Fortune Decides To Let Everyone Else Get All The Traffic For Its Story On Secrets Of Apple Culture

from the that'll-work dept

Last year, we wrote about how Rolling Stone ceded the web to other publications on its big story about General Stanley McChrystal, which resulted in him losing his job a few days later. Rolling Stone decided to hold off publishing the story to the web, allowing lots of others to write up stories and get the web traffic. In that case, it seemed more like incompetence on the part of Rolling Stone rather than a consciously clueless choice. However, the same cannot be said for Fortune Magazine, which apparently published a detailed story about culture inside of Apple, getting "secret" stories from insiders out of the notoriously secretive company. It's the type of story that would have driven a ton of traffic online normally... except that Fortune made the conscious decision not to put it online... except if you have an iPad.

Of course, all that's done is allowed lots of other web sites to receive all the traffic instead.

Fortune's excuse for this is that its existing subscribers were pissed off about the content being online:
"There was this feeling that we’re sort of pissing off our subscribers,” by publishing the magazine’s best stories on the Web, often before paying customers got their hands on them, he says. “The problem was there wasn’t anything we could have offered them before."
Really? From whom? That sounds like the sort of "complaint" that execs at a publication come up with to rationalize a really bad decision. I'm all for providing subscribers greater value, but it should be done by adding value to what you offer them, not taking away value from others that can easily be provided by competitors...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 8:02pm

    Fortune and the WSJ

    Well, since Fortune is part of the Wall Street Journal (as far as I know), then it is part of Rupert Murdock's "news" empire, so should we be surprised at this behavior? I think not!

     

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    PW (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 8:12pm

    Not sure they need to be online

    All of the links you provided to the web sites that wrote about this story, either provided super abridged versions (like one anecdote) or a link or a mention to Fortune's iPad app w/a teaser that there are a whole lot more details to be obtained there. While I agree w/you conceptually, I believe Fortune may get lots of downloads of their app as a result of all of this press attention on their story.

    Given the fact that many people who care about Jobs probably own an iPad, this was a pretty smart way of generating buzz around their "free" app from which they can then generate $4.99 per issue, plus the premium ad revenue they can generate from its pages. It would be interesting to compare their ROI on this approach versus simply an ad model on their Web site. I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that this was a bad idea. After reading all the links you listed above, I'm actually more curious about the other anecdotes not discussed.

    Sounds like they did what you espouse for bands, giving away some MP3s for free in order to then get people coming back to pay for a more complete compilation ;)

     

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    eddieb (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 10:35pm

    interesting observation PW. or maybe they could have simply wrote the 'incomplete' version and grab more of the traffic.

     

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  4.  
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    PW (profile), May 11th, 2011 @ 12:23am

    Re:

    They did. I just ran into Fortune's version on the CNNMoney site which is a collaboration of various Time Warner properties including CNN, Fortune and Money Magazine. You can find it here: http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/05/09/inside-apple/. Like the other sites, it's a teaser leading users to the newsstand or iPad versions.

     

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  5.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 11th, 2011 @ 12:28am

    Re: Fortune and the WSJ

    Well, since Fortune is part of the Wall Street Journal (as far as I know), then it is part of Rupert Murdock's "news" empire, so should we be surprised at this behavior? I think not!

    Fortune is not a WSJ property, nor a Murdoch property. I believe it's owned by Time Warner.

     

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  6.  
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    JackSombra (profile), May 11th, 2011 @ 12:42am

    Re: Re: Fortune and the WSJ

    Yep is a Time Mag, though to be honest they are clueless about online as Murdoch

     

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  7.  
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    DaAlc, May 11th, 2011 @ 2:43am

    How many other outlets does Fortune have to publish stories? If it can publish on one and then on its others soon after, maybe Fortune can stagger their income, and still end up with more? I dunno.

     

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  8.  
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    XO, May 11th, 2011 @ 6:22am

    It did what it was supposed to do. It got me to download the iPad app and buy the online magazine, which I would never have done on my own. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the app and may end up using it again.

     

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  9.  
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    0, May 11th, 2011 @ 7:00am

    "... That sounds like the sort of "complaint" that execs at a publication come up with to rationalize a really bad decision."

    But it's perfectly logical. Why would you pay for a mag when all it's best stories were equally available for free on the web, surly even Masnick isn't that daft ?.

    Of course the Masnick solution would be to stop the printed version and do everything for free online, while making money on either T-shirts or advertising (or both). But that overlooks the problem that Fortune would be immediately reduced to the same function as Masnick (though with a lot more readers).

     

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  10.  
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    Danny, May 11th, 2011 @ 7:18am

    What?

    "There was this feeling that we’re sort of pissing off our subscribers,” by publishing the magazine’s best stories on the Web, often before paying customers got their hands on them, he says. “The problem was there wasn’t anything we could have offered them before."

    So the people who have buy the print were upset that online subscribers got it first so in order to "correct" this they held off on putting it online?

    Okay what people seem to foget is that one of the reasons things come in multiple formats or versions (that's how I ended up with a Nook and not a Nook Color, I'd rather give up a Color LCD screen for an E-ink screen and pay $100 less on the price tag) is because each one has its ups and downs and people are free to weigh they own needs against those ups and downs and pick the one they want.

    For some reason the people who buy the print version chose print and unfortunately (for them) one of the downs of the print version is that its not updated as frequently or as quickly as the online version. The people that chose to stick with print don't then get to complain about not getting the news as quickly as the online customers (likewise I don't get to complain now that I don't have a pretty color screen to read on like Nook Color owners do).

