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The Fine Print: A Digital-First Strategy Leads to a Better Magazine Cover During #Sandy

Written by Andrew Michael Davis on November 14, 2012

Last month in The Fine Print we highlighted the New York Times Magazine's use of Instagram to crowd source imagery elevate to print. This week, the stakes have been raised even higher. Time magazine used an Instagram image, shot on an iPhone, on the printed cover of their magazine. That's right, the cover.

Time Magazine Sandy Cover

Covering SANDY in Real Time delivers Digital Success

As Sandy lashed the Atlantic coast line, Time’s editors invited five photographers to “document the hurricane and its aftermath via Instagram.” Time’s director of photography, Kira Pollack wanted to capture and share imagery with their audience in real time. “We just thought this is going to be the fastest way we can cover this and it’s the most direct route,” she says in an interview with Forbes.” It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is a trend, let’s assign this on Instagram.’ It was about how quickly can we get pictures to our readers.”

The most popular page on the website

The resulting collection of imagery was Time’s most popular gallery they’ve ever created. As a matter of fact, the photo gallery was responsible for 13% of the website’s overall traffic that week. Time’s Instagram account alone attracted 12,000 new followers over the course of the 48-hour storm.

By any account, that’s a successful digital strategy.

Building INTO your print edition

One photographer and one of his images, in particular, stood out from the rest. Ben Lowy, a 'conflict and feature photojournalist from New York City', took this picture in Coney Island on October 29. Instantly, his audience of 19,000 Instagram followers embraced the image. With almost 1,300 ‘likes’ (more than double the amount of likes of Ben’s other storm images) the audience ‘told’ Time magazine which photograph captured the power and aura of the storm. 


The Instagram Audience as Photo Editor

There was no guessing involved. No discussion about which image the audience would ‘like.’ No argument over what image should be on the cover of that week’s Time magazine. The audience, in real time, told the editors of Time which photograph should be elevated to their print product.

That’s a true digital-first strategy. All the real time information increased awareness, and I’d argue, demand, for Time’s print coverage at the end of the week.

Show, and share, your work!

If there’s one thing traditional publishers should learn from Time’s Instagram success, it’s that everyone in your organization should be building towards your print product. Everyone should be showing and sharing their work on digital media platforms like Instagram or Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook. Every organization should embrace the opportunity to use the work they're doing to increase excitement for the final output - a high-quality print product.

Who knows? You may realize that your audience can contribute to the success of even your most prized real estate the cover.


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