Wired is the most successful magazine brand in the digital space, according to digital marketing think tank L2. Today, L2 released its second annual Digital IQ Index: Magazines study, which ranks the best and worst digital strategies in magazine publishing.
For the rankings, developed by NYU professor and magazine scold Scott Galloway, L2 studied 80 magazines' performance across Web, digital marketing, social media, mobile and tablet (a new addition for 2012), taking into account 320 data points from load times and customer service availability to Pinterest and Instagram presences. Rankings ranged from “Genius” (a score of 140 or more) to “Feeble” (less than 70).
Wired was the only publication to score a “Genius” designation, with a score of 140. L2 praised its iPad edition, social media excellence (1.4 million followers on Google+ and 100,000 on Instagram) and advertiser opportunities (like the product-filled Wired store on Facebook). Notably, all this was accomplished within the last year. Wired didn't even break the top 10 in the 2011 survey, when it was ranked at 16.
Condé Nast was well-represented at the top of the list, which also included The New Yorker and Glamour. Also in the top 5 were Entertainment Weekly (tied with Glamour), Better Homes & Gardens and Time (last year's "Genius" winner).
At the bottom of the list, Traditional Home, ESPN The Magazine, Men’s Journal and Town & Country made up the “Feeble” category, for reasons ranging from a “virtually nonexistent magazine site” (ESPN) to neglecting social media (Men’s Journal). When comparing scores with last year’s survey, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian and Vanity Fair saw the biggest improvements, while Playboy’s and GQ’s rankings fell the most.
From a publishing company perspective, Rodale held the highest average IQ of 113, aided by the fact that it only had three publications (Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World) on the list and all three were in the “Gifted” category. Despite Wired’s high score, Condé Nast came in second with 109—an “Average” score—because of lower-ranking titles like W and Architectural Digest.
Overall, L2 found that magazines have made impressive strides in the digital space in the past 12 months—nearly all of them support a tablet edition on at least one of the major platforms. Cumulative digital subscriptions are still tiny, totaling less than 1 percent of print circulation. Advertisers also aren't taking advantage of new ad formats on the tablet, according to L2, and while 80 percent of tablet editions feature ads that link to outside URLs, only 17 percent include ads with interactive elements like video or animation.
Magazines are also having trouble looking beyond the tablet and Web, according to L2. Less than half of the magazines surveyed are currently promoting an advertiser on a digital platform other than their website or tablet edition, such as mobile or social, and in the past year, three brands actually pulled their mobile-optimized sites.