     

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  11.  
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    Danny, May 11th, 2011 @ 7:24am

    Re:

    But it's perfectly logical. Why would you pay for a mag when all it's best stories were equally available for free on the web, surly even Masnick isn't that daft ?.
    Its not a matter of daftness its a matter of people expecting publishers to intentionally stifle online distribution for sake of trying to make paper distribution look viable. Based on this logic the automobile should have been held back from being developed for the sake of the horse stable owners, stagecoach builders, etc....

    But that overlooks the problem that Fortune would be immediately reduced to the same function as Masnick (though with a lot more readers).
    Not quite. I don't see Mansick spending much time complaining that people looking for tech news are going elsewhere much less trying to find way to force tech news readers to come to Techdirt.

     

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  12.  
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    Joshy, May 11th, 2011 @ 11:05am

    Wow Fortune wrote the story about Jobs Huh...maybe they have other good stories that interest me. Maybe I should subscribe to them...wait they must not written the Jobs story because it's not on there website. Too bad they threw away the opportunity to make me want to subscribe to them.

     

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  13.  
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    Daniel Roth, May 11th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

    From the editor of Fortune Digital: Why we ran the story the way we did

    Hey, why not call or email next time you’re thinking of writing about us? We’re easy enough to reach. Here's what I would have told you:

    Before running Adam Lashinsky's incredible story online, we studied what Rolling Stone did (and didn’t) do and tried to learn from its experience. Our roll-out was well planned and, happily, it succeeded beyond expectations. (It might not every time, by the way, but we plan to keep experimenting.) The goal was to try to maximize both eyeballs and revenue.

    Here are some stats you could have grabbed from our websites and others to see how the article has done in terms of:

    1) Grabbing eyeballs
    •Fortune’s Phil Elmer-DeWitt immediately blogged about the story. http://bit.ly/m4aslc
    63 recommends,43 Facebook shares, 323 tweets, 143 LinkedIn shares,

    • We posted the top of the magazine article: “How Apple Works: Inside the World’s Biggest Startup” http://bit.ly/lx4j2S
    196 shares, 422 Tweets, 251 LinkedIn shares

    •We posted an 11-slide gallery: “Meet Apple’s all-stars” http://bit.ly/jj8hxl
    21 shares, 23 Tweets, 17 LinkedIn shares

    •We posted a video: “Secrets of an Apple Insider” http://bit.ly/mTwhfX
    66 tweets, 35 LinkedIn shares


    2) Boosting revenue
    • We guided people to subscribe to Fortune http://bit.ly/hmOZ9B, both in Phil’s post and in the article preview.
    As Peter Kafka at AllThingsD reported, within 24 hours those links generated 1,400 referrals http://bit.ly/m4v83s

    • In both stories, we guided people to the iTunes store http://bit.ly/hmOZ9B to buy the Fortune app.
    Again, as ATD reported, that generated 1,000 referrals in 24 hours.

    • We turned the article into an Amazon Kindle book (with photos, charts, and graphics), making it available on iPad, Mac, PC, Android, and Blackberry
    Result: The story is now No. 1 among business books http://amzn.to/kf71mv and No. 36 in all books http://amzn.to/iMJE2V.

    And, in another few weeks, we'll put the whole story online to grab long tail traffic.

    Best,
    Daniel Roth
    Editor, Fortune Digital

     

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  14.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), May 11th, 2011 @ 5:42pm

    Re: From the editor of Fortune Digital: Why we ran the story the way we did

    *blinks*
    Long tail traffic... Sorry not coming up, not even in the urban dictionary.

    Though this was link two for google search:
    'urban dictionary long tail traffic'

    1. DWB

    buy dwb mugs, tshirts and magnets
    Dazzle with Brilliance
    If you can not dazzle with brilliance (DWB) then you may need to baffle with bullshit (BWB).
    dazzle brilliance bullshit baffle bull crap
    by iufaninark Jun 3, 2009 share this

     

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  15.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), May 11th, 2011 @ 5:51pm

    Unless your talking about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-tail_traffic which kinda explains why companies are in desperate need of tech heads... nice call on that one Mike.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2011 @ 9:38pm

    Re: Re: From the editor of Fortune Digital: Why we ran the story the way we did

    I think he was referring to the small percentage of business/readers/revenue that a business will spend a disproportionate amount of time or money to get.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2011 @ 10:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: From the editor of Fortune Digital: Why we ran the story the way we did

    He probably means Long Tail, Chris Anderson's idea that a small percentage of people will always want a certain item.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    0, May 12th, 2011 @ 2:23am

    Re: Re:

    "Based on this logic the automobile should have been held back...."
    I bet that those other industries did take steps that with hind-sight you could "interpret" as an attempt to hold back the automobile. But the any delay gives the existing business more time to adapt, stay profitable and give value to their share holders - a central tenant of the Masnick economic religion !.

    "I don't see Mansick spending much time complaining that ..."
    Fortune haven't spent much time complainitn either - they are doing (not just blogging).
    Anyway Masnick doesn't do news - this is a news aggregation site and by definition the news is always somewhere else first, but Fortune is still a news site.

     

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  19.  
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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Jun 11th, 2011 @ 6:03am

    Better idea

    Why don't they limit the ad space and demand high quality ads then charge extra for high profile articles like this?

    For paying subscribers you offer ad free and adjustable viewing. Easier ways to archive the article. And maybe a 12 hour exclusive period?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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