SPIN Publisher: Music Publications Must Develop A New Media Strategy

PSFK chats with Mike Albanese about his magazine’s redesign and how ‘in today’s media environment, it’s innovate or die.’

 

As you may recall, we recently wrote about how SPIN has moved some of their album reviews to Twitter and longer form reviews to the website. They feel that 140 character still provides an interesting point-of-view, but it’s quick and to the point. The magazine, which like the website has undergone a new design, will move away from granular coverage to focusing on larger trends. Bigger, more nuanced stories that can’t fit into the 1400 words that seem to be the maximum today’s reader can take in online.

Mike Albanese, the Publisher of SPIN Magazine works with his colleagues to assess opportunities for their brand. We chatted with him about SPIN’s shift from being an alternative music magazine to becoming a full-fledged media company that focuses on “storytelling, opinion, and service.” He was quoted in Adweek as saying:

New features include a web version of the music-streaming Spin Player and nine new blogs focusing on music and lifestyle. With the magazine and website serving different purposes, the Spin Play iPad app will act as a bridge between the two, integrating long-form articles from the magazine, reviews and news from the site, and (with a paid subscription) iPad-exclusive content like a monthly 60-song streaming playlist.

SPIN’s expansion reflects a deeper understanding of how technology can intersect with entertainment culture. For for example, while they tweet their album reviews, they’ll keep their long-form panoramic looks at various music scenes — whether it’s rave culture or the new generation of hip hop artists. Mike described their editors and writers as still maintaining their “obsessive eye.” Interestingly, SPIN’s top writers create both magazine and web content, online people have not been relegated to the 2nd tier, and remain fully integrated.

When it comes to emerging technology platforms, SPIN sees itself as playing in the same sandbox as other music services, whether it’s a Spotify, Rdio, or turntable.fm. They want to play the role of curator and build trust among readers, while still highlighting emerging platforms as properties to link to and direct traffic towards. Check out our full interview with SPIN’s Mike Albanese.

Please describe your role at SPIN

As the Publisher, my role is to oversee all revenue (sales, marketing, events, branded content), and guide the overall brand strategy along with our Exec team. SPIN is an exciting place to be at right now. We have been given the opportunity to re-think a storied brand. There is a belief within the organization right now that the only risky move is *not* taking risks. In today’s media environment, it’s innovate or die.

SPIN has gone from a magazine with a website, to a digital company, that has a magazine. With our new site and team, SPIN.com is the centerpiece of this brand, and the magazine is now the world’s coolest brand extension.

What social/media trends is your strategy responding to?

SPIN is responding to a trend on the web towards quality. With social media being a larger traffic driver than search, the web is now rewarding quality again. We have an editorial team that is driving the conversation, and really own our beat. An example of this was our Grammy’s coverage, which was not only shared all over the web, but was also picked up and quoted by Maureen Dowd in the NY Times.

What are you looking to achieve with the website redesign?

A great consumer experience, that brings sharp writing and perspective, magazine quality photography, and service (which in this case will mean being able to listen to music from every page of the site when we launch our music streaming player in March).

To start, nine new daily blog verticals will be introduced into the edit cycle, shining a more consistent light on specific musical genres (Hip-Hop, Dance, Pop, and Metal), plus lifestyle categories (Film and TV; Style; Technology; Songs and Videos; and Breaking News), bringing a depth of coverage and frequency never before seen on SPIN.com.

Tell us about your content strategy.

Our cross-platform editorial approach allows us to tell our stories across a variety of content areas and really dive deep into the strengths of each platform. We use the idea of form and function as a guiding principle. The web will cover everything that is timely, whether that’s news or reviews, or interactive content such as streaming music. The magazine will be the opposite. The magazine will be a place where signal is separated from the noise, and the larger stories are put into context. A panoramic look at the culture that surrounds music.

Each one of the six bi-monthly print issues will focus on one overarching theme that speaks to the people, scenes, and culture surrounding music—that will also play out across SPIN.com and SPIN Play. Capsule reviews and star ratings are moving online, but the magazine still has critical writing pegged to new releases, e.g. The Guide at the back of the magazine with its long-view cultural analysis. We have our “Loud” Issue coming out in May that will be very thematic and looking at Loud as pertaining to music, politics and entertainment.

What trends make you optimistic about the future of entertainment?

Too many to mention probably, but the marriage of large content libraries and APIs will make the role of the curator tremendously important in the coming years. Whether it’s publishers curating the Spotify library, or maybe one day in the future where people can do the same with a Netflix or HBO, I think there is no doubt that is the direction entertainment is going. SPIN has a great brand, and with that trust, I think we are incredibly well positioned to be that leading curator in the music discovery space.

Thanks Mike!

SPIN

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