Content Magazines Media Publishing

From catalogue to magazine: the power of storytelling

We all enjoy a good story—whether we’re reading it on our smartphone, tablet or laptop. Yet, some of us actually like to read on one of those cutting-edge devices that are printed on paper, the ones that are held together with staples and glue. What are they called again? Books, maybe. Magazines? Yes, that’s it. Magazines.

While the stalwart magazine format has taken its share of hits over the years and has its share of critics and doomsayers, it remains a viable medium for advertisers, readers and, near and dear to our print-loving hearts, custom content clients.

Even digital natives prefer reading in print, according to Washington Post report Why Digital Natives Prefer Reading in Print.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what veteran editor Bob Love said about magazines at Folio’s Association Media Summit last year: “I like to tell my editors that the internet is our best friend and our worst enemy. Readers get instant information, data and news from Google, but they come to print for something extra. Let’s call it inspiration.”

And: “… that’s the power of magazines; it’s the power to tell a story in a unique way. Video tells a story; social media can tell a story, but the print story—the way pictures, words, headlines and the pacing of the magazine take you on a journey—that’s a much different kind of experience,” Liz Vaccariello, editor-in-chief of newly redesigned Parents magazine, recently told Mr. Magazine himself, Samir Husni.

That’s why it’s gratifying to read retailers such as IKEA and Canadian Tire are seeing the benefits of adding magazine-style editorial content to their catalogues. By doing so, they’re turning them into something their customers will actually make time for and display on their coffee tables instead of treating them like a flyer they flip through and discard.

The IKEA catalogue (nearly seven million copies of which are distributed in Canada) has taken a more editorial approach to the 2017 version, adding storytelling elements and using a livelier colour scheme throughout, according to the Globe and Mail.

“Everything is moving in a more editorial direction. Storytelling is something that we want to share more and more of because it’s important for people to know what kind of brand they are engaging with,” IKEA lead art director Zara Blomqvist said in a Q&A for the catalogue’s launch.

Tanja Dolphin, IKEA’s global catalogue leader, told the Globe that the print product also gets a strong social media boost once it lands on customers’ doorsteps, providing that elusive connection from print to digital that publishers and marketers so often crave. In efforts to be accessible to all, IKEA has also launched a digital experience and a new catalogue app.

Likewise for Canadian Tire, which has turned its catalogue into the Wow Guide by adding lifestyle content to help showcase its vast product array. It also added image-recognition software to the Canadian Tire app to drive customers and readers from the printed guide to the website.

Connecting interactive elements, such as virtual reality (which will replace the once popular QR code) to a print magazine will only become more popular as publishers look for ways to not only push readers online, but also give them an immersive reading experience—and help them maintain that engagement to their brands.

But, as our clients (like CAA and Acura) already know, that experience will always begin with a good story.

Photo: Breanna Rawn

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Race Ready: Inside the GEICO NASCAR Team

This story, for GEICO Now magazine, published for GEICO by Totem, gave me a chance to take a look inside GEICO’s NASCAR team. I interviewed driver Casey Mears, crew chief Robert “Bootie” Barker (that’s him on the opening page) as well as many members of the pit crew. I love writing these “under the hood” -style stories. Each member of the crew answered any and all questions and really explained the work they do all while showcasing the bonds that make them a team.



Auto industry Cars Content Driving Media Newspapers Reviews

NY Times Autos reaches end of the (print) road

As of the end of this year, The New York Times will end its print Automobiles section.

While it looks as though Autos content will continue in some form online, I’ll miss reading the Automotive content in print.

Part of the appeal for me was the print section published the work of great writers like Ezra Dyer and Lawrence Ulrich, who always find a smart away to approach their stories and reviews. As well, with its heritage of great journalism, The New York Times helped to legitimize the oft-criticized field of automotive journalism.

Despite its problems, the Times, to me at least, is the gold standard of newspapers and journalism. Car journalism, however is often viewed as fluff or an offshoot of the auto companies’ marketing departments. Not by the people who produce it, mind you, but by dismissive readers and media critics. Having a car section in the Times, though, gave it some needed credibility. And I’ve always appreciated how that unique Times voice of straightforward erudition was brought to bear on reviews of the Dodge Challenger or the Polaris Slingshot. Here’s hoping that’ll continue on the web.

