Time Inc. launched Mine Magazine earlier this year, leaving Slate and others wondering "Could a personalized magazine help save print media?" Seems like a fair question to me, so I went ahead an ordered my own copy by filling out a brief survey to tell them about my interests. Mainly, it involved clicking on cover images of the five Time Inc. magazines that talk about things I want to know about. Well, Time Inc. doesn't have five magazines that interest me — maybe this is part of the problem — but, to be a sport, I went ahead and selected Travel & Leisure, Real Simple, Food & Wine, Time, and Money. Mine is paid for by Lexus and features Lexus advertising exclusively.
The premise is that I'll get a personalized amalgam of these titles to suit my unique tastes. I missed the deadline to get it in print, so I get mine digitally. The first issue came today. It opens in a browser window. Looks pretty good, but I quickly realize that Mine has missed the mark, despite the intro letter's bold promise:
"Imagine your ideal magazine. Chances are it looks a lot like the one you’re holding right now. And no wonder. This is the premier issue of Mine: My Magazine, My Way, which was designed especially for you—by you. In fact, Mine represents a groundbreaking shift in the way magazines are made, because what’s on each page reﬂects what you asked for when you subscribed. The customized result, which comes to you compliments of Lexus, includes great writing and reporting from your favorite magazines. You’ll ﬁnd stories that will surprise, delight and inspire you, whether you’re interested in South African wine or solar power. This is truly your magazine, your way."
It took me about 3 minutes to scroll through the 36 pages and realize that there's nothing to read. The thing is, I'm not interested in South African wine or solar power, or how to get my kids involved in packing and moving, or how to turn my basement into an entertainment center, or any of it. This is really simple stuff. If these guys were thinking about me, the customer — instead of about how to save their sinking business model with a technology-driven gimmick, they might have asked more important questions than which of their product offerings did I want them to scan and combine into a single PDF.
They might have found out that I have no kids, that I live in a condo that doesn't have a basement, and that I'm very interested in Californian and Italian wines. What this tells me is that they don't really care about what I want, they care about repurposing their own content. That's the message.
Here's another small-to-medium gripe: it looks like a magazine. This means the pages are the wrong shape to fit on my computer screen. They're either too small to read or else I have to scroll up and down and side to side. Not the way to leverage technology — why not design it to look more like the Keynote presentations we're used to seeing on-screen? Why not make the websites mentioned in the articles clickable? Even the PDFs I create can do that. Even Zinio, whose technology ain't that great, is way ahead of Mine.
The back page is the only one truly personalized part of the magazine, achieved by inserting my name into the Lexus ad copy:
THE ALL-NEW 2010 RX.
NOW WITH MORE JOSH LEVINE
This is just about as lame as it gets. A huge waste of my time and Lexus' money.
Don't be like Mine. Put your customer first. Ask what they want and deliver content in the way they want it. It's really as simple as that.
Hey Time Inc., Rebel Industries offers custom publishing and custom web development. We can do this for you much better by applying the simple rules I mentioned above, probably much cheaper than what you're spending on it now.