For centuries, journalists have been adept at conveying information in pow-
erful ways, at forging and serving communities, at persuading audiences that
an idea, a service, or a product is well worth their while. One type of great
journalist has demonstrated the capability to see over the horizon and con-
vince people to be interested in information they didn’teven know they
wanted or needed.
Now,seismic changes in media—and in our understanding of them—
have significantly altered—even shaken—how journalists do their work
even as they can now reach far more people than ever before.
Digital media erase geography or allow for hyper-local community
interaction. Words with fixed meanings become fluid: “readership” and even
“audience” are transformed when formerly passive recipients of information
participate vigorously in social networking and citizen journalism. The bar
for professional content rises even as the business and staffing models that
have supported it quiver in the face of free and/or populist media, or as
newer media offer instant accountability, cheaper ad rates and distribution
costs, and the ability to outsource “commodity content.” Although these
shifts can represent tremendous opportunity to regain share of mind and
share of pocketbook, their creative destruction is painful for those they roll
More than ever, journalists need to understand the mindset of the per-
son with whom they seek to communicate—or co-create—and how the
resulting journalistic content and media fit into that person’s life. And this
must happen even as journalists offer independent, unfettered information.
MEDILL ON MEDIA ENGAGEMENT
Edward C. Malthouse
This book posits that one key tool for attracting, serving, leading, shar-
ing, and gaining loyalty with empowered communities is to understand
media engagement. This can be a difficult concept to pin down. Many differ-
ent definitions have been proposed by different groups, so whenever some-
one mentions “engagement,” we always have to ask, “What do you mean by
that?” To some, it means that somebody is reading or watching a lot or often.
According to this interpretation, engaged readers of a Web site are those who
visit it often, spend a lot of time on it, and so on. To others, however, it
means liking the journalistic product and perhaps “recommending it to a
friend.” The Advertising Research Foundation defines engagement as “turn-
ing on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.”1If
journalists cannot define the term, it will be defined for them.
Wethink of engagement differently. In our view, engagement is the col-
lection of experiences that readers, viewers, or visitors have with a media
brand.2Figure 1.1 illustrates this experience-based definition and shows
how engagement is related to usage and other outcomes.3It is engagement
that causes people to “use” the media brand by reading, viewing, or interact-
ing with it. It is engagement that causes affective responses such as “liking”
the brand, recommending it to a friend, or feeling loyal to it. Finally, engage-
ment with the editorial content also affects reactions to ads and vice versa. If
you want people to like and read your publication, tune in your news pro-
gram, etc., focus on engaging them.
Again, our definition of engagement centers on the concept of an “expe-
rience,” which is aset of beliefs that people have about how a media brand
fits into their lives.Experiences are not about the media brand itself, but
rather about the relationship between the audience member and the brand.
Figure 1.1. Engagement, Experiences, and Their Consequences
Experiences explain why someone uses media. This book argues that under-
standing this relationship is a significant key to engaging an audience.
We have worked with our Northwestern colleague Professor Bobby
Calder for nearly a decade to understand the range of experiences people
have with journalism. Collaborating with Northwestern University’s Media
Management Center, Calder, Malthouse, and other Northwestern colleagues
conducted a series of experience studies funded by the Newspaper
Association of America, the Magazine Publishers of America, the Online
Publishers Association, and the Knight Foundation. Those studies explored
how thousands of users perceived the media they used fitting into their lives.
The Calder teams transcribed the interviews and identified verbatim com-
ments (often referred to as “beliefs” or “sub-experiences”) that captured dif-
ferent aspects of an experience with a specific title or news program. The
beliefs/sub-experiences were placed on surveys (as questionnaire “items”),
and respondents were asked to agree or disagree with them. These findings
were aggregated across the numerous titles that respondents read, watched,
The studies unearthed more than 40 experiences that could motivate (or
in some cases, discourage) media engagement and usage. These experiences
are made up of descriptive statements that clustered by how they con-
tributed to media usage. As we discussed the experiences with media profes-
sionals, we found they understood when we talked about them as “mole-
cules” made up of “atoms” of audience statements (which we edited to
remove slight anecdotal variety), as illustrated in Figures 1.2 to 1.5.
