MagFinder: The Grinder And Tinder App For Single Copy Magazine Lovers – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joshua Gary, Senior Vice President, MagNet. A Mr. Magazine™ Exclusive.May 15, 2015
“We wanted to make it easy for publishers to communicate to their customers where their magazines were available for purchase; not only via a traditional website, but also making it available via mobile, so that when people are actually in the store, they can get information about what’s available to help facilitate that spur-of-the-moment decision. We want to take off the “mobile blinders”, and put a “mobile spotlight” on our brands..” Joshua Gary
What if you could browse your favorite retailer’s inventory from the comfort of your own home? Or you’re doing your grocery shopping and you decide that you’d like to see the latest issue of your favorite magazine, but you still have food items to buy; what if you could pull up the store’s availability of magazines right there in front of the macaroni and cheese?
With MagNet’s new app – MagFinder – you can do any of those things, and many more. Joshua Gary is Senior Vice President at MagNet, the company that’s using innovation to raise the customer shopping experience to a whole new level.
I spoke with Joshua recently and received a sneak peek of the MagFinder experience. He allowed me a preview of what this app (which doesn’t need downloading, by the way) can do and discussed the many, many benefits it offers to the entire food chain of the magazine media business, with the consumer being the ultimate winner overall.
In this Mr. Magazine™ exclusive, Joshua made me privy to a demonstration of this creative and extremely cutting edge technology and allowed me the honor of being the first to interview him about it. His baby will be publicly christened at the 2015 IMAG Conference in Boulder, Colorado on May 18. And to say he’s a proud parent would be an understatement.
So, I hope you enjoy the interesting and exciting information he shared with me, as you read the Mr. Magazine™ exclusive interview with Joshua Gary, Senior Vice President at MagNet.
But first the sound-bites:
On what MagFinder is all about: Here’s the problem. There’s only been incomplete or outdated information available to publishers and therefore only incomplete information that publishers can make available to their consumers.
On how MagFinder can help a customer find that elusive new title: Now all you have to do is come into our site, type in your title and it’ll tell you where to find that magazine. Using the example title, Simple Grace; I give the app my location, based on the IP address of my computer. It also works on your phone using GPS. So, when it says nearest location within 3.3 miles that’s based on where I’m located at that point. I can click on Simple Grace and it will bring up a listing of where it’s available to buy now, based on the information we’ve received as recently as yesterday.
On the comparison of a Match Finder, Grindr or Tinder to the MagFinder app: (Laughs) It’s meant to inspire and encourage in store purchases and it’s meant to encourage people to see what’s available to them and then to go find that magazine.
On whether he thinks publishers will be jumping on the bandwagon once the app goes public: I believe that once they hear about this vision, I think they will jump in with both feet. Right now, we’ve been spending a lot of time building out the app and we’re coming to a point where we have to make sure it’s accessible to consumers. It hasn’t been released publicly yet.
On any disadvantages he can see with the app: I think this is going to create another level of competition among publishers who want to try to bring people to their own content. When there are five, six or seven gun magazines out there and many of them may look similar, I can see a publisher being concerned that the consumer might choose a competitive product over their own. And then the best content ends up winning. So, for some publishers this app may not work to their advantage.
On any future profile-driven features of the MagFinder app: Let me tell you about our first foray into individual profiles. Once logged in, I flag favorites for a title or category. With those favorites we can customize content delivery to you.
On the fact that the app doesn’t have to be downloaded: Here’s the best part about it; you don’t have to download anything. It is a completely web-based app. I have my link to MagFinder on my phone and when I click on it, it opens up a web browser and it acts, feels and plays like a natively-installed app, but you don’t have to download anything. And we did that on purpose for a couple of reasons.
On what is in it for MagNet: We’re building solutions that ultimately assist in driving consumers to buy magazines, because that will support the entire supply chain. So, this is really right up our alley.
And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ exclusive interview with Joshua Gary, Senior Vice President, MagNet.
Samir Husni: Can you tell me exactly what MagFinder is all about?
Joshua Gary: Here’s the problem. There hasn’t been until today an up-to-date, complete portal by which to communicate available magazines to consumers. There’s only been incomplete, or outdated information available to publishers and therefore only incomplete information that publishers can make available to their consumers.
