A pioneering force in publishing, The Illustrated London News launched in 1842 as the world’s first illustrated newspaper. It was an instant hit and by 1848, it was selling 80,000 copies a week. Its success was down to the innovative ideas of its publisher, Herbert Ingram.
Looking through the paper’s fascinating archives, owned and managed by ILN, you find that then, as now, newspapers and magazines were always on the lookout for ways to attract and retain readers.
Ingram’s initiatives included adding a campaigning voice to his newspaper, supporting popular campaigns for reform by such figures as Charles Dickens. He also managed several editorial scoops that saw sales increase, one of which was to print the designs for the Crystal Palace before they had even been seen by the royal family.
Ingram also sought ways to attract subscribers. Readers subscribing to the newspaper for at least six months were promised that “a copy of the splendid Colosseum Print of London will be presented” – an early free gift that proved extremely popular. He realised that adding value to his product, whether through free gifts, campaigns or scoops, would increase his paper’s popularity; at its peak The Illustrated London News was selling 200,000 copies a week.
Today, magazines and newspapers can only dream of such sales, but the need to add value has not diminished. It is no longer enough to offer a free gift: modern publications need to be much more of a multi-media experience for their readers and publishers look at all sorts of new ways to offer their audiences an enhanced experience across print and digital.
Almost every print publication has a web presence, with varying degrees of success. Although completely different in content and format, the Guardian and Daily Mail newspaper websites, for example, are among the most popular in the world, offering readers free and unlimited access to news, features and comment.
But a web presence is just the tip of the modern iceberg and publications must look to other innovations to add value for readers and retain their custom. For example, magazines such as Elle and Red offer “shoppable” content, to enable readers to become buyers in a simple swipe, while others, such as Men’s Health, offer free apps to help readers achieve their fitness goals.
Video, too, offers publishers – and advertisers – a range of possibilities. In a recent interview Grant Bremner, head of Future TV at Future publishing group, said: “We are a media company competing with likeminded media companies. Our competitors are now broadcasters, TV production companies and also the rising stars of YouTube.”
But the dash to digital can be fraught with difficulty. News Corporation put plenty of money and effort into making this publishing platform work with its The Daily iPad app, but it closed after just two years of operation after being unable to break even.
Whatever the innovation, quality is paramount, with media-savvy readers no longer fooled by, for example, tablet versions that are a sloppy and expensive afterthought, offering no added value. Back in the 1850s, Ingram made sure every part of his offering was a quality product, right down to the paper. He was so dissatisfied with that used to print The Illustrated London News that he started his own paper mill to produce the quality of paper he required.
Without having to go to such extremes, today’s publishers can still learn from Ingram’s innovative spirit.
In 2014, we saw the fast-paced digital industry gather even more momentum with record levels of venture-capitalist funding in London and further consolidation, making the city the epicentre of European tech start-ups and innovation. The results have led to a shift in the way businesses, particularly in marketing, print and ad agencies, approach their clients with their digital offerings.
Here are some of the hottest digital developments in 2014 and how they may impact on the digital landscape this year.
The rise of User Experience
The User Experience (UX) is rather a new field in the digital industry, but is becoming more defined and increasingly important. Most clients that approach ILN already have online platforms such as brochure websites, e-commerce platforms and social media channels. These platforms are often complex, interconnected pathways that sometimes confuse users and clients are becoming aware of this.
The core principles of the User Experience. Image by Dan Willis (@uxcrank)
Clients now frequently ask for a consistent experience. What this actually means is that, on top of traditional design, they are asking for an easy-to-use interface. User Experience (UX) specialists are now employed at early stages of a project to help define these experiences. They carry out user research, content strategy, sitemaps, user journeys, wireframes and prototypes. If agencies fail to adopt a more UX-led approach, they may end up falling behind their competitors.
The Product Manager
This is fundamentally a discipline born out of start-ups. In an agency such as ILN we have project managers who oversee multiple projects on behalf of our clients. A product manager manages one product that a client is trying to sell.
Moving from a project-based approach to a product-based approach has some compelling advantages. The latter approach is something that can be defined in-house — from the design, the timelines, the features, the price, the goals, the audience and the research. A project lifecycle is usually set by the client and has a limited life span. More agencies are looking to develop their own products to sell. ILN is utilising its extensive magazine archive to produce its own range of products through the ILN shop.