Afew examples clarify the concept. Many people believe that journal-
ists are adept at giving them things to talk about. By accessing a Web site,
Figure 1.2. The Talk About and Share Experience
reading a newspaper or magazine, or watching on screens of multiple sizes,
media consumers learn about things that they can bring up in conversations
with friends and family. This is called the Talk About and Share experience
(Figure 1.2 and Chapter 14), and, as with other experiences, the descriptors
that comprise it may vary for different demographic groups.
People also believe that some Web sites, TV news programs, newspa-
pers, and magazines look out for their interests and serve as a balance against
the powerful, which is embodied in the Civic experience (Figure 1.3 and
Chapter 4). People also believe that they get useful advice and tips from
media, which we call a Utilitarian experience (Figure 1.4 and Chapter 5).
And they perceive media enabling them to relax and escape from the pres-
sures of daily life, which is the Timeout experience (Figure 1.5 and Chapter
11). Other key experiences are discussed throughout this book.
It is worth contrasting this “experience view” of media with a more tra-
ditional approach. When asked why people read, for example, a newspaper,
the traditional journalist might answer that it covers local, national, and
international news; has prominent columnists on the editorial page; and
offers investigative reporting and great sections on sports, food, health,
home, and entertainment. But this does not fully answer the question
because that response is entirely about the newspaper itself and neglects the
relationship between newspaper and reader. Although it gives reasons for
why someone might want to read, it never says why the reader reads.
The experience view begins with this relationship. For example, readers
need something in their lives to balance against the powerful and look out
for their interests. Newspapers can play this role: One that wishes to do so
Figure 1.3. The Civic Experience
should have strong investigative reporting and local news. The design of
media brand follows from the experiences it intends to satisfy.
Understanding these experiences becomes especially crucial in a multi-
media world in which information seems to be everywhere. Why? Because
the intensity of the experiences causes audience members to be loyal and
read (Figure 1.1).
Figure 1.4. The Utilitarian Experience
Figure 1.5. The Timeout Experience
Modernmedicine.com is a Web portal produced by Advanstar
Communications, a major business-to-business publisher that is strategical-
ly bundling much of its content—and that of allied content providers—into
several unified and deep Web portals (Abe Peck was the company’s editori-
al co-reviewer from 1998 through 2009). “True loyalty only develops when
there is a shared narrative, emotional connection, and respect for the cultur-
al mores of the audience (in the case of healthcare professionals, this includes
responsiveness, respect, simplicity, ease, and value),” wrote Steven Merahn,
MD, vice president of modernmedicine.com, in an explanation of the site’s
That connection—that engagement—is dependent on experience.
“Irrespective of what we say we are, the audience will relate to us, and speak
to us, based on their experience of us,” the modernmedicine.com “road
map” continued. “Brands are successfully managed when the brand experi-
ence aligns with the brand promise. Any disconnect becomes evidence of
falsehood, and a pattern of falsehood [is] antithetical to loyalty.This is par-
ticularly true for healthcare professionals, for whom finding flaws is their
primary mode of interaction with their environment....”4
APROCESS FOR CREATING EXPERIENCES
Werecommend a strategic approach (summarized in Figure 1.6, with each
box discussed below) to develop an experiential media brand. In short, the
media organization articulates a concept that will guide its creation of “con-
tacts” for the media brand. The contacts create experiences for the audience
and thereby communicate the concept. The audience’sideas about the con-
cept create expectations, which can also affect their experiences with the
brand, including the actions they take beyond it and any co-creation of con-
tent with it.
Again, the process begins with a concept, which is the media organiza-
tion’s best idea of what the publication should mean to its readers and view-
ers.This mission is, as the modernmedicine.com document puts it, “an aspi-
ration and reflects the contribution the brand will make to the audience, not
what we do, but our value or service to the audience.” In the case of mod-
ernmedicine.com, that mission is: “To make healthcare professionals more
effective, productive, and successful and assure their voice in the evolution
of medical practice.” Note how this statement is audience-focused.
