Several weeks ago, Time announced a personalized print magazine, which mixes content from several Time publications, and delivers a selection to each reader based on their preferences. It was meant to be a five edition series (now extended to six because the first issue contained errors…), and is funded by Lexus to advertise their new range.
It’s a great concept. And Time certainly have the content to execute it successfully. It is early to judge, as only the first issue has been released, and Time has since admitted that several errors with content selection were made in it. However, assuming that nothing significant is going to change now for the 10 week run of the magazine, it’s pretty disappointing that what could have been a home run, has turned into a pretty limp swipe.
How it works:
You choose five titles from eight published by subsidiaries of Time Inc. and American Express Co.: Time, Sports Illustrated, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Money, In Style, Golf, and Travel + Leisure. You then answer a few vague lifestyle questions, enter your personal information (location etc). Time’s editors create an issue for you with content selected that correspond with your choices. There are 56 editorial combinations in all (the Lexus SUV has 22 customizable advertising message settings, plus eight options handled by a dealer).
All the print editions (it was limited to 31,000 subscribers) have gone, although I have heard that there has been very little take-up of the digital edition – which isn’t suprising since it offers nothing extra and isn’t very readable online.
One reader harshly summed it up like this:
“From the incredibly generic cover to the completely random and discordant selection of articles to the lazy interior layout, mine is a failure on every level. Instead of my “ideal magazine”, one “designed especially for [me] — by [me]“, it comes off more like a manila folder a casual acquaintance stuffed with a bunch of random articles that they thought I might like, cut out from random magazines they found laying around at their doctor’s office.”
And although I disagree that it is a “failure on every level”, it’s interesting to note that I have struggled to find a positive review of the first issue. However, as Rex Hammock points out, it is a “lot better than a conventional Lexus ad!”
Its a real pity that the content is not well vetted. As explained above, it is all rehashed from previous publications, which could be fine – yet the concept of content timeliness seems to have been largely ignored. Some readers reported receiving a sports article featuring ‘breaking news’ that is now over a year old. The promo site for Mine even boasts that if you are that way inclined, Mine would provide you with “timely financial advice”, which seems a pretty bold claim given that content is drawn from publications dating back to 2007, and the financial markets have changed more than a little in the last six months…
The main problem with Mine as a personalized product is that it is nowhere near granular enough to match any individual’s preferences. There are limited content variations, customized ad messaging that is interesting because it is customized – rather than because it is accurate, and limited cover and interior layout designs. People expect a lot from anything ‘personalized’ because of the fantastic recommendation services such as Last.fm and Amazon. Time Inc. certainly has enough content to have a great attempt at creating a personalized content blend, but it seems that most of it has been ignored. I imagine this is because 1) their content is not very well categorised, and 2) the process of content selection wasn’t automated very effectively. Most of the reader reviews I have read have centred around the issue of relevancy, with complaints both over the content and the advertising.
I really hope Time Mine, and other brands and publishers, pursue this type of project. When done correctly, the value to the reader and increased brand alignment will be superb. And of course, if anyone from Lexus or Time is reading… contact me. We could really help!