In digital, the technology keeps moving and so do the tools. Traditional agencies use Adobe creative suites for their design work. These tools weren’t intended to build interactive applications when they were conceived. Digital designers who use only Photoshop often fail to convey basic digital concepts such as mouse-hover effects, click events, user journeys, CSS effects and clickable prototypes.
This has led to new, efficient and often cheaper alternatives to the traditional Adobe suite of software. Examples include Sketch for design work, Axure for prototyping and wire framing and Invision for sharing clickable, high fidelity “mock-ups”. This is only a small list: the once dominant force of the Adobe creative suite of software is being challenged by a range of more efficient and useful software. Furthermore, they are considerably cheaper.
Invision provides ILN with an effective way to share its wireframes with clients
The year ahead
We are likely to see more UX professionals becoming important in companies that offer digital services. Agencies that formerly were client based will start to create their own products and the tools that we once held in high regard will start to become augmented with newer, cheaper tools that are better suited for a digital world.
ILN was recently invited to speak at a Digital Marketing Masterclass for the Leisure and Travel industries. Hosted in the stylish Century club on Shaftesbury Avenue, the event was attended by, amongst others, Rocco Forte Hotels, the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the Natural History Museum and Virgin Atlantic.
The first speaker was Nick Cochrane, Mobile Solutions Specialist at Barclays, whose topic was mobile payments. Despite the proliferation of smart phones and tablets in modern society, and now being able to receive a 4G connection on top of Everest, mobile payment systems by and large provide an unsatisfactory experience.
Nick cited reasons such as overly complex input methods and security trust issues. To tackle such issues, the industry requires optimised payment options and a global acceptance of digital tickets and receipts. Putting these elements together should show an exponential growth in mobile commerce.
Next up was Michael Wrigley, Chief Marketing Officer of EngageSciences. He immediately got the audience’s attention with the bold statement that the popularity of social channels for marketing is falling rapidly with more emphasis on company-generated sites and apps featuring user-generated content with campaigns across multiple social platforms.
The simple fact is that consumers trust other consumers more than marketing information put forward by a brand. This calls for greater administration of user review sites such as trip advisor, where some less reputable users are brandishing the threat of bad reviews to get concessions from restaurants and hotels. It’s a despicable practice that needs to be stamped out.
Rob Thurner, a managing partner at digital agency Burn the Sky, then explained how many forward-thinking companies are now focusing on a mobile-first marketing strategy. Taxi companies Uber and Hailo have focused their business models on attracting all their custom through their mobile apps.
Another company employing a very successful mobile campaign is Starbucks. Through it’s pay-by-mobile app, you can scan to pay while earning stars in the My Starbucks Rewards programme. In the United States, Starbucks is currently enjoying 14% revenue from mobile alone.
In the next presentation, Lisa Barnard, ILN’s Chief Executive, talked about the importance of content and the communications experience in igniting purchase intention. She described how this content can manifest itself in different ways and at different stages of the purchasing cycle, which is why having a content marketing strategy in place is so important.
Power imagery, video and brand storytelling were also discussed as well as opportunities for the co-creation of content through partnerships – demonstrated by ILN’s client Maille and its collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces, River Cottage and Taste of London.
We then heard from Sophie Rayers, Director of Marketing at Brightcove, a digital marketing company utilising the power of video, that the average attention span of an adult viewing a typical text-based webpage is 8%. Providing video content on a page equates to a 75% increase in conversion rates.
Lisa Barnard emphasised the importance of deploying rich video content to social channels while also encouraging users to provide their own video content to tie in with the previously lauded idea of UGC (or User Generated Content).
The key points raised by the guest speakers were as follows:
• An emphasis on the user experience on mobile
• Ease of use
• User Generated Content is more trusted than curated content and brands
• An emphasis on rich content such as video to capture and hold user attention
• Analysis shows a move away from social channels for marketing purposes back towards company-driven websites and apps
• Websites will benefit hugely from a greater focus on the UX (User Experience) and UGC, which lends authenticity to content
• User engagement needs to be maintained past the point of sale.