“Once the mission is defined, the next step is to design the business to
fulfill the promise of the mission.”5The concept guides what should and
should not be in, or associated with, any incarnation of the brand such as a
Web site, newspaper, magazine, tweet, TV program, or other video.
Without a clearly articulated concept, a media brand can lose focus and
never develop a distinct voice. (Chapter 2 discusses how to identify and
articulate such concepts.)
ESPN has a strong experiential concept. Its cross-platform mission is,
“To serve sports fans wherever sports are watched, listened to, discussed,
debated, read about, or played.”6This statement identifies the intended
audience as “sports fans” and hints at the types of experiences it intends to
create for its readers and viewers. For example, it explicitly mentions dis-
cussing and debating sports, which is a social experience (Figure 1.2). By
doing this, ESPN acquires a distinct reputation. Many networks broadcast
games and many news outlets report sports scores. ESPN goes beyond this
by creating social experiences, which, coupled with a conversational voice
and cross-platform execution, give it a distinctive presence.
After the media organization has articulated a concept, the next step is
to create the various contacts that can deliver the intended experiences and
communicate the concept to the audience. A contact is anything that affects
the audience member’sexperience with the media brand. The editorial con-
tent, of course, is one important contact. If ESPN wants its readers, viewers,
and Web site visitors to associate it with a social experience, then the way in
which it tells stories must create that experience. For example, rather than
having a single sports anchor giving scores and showing highlight clips,
ESPN has multiple anchors and columnists discussing and debating the
games. This contact enacts the Talk About and Share experience that the
viewer or visitor will have the next day with his buddy.
Another media brand with a strong experiential concept is USA Today.
Part of the concept involves helping readers avoid the negative Overload
experience (Figure 1.7). Many consumers are frustrated because there is too
much news and information to keep up with. One person we interviewed
described this phenomenon as “drowning in the flood of information” that
media organizations churn out every day. USA Today recognized this expe-
rience very early, and part of its concept has been to help its readers avoid it.
An editorial contact that conveys this aspect of its concept is that its stories
tend to be shorter, with fewer page turns.
Our point is that the editorial content of a media brand should be cre-
ated so that it delivers the experiences that are central to its concept and of
use to its audience. As then-editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune,Anders
Gyllenhaal, told our colleague from the Media Management Center,
“Experiences are a way of converting traditional news judgment from edi-
Figure 1.6. A Process for Creating Experiences
tors’ definitions (what’s most interesting, what’s important, what you just
can’t believe happened) to readers’ definitions of how they react (what
makes readers feel informed, what gives them something to talk about, what
tells them the paper is looking out for their interests).”7
Editorial content is not the only type of contact that can associate the
brand in the reader’s, viewer’s, or user’smind. There are many other ways to
communicate a concept to the audience. Another type of contact is the
advertising a publication does about itself. For example, ESPN has run TV
ads that in essence tell its viewers that it creates social experiences.8One ad
shows a guy playing cards with his buddies. He says something stupid about
sports, and his buddies laugh at him. It then cuts to an interview with the
guy,who says something like, “That was before I started watching ESPN….
Now when I talk about sports, I do it right.” This ad clearly communicates
the intended experience—the role that ESPN wants to play in the lives of its
The advertising for other products and services that appears in or on a
media brand fashions another type of contact. Ads for products that are con-
gruent with the concept of the brand can create the intended experience and
reinforce the concept in the audience’s mind. The association also goes the
other way, with the readers’ beliefs about the media brand transferring to the
For example, suppose that a fashion title (print magazine and Web)
intends to highlight the Inspiration experience (Chapter 6). The role this
publication plays in its readers’ lives is to inspire and/or help them aspire to
live a beautiful and glamorous life—or to live vicariously in the world of
those who do. Having ads with beautiful models wearing glamorous dress-
es and jewelry would be congruent with this concept. Ads for dowdy dress-
es would undermine it.