Every publisher has, whether it’s Architectural Digest, Out Magazine or anything else, customer service agents that take inquiries from customers; every one of them receives phone calls and emails from their customers asking where to find magazines at retail. And their customer service will generally ask someone from consumer marketing and consumer marketing either has an outdated list of stores or has nothing at all to offer. Ultimately, they have to go back to the customer with an answer that’s either incomplete, inaccurate or doesn’t really serve their purposes.
The only place where all of the title allocation information comes together is here at MagNet.
We wanted to make it easy for publishers to communicate to their customers where their magazines were available for purchase; not only via a traditional website, but also making it available via mobile, so that when people are actually in the store, they can get information about what’s available to help facilitate that spur-of-the-moment decision. We want to take off the “mobile blinders”, and put a “mobile spotlight”on our brands. In the five or ten seconds we have to help a customer figure out what they might like while standing in line, we try to fill that gap by giving the customer information about what’s available based on our data base because it’s the only complete set of information available to the industry.
We are filling this with all of the allocation information for every magazine that we collect in the United States and Canada for every store we collect as well as showing the covers that we’re scanning on about 4,000 different magazines so that they can see what they’re looking for.
Samir Husni: And just to illustrate your point; when I published my interview with Carol Brooks from Simple Grace Magazine, I was bombarded by emails and by comments on my blog where the interview was published; where can I find the magazine? I can’t find it anywhere. And Carol had to go to my blog to answer the comments from readers on where they could find the magazine. So this is a perfect example; a new title comes to the marketplace, but no one can find it.
Joshua Gary: Exactly. And now all you have to do is come into our site, type in your title and it’ll tell you where to find that magazine. Using the example title, Simple Grace; I give the app my location, based on the IP address of my computer. It also works on your phone using GPS. So, when it says nearest location within 3.3 miles that’s based on where I’m located at that point. I can click on Simple Grace and it will bring up a listing of where it’s available to buy now, based on the information we’ve received as recently as yesterday.
Samir Husni: You’re telling me that you’re creating a Match Finder or Grindr or Tinder for magazines? (Laughs)
Joshua Gary: (Laughs too) It’s meant to inspire and encourage in store purchases and it’s meant to encourage people to see what’s available to them and then to go find that magazine. We have title descriptions, which by the way, we procure and save ourselves. We have an employee at our home office who goes to all of the publishers’ titles websites and looks for mission statements about the magazine and enters that information into the app, so that consumers have an idea of what it is they might be getting.
When you see the cover, it’ll bring up the price; the number of locations within a certain radius of where you’re located; the closest store; a way to filter by distance; the store names and addresses, as well as directions to that store. If I want to go the Wal-Mart, I can see the little dot on my map, the little blue dot is where I’m located at that moment, then you can see the location of that Wal-Mart and if you click on the directions button, it will bring up directions to that store.
Samir Husni: This is such an amazing vehicle, especially with mobile technology and the penetration of mobile and Smartphones; why do you think publishers and magazine media companies aren’t jumping in and helping you, instead of you doing this all on your own? There are certainly a lot of benefits for them in this technology.
Joshua Gary: Yes, there are a lot of benefits for them. I believe that once they hear about this vision, I think they will jump in with both feet. Right now, we’ve been spending a lot of time building out the app and we’re coming to a point where we have to make sure it’s accessible to consumers. It hasn’t been released publicly yet.
Obviously, you have access to the behind-the-scenes prerelease version, but it’s not out there publicly. I do firmly believe that when we do release this publicly to the publishing community, we’re going to get tremendous support. The part that we need to encourage is the sharing aspect, because we still have to rely on the publishing community to support and share our vision. Every person that I’ve demoed this to has wholeheartedly embraced the idea. We haven’t had one publisher who has said to us that this doesn’t serve a purpose or isn’t valuable.
We’ve asked every publisher that we’ve shown it to up until now, which has been about a dozen publishers, major publishers and small guys included; we asked them if they would put a link to MagFinder on their website so that their customers would always know and the answer was an emphatic yes.
Samir Husni: When do you think you’ll be ready to release this?
Joshua Gary: The first release is scheduled for the IMAG Conference in Boulder on May 18.
