobiles.
Such material could be viewed as advertising in that it is aimed at getting readers interested in products, but the information is more than just a sales pitch.
NautilusCD doesn't yet charge for advertising, though a rate schedule may be in place within six months. Instead, Metatec has been working with marketers willing to trade something of value-a sound clip from an audio CD or computer software-that would be attractive to its 12,000 subscribers.
NautilusCD has been available for Apple Macintosh since October 1990 and IBM computers since September 1991.
In October, the CD was reformatted to look more like a traditional magazine, with sections such as Desktop Media, Entertainment and Education. Articles in each section are accompanied by video and/or audio clips, and a communications program lets subscribers instantly order products or get more information.
Readers who want to order software demonstrated on the disc, for example, can use their computer modem to request a special code to unlock the software.
Ms. Vaughn, who spoke at a seminar given by the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing earlier this month, said marketers interested in interactive don't necessarily have to start out by creating whole new departments to produce interactive items.
She said Metatec had worked with a syndicated TV health show to integrate into articles video that discussed topics too narrow for a broad TV audience.
"If the concern is, `We don't have the wherewithal to invest, there are a lot of things to try [that add value]. You can start. You can be in a public research mode with what you have, to see what people like and don't like."