10 MALTHOUSE &PECK
Figure 1.7. Overload Experience
This is not an idle example. In the late 1970s, when Abe Peck became
launch editor of sidetracks,an early youth tabloid within the Chicago Daily
News,he debuted with a 48-page weekly section that included a cover inter-
view with Stevie Wonder followed by similarly targeted editorial content.
But the back-page ad was for a discount dress store, and the drab patterns
and colors undermined the concept’s credibility with young readers.
Although we didn’t have the data and language of experiences to draw on
then, those younger readers wanted sidetracks to Make Me Smarter about
popular culture (Chapter 3) and to give them “Something to Talk About.” It
didn’t take long for a young ad salesman to be hired specifically for the sec-
tion, to bring in advertisers compatible with reader expectations.
Amore positive example of edit-ad synergy is how the Discovery
Channel in Latin America partnered with Biobaby,aproducer of biodegrad-
able diapers. Discovery’s association with covering environmental issues
was reinforced by these ads, and vice versa.
Brand extensions are another type of contact that can create experiences
and link the concept with the media brand.Astrongly developed experien-
tial concept creates opportunities for a brand to enter other product cate-
gories. Better Homes and Gardens has published up to 30 or so Special
Interest Publications (SIPs), each targeted to the sub-interests of audiences
who want to have a Utilitarian or Timeout experience. Martha Stewart sells
everything from towels to paint to olive bruschetta. Even The New York
Times has an online store.9When done right, such brand extensions can rein-
force the concept and create additional revenue streams. The golden rule is
that the extensions must create the experiences specified by the concept.
Extensions that don’t do this weaken the experiences and confuse the con-
sumer about what the concept should mean.
Figure 1.6 shows a streamlined version of this process, but additional
nuances are possible. In some cases, members of the audience create con-
tacts, which create the brand experience for others as well as for the contrib-
utors. As discussed in Chapters 8 and 9, audiences participate in the Co-
Producing and Community-Connection experiences via letters to the editor,
discussion boards, and other user-generated content, Wikipedia, and Web
sites that allow video sharing. Although issues of management and standards
exist, the audience’s ideas about the brand concept can also advance the
organization’sunderstanding of the concept.10
WHICH EXPERIENCES ARE RIGHT?
When we present this experience approach to practicing journalists, we are
usually asked a question like, “OK, you have shown us a list of experiences
that people have with publications, but which ones should I focus on?” Or,
people ask, “What is the right set of experiences?” The “right” set of experi-
ences is those that are part of a particular media brand’s concept (and, of course,
are meaningful and relevant to its target audience). The experiences that are
right for ESPN are different from those that are right for The Discovery
Channel, USA TODAY,The New York Times,Fox News, Guideposts,or
modernmedicine.com, all of which have strong concepts that are highly dif-
ferentiated. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for all of journalism.
Chapter 2 elaborates on how to identify and articulate experience-based
concepts, but we make two general observations here. First, there is a ten-
dency to copy what a successful direct competitor is doing, but this usually
is not a good idea. Highly similar products often have no way of differenti-
ating themselves except with price. In a world of ubiquitous user-generated
content, professional media organizations cannot compete solely on price.
When a direct competitor zigs, a media brand should zag. An obvious
example is USA TODAY versus The New York Times.USA TODAY struck
achord with (at least a segment of) the public by creating the non-Overload
newspaper. It would be tempting for others to copy USA TODAY’s recipe
for success, but this strategy likely would fail (at least as a national, head-to-
head competitor) because USA TODAY already owns this positioning. The
New York Times,in contrast, is committed to bolstering its reputation for
being the paper of record and providing in-depth coverage and analysis even
as it expands this position across platforms. In maximizing their core posi-
tions, both papers will attract—and delight—very different segments of
readers by creating different experiences. Likewise, these organizations
would be silly to try to create a vanilla blend, which would delight no one.
Although organizations should rarely copy direct competitors, they can
successfully borrow ideas that are working for non-competing media organ-
izations. For example, quite a few papers have adopted USA TODAY’s
approach to infographics and shorter stories for their local products. And
the success of Cosmopolitan—a magazine that clicked with women’srising
sense of their own sexuality—led kitchen-and-bath women’s titles to high-
Our second general observation is that successful experiential media
brands tend to focus on a handful of targeted experiences. It’sbecoming
more difficult to find examples of successful media brands that focus on cre-
ating only one experience well, while organizations that attempt to create
many different superlative experiences usually end up succeeding with none.