Here’s the text of a memo that was sent to Times employees regarding the auto section by executive editor Dean Baquet (via Capital New York):

Dear Colleagues,

As I said in a previous note, we are reviewing sections of The Times as part of our effort to cut costs in the newsroom. So I regret to announce that as of the first of the year we will no longer publish a stand-alone autos section.

We will continue covering the automobile industry, of course, as evidenced by our sensational investigative reporting on the ignition switch problems in General Motors cars. And we will run consumer stories in the Business section, including regular coverage on Fridays. The Driven videos will continue online.

But despite sensational work over the years by Jim Cobb and his crew, the masthead and I concluded there is no longer an economic reason for a separate section.

Jim was there 20 years ago when the Sunday section was launched, and he has made The Times proud ever since. In the day, the insatiable demand among print advertisers had the coverage spread across several days, including Sunday. Now we’ll consolidate our print efforts on Friday, while remaining nimble on the web.

There will be opportunities in the coming weeks to single out the great work of Jim, Norman Mayersohn, Jim Schembari, Robert Peele and the many contributors, but let me start here by saying how grateful I am for two decades of imagination and dedication in making our Sunday section the best read in the business.

— Dean

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Stealing the show

A version of this post appeared on the Totem Brand Stories blog

For the automotive world, winter typically means two things: driving in snow and auto show season.  While the cars are always the stars, the shows themselves are almost as competitive.

The Los Angeles Auto Show kicks off the season in late November, followed by the North American International Auto Show in Detroit (on now, the media preview was last week) with the Montreal Auto Show muscling into the spotlight and running concurrently with the Detroit show. Toronto gets its turn February 15 – 24 when the Canadian International Auto Show marks its 40th annual year.

Despite the Motor City’s struggles and the former Big 3’s troubles, horsepower and sex appeal are still a big part of any auto show.  This year was no exception in Detroit, thanks to the unveiling of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, a 450-hp beast that is loaded with an array of futuristic technology.

But, while the Corvette and other performance cars like the Acura NSX and the Hyundai HCD-14 concept car got the lion’s share of attention, there were two reveals in Detroit that truly reflect consumer tastes.

Honda’s Urban SUV concept and Nissan’s Resonance concept point to a growing and key competitive market for most car companies: the compact SUV – also known as a crossover, or my favourite descriptor: trucklet.

Take a look at the driveways on your street or in any mall parking lot and you’re bound to notice the many Toyota RAV 4s, Honda CR-Vs and Ford Escapes. Each of these vehicles combine car-like handling with varying degrees of truck-like utility, making them useful for hauling around kids and dogs and groceries. Equipped with four-wheel drive, they can also prove handy in a snowstorm. Plus, that 4×4 capability gives them a touch of attitude that you just can’t get from a minivan, even though the minivan is truly the perfect vehicle for hauling kids and dogs and groceries. That’s just one reason why crossovers are so popular – automakers know that we consumers don’t always buy cars for the most practical reasons.

Crossovers have an interesting lineage. The sport utility vehicle boom was led by the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee – both big, brawny, thirsty machines. Gradually the SUV segment expanded into smaller vehicles that have nearly come full circle back to being cars again, and many look like long lost descendants of the old station wagons that pre-dated the SUV boom in the first place. Two key examples are the Subaru Forester and the redesigned 2013 Nissan Pathfinder.

Honda and Nissan believe this segment still has legs (er, wheels) and are aiming the Resonance and the Urban SUV concept (one assumes it’ll have a catchier name when it hits production) at young city dwellers. Honda’s machine will be smaller than the CR-V but not quite as small as its subcompact Fit “making it the ideal size for navigating both crowded city streets and open mountain roads,” says Honda.

The Resonance, assuming it makes production, will carry five people and be powered by a hybrid electric drivetrain. Hybrid and other alternative powertrains are important as automakers look for ways to win over urban consumers and meet government fuel economy standards.

Many of us like to think we’re more Corvette than Caravan when it comes to our choice of vehicle. But small trucklets could actually be one instance where automakers’ need to sell more small, fuel efficient cars might align with our desire to look cool while we ponder heading off on the road less travelled.