The guest speakers then answered questions from a rapt audience and elaborated on their presentations.
Some of the questions included:
• What is the difference in the suggested approach to mobile content as opposed to desktop content?
• What is the best way to handle brand heritage alongside engagement of new clients?
• How do small companies and start-ups mitigate the cost of expensive media such as video?
• How do you handle the management of dispersed content?
• How do you ensure you avoid creating content for content sake?
Concluding the masterclass was Antony Robbins, Head of Communications at the Museum of London. He revealed how the museum has used both web and mobile technology to engage with the youth of today, to provide a richer user experience for its visitors and to create its fantastic Augmented Reality app that brings history to life on the streets of London.
This was an enthralling presentation and a wonderful conclusion to a stimulating session.
We had a surprise recently when a subscriber’s copy of The lllustrated London News from 1953 found its way back to us last week, having been returned to sender with help from The Sun and its readers.
The paper had been sent to a subscriber in America in 1953, the same year in which John F Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier and the first colour television sets went on sale. It seems this particular issue had been lost in the post for the past 61 years. It was finally sent to Ingram House in London – ILN’s old premises, named after the Ingram family, founders of the The Illustrated London News. Someone in Ingram House contacted The Sun, who delivered the paper into the hands of ILN’s Chief Executive, Lisa Barnard.
The return of the paper was an unexpected time capsule – a wonderful reminder of our long history, and the millions of people who read and engaged with our publications over the years. We’re only sorry this one didn’t reach its destination!
The market research company Mintel predicts that nearly 13 per cent of all retail sales this Christmas will be online, with a quarter of British consumers admitting they will be present-hunting online more this year than last. Brands are also preparing their online Christmas social media campaigns as they know the online surge in buying reduces dramatically a week before December 25 with shoppers worrying about delivery and heading for the shopping centres. During this particularly busy time for online retail, brands are also striving to maintain their reputations, revenue and customers by safeguarding against counterfeit goods and fake websites. Consumers need to be wary, too.
Fraud is believed to cost the UK economy an estimated £36 billion a year, with 9 million adults per year affected by cyber crime. The attacks include stealing customers’ bank details, raiding online accounts, infecting computers and devices with viruses and stealing business information. More than 90% of the attacks begin with phishing emails targeting employees or individuals. These emails look convincing and are from a seemingly trusted source. File attachments include regularly used ones such as .pdf, .doc or .xls. Fraudsters are also starting to use Zip files as they are very hard to detect by anti-virus programmes. Once one of these files is opened, they can infect your computer immediately or deposit a .exe file on your computer. This file can lay dormant for weeks or months until the fraudster needs to use it to hack your computer. Once hacked, they can re-direct you to false websites, obtain your logins, passwords and personal details and send out emails from your account.
Phishing is a commonly known phrase, but have you heard of vishing or smishing? Vishing is when a fraudster calls up impersonating your bank or other organisation with the aim of obtaining information about you, your banking security codes, and so on. Smishing is similar to vishing but using texts instead. A lot of these attacks are launched by sending out millions of emails and seeing who opens them or tempting you into following a link to a malicious website. Other attacks are more targeted and will focus on relevant employees in an organisation. To ensure these attacks are effective, more information about you is required. This can be obtained by the old method of sifting through your bins at home and work. Other techniques include looking at Post-its notes stuck around your desk (a common way for people to remember important info) or go online and check your online persona via social media, company profile or any other information, which is freely available online.
The ease with which personal information can be obtained by a determined fraudster is quite scary. Check out Amazing Dave:
Other money-grabbing frauds include:
Credit and debit card: cloning cards, fake cash machines, and so on.
Invoice and supplier: details changed to a fraudulent bank account or changed post submission.
Employees: collusion between two parties in a company.
Cheques: changing details on a cheque issued, stealing cheques, forging signatures, and so on.
Handy tips to combat fraud The key to combat fraud is to be vigilant and to follow best practices (both in your business and personal life). Some simple tips from RBS include:
Emails: if in doubt, kick it out!
Passwords: longer is stronger
Phones salls: ask before giving information
Social media: care what you share.
And as Nick Ross used to say on the BBC’s Crimewatch: “Don’t have nightmares, do sleep well.”