Chapter 15 chronicles how Food Network, which originally focused prima-
rily on utilitarian advice, found its distinctive stride when it mixed in ele-
ments of Anchor Camaraderie (Chapter 10), Makes Me Smarter,and Feel
Good experiences (discussed below). Glamour magazine ostensibly is utili-
tarian, with its trademark “Dos & Don’ts,” but the editors subtly combine
Utilitarian, Feel Good, Inspiration, and Timeout experiences to endear
Glamour to its readers.
12 MALTHOUSE &PECK
THE EXPERIENCES SELECTED FOR THIS BOOK
We mentioned earlier that the Calder-Malthouse experience studies identi-
fied more than 50 experiences that people have had with various newspapers,
magazines, Web sites, and TV stations (these are summarized in the appen-
dix). Collectively, they constitute a rich and seemingly comprehensive
description of how media fit into people’s lives, but space constraints do not
allow us to discuss them all in this book. The goals of this book are to dis-
cuss a concise set of experiences that can describe the multitude of relation-
ships between a broad class of journalistic media and their consumers and to
give media practitioners actionable opportunities to raise engagement with
their brands. Just as a painter begins with a fairly small set of colors on the
palette and then mixes them to produce any number of colors, we attempt
to prepare a journalistic palette of experiences, which can be combined in
The focus of this book is on journalistic media, which includes brands
that cover news and information, as well as service, product-oriented, enter-
tainment, and community journalism. With this focus, we omit experiences
that explicitly concern advertising (Ad Receptivity and Ad Interference). We
also do not discuss product-descriptive experiences such as Trust and
Credibility, and High-Quality Content. Why? Because although these are
crucial to the journalism we care about, they describe the media product
more than experiences characterizing the relationship between consumers
and brands, as with the Talk About and Share, Utilitarian, Civic, and
Timeout experiences. And we do not deal with disengagement experiences
such as Cynicism, Lack of Local Focus, Negativity, Overload, Political Bias,
Poor or Annoying Design, Poor-Quality Content, Poor Service, Racial Bias,
Sameness, Shallowness, or Skim and Scam. Of course media brands should
avoid these experiences, but this book focuses on engagement rather than
Some of the other original experiences can be derived from those includ-
ed here, just as a certain shade of blue can be produced by mixing blue and
white. For example, the It Helps Me Look Good; It’sSensual, Even Sexy
experience is highly focused on a specific type of content that conveys ele-
ments of the Utilitarian, Inspirational, and Visual experiences. Likewise, the
Political Bias experience is closely related to the Makes Me Smarter and
Identity experiences (see Chapters 3 and 7). The It Reinforces My Faith, It
Shows Diversity, and It Helps Me Keep Track of Celebrities are also deriv-
ative experiences. All of these experiences are important for certain media
brands, but they are too focused on specific types of content to be included
in our general palette.
Extensive factor analysis and careful judgment lead us to our “final cut”
for our experience pallet. Toconfirm that our set spans a broad range of
journalistic media, we turn to the uses and gratifications framework, which
has been proposed by communications scholars to explain why people use
media. This framework posits four broad categories of motivations, each of
which is covered by our experiences:11
• Information—“Finding out about relevant events and condi-
tions in one’s immediate surroundings, society, and the world;
seeking advice on practical matters or opinion and decision
choices; satisfying curiosity and general interest; learning, self-
education; gaining a sense of security through knowledge.”
Medill’s Knight Professor, Owen Youngman, who oversaw
much of the cross-platform expansion of the Chicago Tribune,
examines the Makes Me Smarter experience. Professor Ellen
Shearer gets inside the Civic experience. Professor Emeritus Abe
Peck, who has worked with both service and business-to-busi-
ness content, explores the Utilitarian experience. Assistant
Professor Charles Whitaker uses his background as an Ebony
editor to delve into the Inspirational experience.
