Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The magazine industry gets connected

There has been an interesting development in B2B journalism this week.

Folio magazine launched a social-networking site for people in the magazine industry ... and much to my surprise ... it took off at a rate that I can only call extraordinary. Within a few hours of its debut, the MediaPRO network had attracted 400 members.
Even more interesting is that MediaPRO seems to be attracting people for whom it is their first online social network. And that is quite an accomplishment. For if there's any single trait that distinguishes the magazine industry it is its seeming inability to try new things.
In fact, I'm always amazed to find that so few people in the industry have actually experimented with the stuff they talk about all the time. Everyone sits in the same conference rooms at the Folio show, ABM conferences, etc., hearing about the same things over and over again for years and years, but no one actually tries any of it.
For example, based on my very unscientific surveys I'd say that fewer than 3% of B2B editors have learned to shoot/edit/upload video.
And is there a senior executive anywhere in the magazine world who hasn't been pushing his staff to add blogs and user-generated content? But what percentage of those executives has ever even posted a comment to a blog or forum anywhere in the world?
All of social media and social networking has been much the same. The magazine industry and its investors talk about it a lot. And Lord knows people are throwing money at the stuff. (PaidContent recently reported that investment in the space in the 15 months ending with the close of the first quarter topped $3 billion.)
But until the arrival of MediaPRO, it seemed that only the early adopters had actually even logged on to a social media site.

I'm not sure what it is about MediaPRO that is allowing it to make inroads with such a change-resistant culture.
Don't get me wrong. I like the site quite a bit ... but I almost always like social networking sites.
There's nothing revolutionary about MediaPRO. The site uses the same connect-with-me protocols, the same notify-me-by-email methods and the same look-at-who-I-know voyeurism to create the same sort of experience that you find anywhere in social media.
Also, Folio made the wise decision not to spend a lot of money on this. Thus MediaPRO is built on Ning, the same platform that powers social-networking sites such as Wired Journalists (which now has more than 2100 members.) So even the look and feel is familiar to anyone with even a passing familiarity with social networks.

Perhaps it's just timing.
Perhaps now that things are truly getting tough in the magazine world, people have actually begun looking at the technologies that they've spent so much time talking about for the past few years.
Let's hope.
In the meantime, check out MediaPRO and connect with me.

(Before you get too optimistic about what MediaPRO signals for the industry, take a look at Scott Karp's piece on what magazines don't understand about the Web.)

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