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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.

                                   
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Mark Coddington    July 18, 2014
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  • Lyndsey Lewis

    Is it just me, or is all this scarily reminiscent of “Minority Report”? Personalized ads are definitely weird — how long until hologram figures at the Gap are recommending I buy the khakis in a size 8? (Also, if you remember, Lexus cars were featured prominently in “Minority Report.” Coincidence?)

  • Alan M.

    This customization feels positively retro. Twenty years ago we all received junk mail that would begin “Dear [your name here]…” — with the “Dear” in one typeface, and [your name] in another. Sure, the production values have gone up, but the game is the same.

    Re: the creepiness – I think the personalization begets creepy, which is perhaps the biggest hurdle for a pub like Mine: Does Lexus really want me to know how deeply they’ve been mining my data? If you want to sell cars, then it seems wise to not give prospective customers the creeps.

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