• Personal Identity—“Finding reinforcement for personal values;
finding models of behaviour [sic]; identifying with valued others
(in the media); gaining insight into one’s self.”
Dr. Rachel Mersey, a Medill alum who gained expertise at the
University of North Carolina before bringing her audience
knowledge back to her alma mater,provides insights into the
Identity experience. Dr. Ashlee Humphreys, who has written
extensively about Wikipedia, covers the Co-Producing experi-
•Integration and Social Interaction—“Gaining insight into the
circumstances of others; social empathy; identifying with others,
and gaining a sense of belonging; finding a basis for conversation
and social interaction; having a substitute for real-life compan-
ionship; helping to carry out social roles; enabling one to connect
with family,friends, and society.”
Associate professor and veteran experience researcher Steve
Duke discusses the Talk About and Share experience. Medill’s
Director of Digital Innovation Rich Gordon (formerly with The
Miami Herald)analyzes the Community-Connection experi-
ence. Medill senior lecturer Beth Bennett brings her broadcast
background to an analysis of the Anchor Camaraderie experi-
• Entertainment—“Escaping, or being diverted, from problems;
relaxing; getting intrinsic cultural or aesthetic enjoyment; filling
time; emotional release; sexual arousal.”
14 MALTHOUSE &PECK
Assistant Professor and former Self editor Patti Wolter taps into the
Timeout experience. Lecturer Josh Karp, who wrote a book about the
National Lampoon,looks at Entertainment and Diversion experiences
(Chapter 13). And Associate Professor Matt Mansfield, formerly with the
San Jose Mercury News,collaborates with Assistant Professor Jeremy
Gilbert, most recently the online design editor of the Poynter Institute’s
Web site, to bring what they’ve learned to bear on the Visual experience
Finally, we summarize two additional experiences from the entertain-
ment category that did not make our final cut for this book but are worth
noting in this Introduction.
The Feel Good Experience. The news can be depressing as it reports
and even sensationalizes tragedies, disasters, poverty, corruption, political
gridlock, and crash-and-burn celebrities. Some media counter this by con-
sciously trying to show their audiences the silver lining to make them feel
better about themselves and the world.12 Guideposts magazine provides a
regular dose of “positive thinking” to its devoted readers, and many
women’s magazines are successful in part because they help their readers to
feel better about themselves and their bodies (even as other titles hold out
images of impossible aspiration).
This experience is centered on some core beliefs:
• Reading this magazine makes me feel good about myself.
• Overall, it leaves me with a good feeling.
•When reading/watching this magazine/program, I am worry-
The Positive Emotional Experience. Some people feel touched emo-
tionally by stories or programs they read or watch; media can create an emo-
tional high. For example, seeing and hearing a children’s choir during the
holidays or learning about a neighbor who helped someone in need can cre-
ate this experience.
This experience has these core beliefs:
• The magazine/show definitely affects me emotionally.
•Some articles/episodes touch me deep down.
• It helps me to see that there are good people in the world.
•It features people who make you proud.
Both of these experiences are close cousins to the Entertainment and
Diversion, Timeout, and Visual experiences, in that all transport the
reader/viewer to a different state of mind. We have not devoted entire chap-
ters to these experiences because we feel the other three experiences convey
the gist of the entertainment category.
CREATING AND MONITORING AN EXPERIENCE
We also want to show how engagement can be implemented in the news-
room. Rachel Davis Mersey’s Identity experience chapter outlines how
Phoenix fashionistas were engaged by targeted content when she worked at
The Arizona Republic.Steve Duke’s chapter on the Talk About and Share
experience does double duty as he also describes the consulting on driving
experiences in newsrooms he did for the Media Management Center. And in
Chapter 16, Associate Professor David Nelson, another veteran of The
Miami Herald,describes several engagement consultancies conducted by
the Community Media Innovation Projects class he directs at Medill. The
takeaway: Creating an experiential brand should be viewed as a process
instead of as a one-time event; the organization should continually explore
new contacts to build the concept,13 and it should measure whether they are
Let’sexamine a specific experience to see how our process of creating
experiential media brands works. Suppose a magazine decides to create a
Timeout experience as part of its concept. The process delineated in Figure
1.2 suggests that the magazine’s content creators should develop contacts
that deliver this experience, but how can they do this? It helps to understand
how people think about the experience and how it is part of their lives.
