Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Jeff Israely: Five years in, our news startup is seeing the pace of change slow
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
May 15, 2009, 12:15 p.m.

Time Inc. thinks I like bobbleheads: More “customization” from Mine

I’ve written about the experimental Time Inc. magazine Mine before; it’s an attempt to bring some degree of customization to the one-size-fits-all-subscribers magazine business. I just got my second issue, so here’s a quick update of my earlier, skeptical review.

The personalized Lexus ads are still a little creepy, I think. One refers to my “life in Massachusetts” (although a printing error has screwed up the spacing around Massachusetts — the perils of custom printing on this scale) and the need to keep a safe distance between me and “any car on the MassPike.” The next, bizarrely, says:

An available Navigation System with real-time traffic information becomes very important on Free Bobble-Head Day at the baseball game.

“Free Bobble-Head Day”? That’s my specially targeted message?

The inside back cover features the image above, which creepily mentions my work address. That feels like a step too far. Think of it as the uncanny valley of advertising: There’s a point at which customization is too spooky to be enjoyable but not close enough to be effective.

At least the stories are a little fresher this time. (In the last issue, some of the “customized” content was two years old.) I hunted down the articles in this issue — all but one are available free online on various magazines’ web sites — and most were from February and March 2009 issues. The oldest I found was from September 2008.

But, below, you’ll find out my biggest surprise reading this issue.

When I finally got to the back cover, I discovered that I’d accidentally picked up my colleague Zach’s copy of Mine. (Maybe Time Inc. has discovered Zach’s secret bobblehead addiction or something.)

It’s a statement on how uncustomized this customization business is that I didn’t realize this just-for-me mag was actually just-for-Zach until I spotted his name. As I said last time, I admire Time Inc. being willing to try something new, particularly if Lexus is picking up the tab. But this hodgepodge of old articles and creepy ads still isn’t a package I’m sold on.

POSTED     May 15, 2009, 12:15 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Jeff Israely: Five years in, our news startup is seeing the pace of change slow
“The future is already here, and we have to hustle every day to survive. And succeed.”
This: Vox.com hires Andrew Golis as its first general manager
“He is going to be tasked with thinking about what are the big swings that we want to take in the next few years.”
Slate, now 20 years old, reflects on the value of taking the long view and not chasing digital media trends
“One of the things you’ve seen across the marketplace for the last five years is a lot of companies are chasing the same kind of traffic from the same social distribution mechanisms…It’s not a recipe for producing a distinctive media brand.”