Korean Publisher Leads Way for Magazines to Flourish in Digital Age

The Key Is Delivering Content Through Diverse Channels Anytime, Anywhere

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If you want a scary look at how magazine ad volume in the U.S. will hold up to new digital media, go to Korea.
JoongAng M&B's Patzzi.com is a portal that combines material from all seven of the Korean group's magazines, plus shopping tips and media and marketing trends.
JoongAng M&B's Patzzi.com is a portal that combines material from all seven of the Korean group's magazines, plus shopping tips and media and marketing trends.

New-media advertising grew 21% in Korea last year vs. 1.2% for magazine ads -- and new media outpaces magazine ad volume $840 million to $495 million.

Jeong-Woo Kil, president-CEO of JoongAng M&B, a privately owned publisher of seven magazines, told the International Federation of the Periodical Press conference in Beijing this month how his company was responding.

JoongAng M&B, which has interests in newspapers, broadcasting and book publishing, created JMNet to provide broader platforms of content, including not only material from its own media but also from Time Inc., Hearst, the Washington Post Group, The New York Times Co. and Nikkei in Japan.

Mr. Kil said delivering magazine content through diverse channels anytime, anywhere is the key to competing in the digital age. A digital-content archive, he said, is the "centerpiece" for traffic control of digitized content including text, images and videos. Cooperation doesn't take place only on the digital front; his magazines provide content for his flagship newspaper.

As in the U.S., Korean portals -- not content providers -- are so far the digital winners. Google, Yahoo and Korea's indigenous portals, such as Naver, outperform media portals. Naver notches 10 million visitors per day and takes 30% of online-content users in Korea.

But Korean publishers are fighting back. Mr. Kil cited publisher Design House, which is digitizing its own magazine content and cooperating with Korean magazine companies to build a comprehensive hub or digital library.

Design House also developed Simon Search to help users navigate digitized magazine content. I've long felt that the big search engines are vulnerable when it comes to specialized content, and Design House is making relevant material easier to find. You can take a look at the right-hand-side images, and when you find a piece from the digital archives, you can retrieve exactly the same page view of the magazine.

JoongAng M&B's portal site, Patzzi.com, combines material from all seven of the group's magazines, plus shopping tips and media and marketing trends.

Mr. Kil said creating and producing video clips for TV, Web TV and mobile phones is "now a must, and not an option." His editors not only select items for videos but also participate in production. He showed a video clip shot as his magazine reporters worked on print and video content at the same time.

For the company's Friday travel magazine, readers share their experiences on blogs and the magazine develops travel packages based on the blogs. This, Mr. Kil said, is "a constructive cycle of sharing content and services" to raise revenue.

Even though Mr. Kil appears to me to be way ahead of us, he told FIPP he had "to confess that I face more questions than answers."

He, like us, is concerned about developing profit models and how to harmonize selling content to diverse devices and portals without cannibalizing content.

The key, it seems to me, is following Mr. Kil's pattern: Combining in one portal as much diverse information you can get your hands on. That creates a whole new product and brings to it a whole new group of readers.

The problem is that both the advertising and media industries in the U.S. don't seem very good at breaking down silos we've constructed to protect individual properties. The Asian view of looking many years ahead for success is more compatible with the digital world's reward for combining material across myriad evolving platforms. We think vertically; they think horizontally.

One Japanese publisher said his company views the digital world in the same way as any other fleeting development: "No matter how time passes ... our expectation for love and beauty, care and tenderness, never loses."
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