Samir Husni: So I’ll be seeing you there then.
Joshua Gary: Great.
Samir Husni: Do you see any disadvantage with this? Can you think of a reason someone would argue against MagFinder or see anything negative about this app?
Joshua Gary: Yes. I think this is going to create another level of competition among publishers who want to try to bring people to their own content. When there are five, six or seven gun magazines out there and many of them may look similar, I can see a publisher being concerned that the consumer might choose a competitive product over their own. And then the best content ends up winning. So, for some publishers this app may not work to their advantage.
Samir Husni: That’s always been the pipedream for wholesalers, and I remember the days when Anderson News was in the business of wholesale; wholesalers always wanted to create those categories and tiers within the categories and they wanted to make sure that the top titles; 1, 2, or 3, were the ones that received all the attention. Are we creating something similar to that or is it going to be completely up to the customer to decide?
Joshua Gary: It completely levels the playing field; there’s no preference toward any publisher or another; there’s no preference toward any region and there’s no preference toward any retailer.
Samir Husni: Can you see the day where the customer will come to MagFinder and say here’s my profile; I’m interested in cat magazines or gun magazines, etc.?
Joshua Gary: Yes. And let me tell you about our first foray into individual profiles. On one page of the app, what you’ll see at the very top is a login button. Once logged in, I flag favorites for a title or category. With those favorites we can customize content delivery to you. So yes, you can actually go into MagFinder and find a magazine you like, say Animal Tales, and you’ll see a favorite button and when I hit that button, a green bar appears and that magazine is added to favorites.
And what we’re doing with that information is using it to customize content delivery to you. And it will be based on your preferences, either by an editorial category or by a specific magazine. Not only for whatever might be interesting for you to read in a newsletter, but also to let you know when there’s a new issue of your favorite magazine available on the newsstand. So, the next time that Animal Tales comes out on sale, MagNet will either send you an email, letting you know the new issue of the magazine is available so you can go purchase it, or you can choose on the app itself to have MagNet send you an SMS text message to let you know.
Samir Husni: Technically, after downloading MagFinder and allowing notifications, if the customer has chosen their favorite magazines, let’s say Cosmopolitan or First For Women, the app will have the capability of notifying the customer by either email or text that the new issue of their favorite magazine is out?
Joshua Gary: That’s exactly right. We’re going to make sure that we limit the number of text messages that a customer can receive because we don’t want people to be overloaded or to turn them off because they’re constantly being notified. As we sit here today, the limitation will be one a week, no more.
Samir Husni: So, Joshua, the next question has to be; what took you so long? (Laughs)
Joshua Gary; (Laughs too) So many things to take on at the same time; too many fires to put out. (Laughs again) No, this has been a project that we’ve wanted to do for a long time. It was just a matter of getting the time and the focus associated with making it happen.
Another thing is we didn’t always have a large enough data base of covers. We wanted MagFinder to be very visual, opposed to just reading text; we wanted the customer to be able to see the covers of the magazines, which are scanned at a very high resolution and make sure that they’re ultra-crisp. We have about 4,000 magazines now that we’re scanning per month. We feel like it’s a large enough number of magazines where we can make the app much more visual. We encourage any publisher who doesn’t see their magazine cover to contact us so we can get it added.
Another point is that technology has progressed to the point that we can Tweet, Share and Favorite. We can also make it available on mobile just as easily as on the web with speed as a consideration. There are so many pieces of data that we’re serving up; we wanted to have an app that was fast on the phone. MagFinder Mobile is just as responsive as it is on the desktop. We wanted that to be the case and I think that the technology has now allowed us to do that.
Samir Husni: I’ve been doing this for over 30 years here at the university and to me, this is the first time that I’ve seen or heard an innovative way to help the newsstands or single copy. All I’ve heard, since I began concentrating on newsstand, is all the problems, but nobody ever offers any solutions. My expectations are that this is going to be something very big and very helpful, because you’re saving the consumer’s time, while still allowing them to shop covers and see issues of the magazines without leaving their home.
Joshua Gary: Exactly. And we see it taking a variety of different angles from here and I’ll give you one example. Off of the home page, one of the things that you’ll notice is that there’s a little bar at the bottom that reads ‘most popular magazine.’ That’s based on our point of sale data, so I can see helping customers find their magazines based on popularity; based on what’s been purchased more often in a store, in a region, in a category or in a state, or even among their friends or social sphere.
