The Cyber Space: Interactive magazines can be an effective way to build brand loyalty.

Magazines are a fantastic concept-gobs of information at your fingertips, a plethora of pics and now they're making their way onto the Net in a hurry. This month, we look at two alternatively fresh approaches to interactive magazines....
April 1, 1998

Magazines are a fantastic concept-gobs of information at your fingertips, a plethora of pics and now they’re making their way onto the Net in a hurry. This month, we look at two alternatively fresh approaches to interactive magazines.

Interactive magazines can be defined as print-inspired multimedia that respond to a reader’s selections. Most often, readers make their selections by pointing and clicking with the mouse. You get sound, video and essentially all the amenities that print magazines can only wish for (chat areas, for example). It’s not too difficult to see why Web sites are the darling of consumers and media alike.

But blazing a trail past Internet-based magazines are two interactive mags that operate outside of an on-line environment. They capture all of the things that make print so nice (the instant access and ease of use) and the excitement of those amazing (but attention-starved) marvels, CD-ROMs. Introducing Blender and Pulp.

Blender (produced by Dennis Publishing in New York City), was one of the first CD-ROM mags on the market. No longer produced, today, Blender takes the form of Blender Interactive TV on the Web at The interactive magazine version was one comprehensive package, incorporating music, games, movies and interviews. Volume 2.1 had a review of the motion picture Twelve Monkeys with a TV screen that pops when you run your mouse over the hotlink. On the TV screen itself, the director speaks to the viewer, providing insight into himself and the making of the movie.

Blender music reviews let you choose from five different genres, each offering tons of information and samples. Even the game reviews let you preview three different gaming platforms! This CD had tons of controllability and faster downloads than the Internet. What was most remarkable about this interactive magazine is that it was far ahead of its time, having first been released in 1995.

The latest incarnation of the CD-ROM magazine is Reebok’s Pulp (an ironic name considering that most of the mag is on disc), which was designed by the companies Heat and Thrust (located in Boston and Washington, D.C., respectively).

Pulp actually begins its life in print form as a twelve-page insert that whets your appetite for more and entices you to continue by popping the CD-ROM into your computer. Once up and running, you find profiles of popular professional basketball athletes. Each player portrait is based on a concept (for example, L.A. Lakers’ Nick Van Excel is the mad bomber), which makes for a more intriguing story than just simple interviews. You also find current music, players offering tidbits of trivia about themselves and lots of pictures of shoes. There is definitely a good content mix and a strong link created between the brand and the (potential) buyer.

Reebok has put out a whopping 500,000 copies of Pulp, making it available through SLAM (a basketball magazine) or by calling a 1-800 number to have it delivered by your friendly postal service. Once again, it’s ironic that the old magazine format carries the new, but it definitely makes for a brilliant transition from the past to the present.

A significant goal of interactive magazines will be (and should be) to combine the strengths and benefits of the two media. There will always be advantages and disadvantages to each. A paper copy is easy to use and convenient. CD-ROMs sometimes compromise content for flashy pictures and funky sounds. On the other hand, real audio (especially music) and full-motion video containing robust images will always be highly compelling (hence the entrenchment of TV). And let’s not ignore the fact that anytime you get a free CD-ROM in a magazine, the value of both increases simply because these days, nothing is free.

The other goal to which interactive magazines strive is enhancing both brand strength and recognition and helping to get a company’s product to market. There is often a mentality that on-line magazines are the ‘no-cost version’ of what you can get on the stands. So, unless an interactive magazine is solely Web-based, the ultimate goal is to have the two media support each other. Pulp does this by integrating the print mag with the CD-ROM; Blender did it by setting itself up as a true magazine of choice that didn’t need print to offer highly compelling content.

These publications are just two great examples of new media that break through the clutter to capture the target audience, and isn’t that what the kids business is all about?

Greg Skinner is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on the latest developments in new media and how these innovations are having an impact on the kids entertainment industry. If you have any suggestions or ideas for topics you’d like to see in ‘The Cyber Space,’ please contact Greg Skinner at 416-504-6800 (phone), 416-504-4054 (fax) or (e-mail).

Next month, ‘The Cyber Space’ looks at Web sites that use audio and video to enhance their content.

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