I can see the categorization and popularity expanding and becoming much more profile-driven. If you like Cosmo, for example, you might want to check out Glamour. Why would you want Glamour, because your friends are buying Glamour, a new issue just came on sale; any number of reasons.
Samir Husni: It’s just amazing. The only thing even close to this is in Finland, the wholesalers track the sales and every six months the magazines that get the checkouts or the front displays are the ones that sold the highest numbers in the previous six months. It’s not a matter of ‘you pay me and you get the checkout position,’ it’s ‘how many copies have you sold’. And this app is going to show me, for example, that People magazine and National Enquirer have been the most popular magazines, not because they have the best cover or they’re well-liked, but because of the number of copies sold.
Joshua Gary: That’s right. Look under the National Enquirer or Us Weekly; it’s not even Cosmopolitan; in our example here, it’s Fine Homebuilding. It’s telling you what is selling well.
Samir Husni: I am truly fascinated. I can’t wait to download the app and I know I can’t do it now because it’s not out yet. (Laughs)
Joshua Gary: There’s another interesting thing that I’ll tell you. We’re not just necessarily helping them find a magazine, but we also want consumers to be able to browse the inventory in a store at any given time. And there are a couple of different ways to get to that inventory within MagFinder.
You can also click on the Browse button at the top of the app by store. And then you can actually search a particular store.
Samir Husni: Do you know how much time that will save me if I can find all of my first issues through this app? (Laughs)
Joshua Gary: We’ll have to create a special version just for you, Samir. (Laughs too)
Samir Husni: Right. (Laughs again)
Joshua Gary: Don’t forget about Twitter. You can use MagFinder to tell your friends that you’ve purchased a certain magazine; we have a hashtag; there’s a sharing on Facebook element; you can login via Facebook or Twitter. We truly believe the social tie-ins will be an integral part of the success of this app.
Samir Husni: For the first time in this digital age, how can I be the first one to download this app on my Smartphone?
Joshua Gary: Here’s the best part about it; you don’t have to download anything. It is a completely web-based app. I have my link to MagFinder on my phone and when I click on it, it opens up a web browser and it acts, feels and plays like a natively-installed app, but you don’t have to download anything. And we did that on purpose for a couple of reasons.
The first reason was that we wanted to make sure that we had greater accessibility with the least amount of intrusion for publishers and customers. We didn’t want a customer to feel like they had to download something to be able to use it. We wanted to create all the functionality we needed without the customer having to download anything. It still uses your GPS; it still gives you all the recommendations; it’s still just as fast.
This is great because you don’t have to worry about the different iPhones or Samsungs on the market and the cross-compatibility challenges that software services providers regularly face. MagFinder is what’s called a “responsive, HTML5 based application” which means it’s much more compatible across devices and browsers, even on mobile.
As we get into some of the more advanced functionality capabilities that exist within your phone, I expect that we’ll revisit having a natively-installed application, maybe for the purposes of taking pictures or videos. something like that. But as of right now that wasn’t required.
Samir Husni: What is in it for you?
Joshua Gary: If you think about our position in the business; it is partly to try and support and strengthen an efficient, optimized supply chain, and to facilitate the flow of information amongst the various entities associated with the newsstand. From our perspective, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good if we build solutions that only benefit one rung within the supply chain at the others’ expense.
MagFinder will help everyone in the supply chain, because if we’re finding magazines with greater ease, we’re generating interest, not only in the magazine itself, but in the brand’s content in a way right now that publishers can’t easily do. The people that end up benefiting most are customers; however who benefits when the customer benefits? The retailer, the wholesaler, and the publisher benefit as well. If we can help facilitate that success, it’s right where MagNet wants to be
Samir Husni: As I told you earlier, this is one of the first really innovative ways that I’ve seen to reach the magazine customer in their home and on their phone. I’ve heard a lot of questions asked about how to get the mobile blinders to help the industry. And I think with this, we’re telling our customers to keep their blinders on and we’ll help them find their way.
Joshua Gary: We’ll help them figure it out; exactly.
Samir Husni: Thank you.