Remember the visual “molecule” of the Timeout beliefs and overall
experience? The trick for our hypothetical magazine is for it to associate
itself in the audience’s mind with the very act of taking a break or reveling
in having free time during a crowded day. An ideal Timeout reader would
say, “The dishes are done, the kids are in bed, the laundry’s put away, and
now I finally have a few minutes to myself and I get to read my favorite
magazine.” The experience is one of having a break, rewarding oneself, for-
getting about everything else, and being transported to a better mood or
state of mind.
Chapter 11 describes techniques that journalists can use to create
Timeout experiences. One way is to write beautiful narratives that lift read-
ers out of their armchairs and take them somewhere else. Another is to pro-
vide luxuriant visuals of lovely and/or exotic locales: what magazine wags
call “breathtaking vista” photos. A third ensures that the pacing of the pages
flows as smoothly as possible and clearly flags specific content even as it
wends its way around ad inserts; a euphonious reading experience con-
16 MALTHOUSE &PECK
tributes to the Timeout ambience. The best Timeout packagers will create a
mini-world apart from the daily grind: Real Simple,for example, conveys
the Timeout experience through an effective combination of white space, a
pastel color palette, and, most of all, “relaxed” content that aids women in
simplifying complex lives without dumbing them down (thus engaging the
Make Me Smarter experience).
Other types of contacts discussed in this Introduction could also be
employed. A house ad for the magazine might show an exhausted mother
with her feet up, smiling as she unwinds with the magazine. And ads for
products associated with taking a break or treating oneself, or ad executions
that convey relaxation, should benefit from the surrounding editorial con-
text even as they reinforce the magazine’s concept. Our research validates
the assumption that to get this “rub-off” effect, ads should be placed where
they reinforce content without intruding on it.14
Overall, the reader should think, “The way to relax is to read _____.”
Are these contacts successful in associating Timeout with the magazine?
Focus groups and cover testing (and newsstand sales of those issues that
maximize the experience) may suggest how well this is going. But periodic
reader surveys should monitor what readers think about such a linchpin of
the magazine’s concept. These studies should ask readers to rate on a five-
point scale whether they “agree or disagree” with several of the relevant
beliefs from Figure 1.4. The average of these responses will provide a bench-
mark that the magazine can use to track its success in creating a brand image
around this experience. The Engagement-Consequences of Engagement
model in Figure 1.1 posits that higher experience levels will lead to more
loyal readers who read more. It also says that certain ads will benefit from
the more engaging context, which will further differentiate the magazine
from other media and justify premium advertising rates (or at least minimize
discounting in today’s ad-depressed environment).
Medill on Media Engagement and the studies on which it draws attempt to
make several contributions. On the theoretical side, we have essayed to sys-
tematically discuss (and show how to measure) all the various aspects of the
four uses and gratifications groups. The studies verified relationships
between experiences and outcomes concerning readership and advertising
effectiveness; those organizations that improve experiences can see positive
changes in these outcomes.
As for practitioners, caring journalists strive to implement craft excel-
lence in service of their publication, TV program, Web site, or newer digital
medium. Yet, in a world of folding titles and changing tastes, technical skill
can prove insufficient. The strategic process shown in Figure 1.6, as well as
the best practices and cautionary tales found throughout this book, can
guide journalists in harnessing experiences to engage audiences.
Our team of authors is made up of media lovers. Nearly all of us are also
professors at a school that has embraced audience understanding while con-
tinuing to foster standards of journalistic accomplishment, impact, and
integrity. We have put our understanding of audience engagement and jour-
nalistic craft front and center so you can foster motivating experiences and
minimize those that cause disengagement (or, if you are an interested non-
practitioner, can better understand the relationship between content creation
and audience experiences). Our hope is that this book (and the accompany-
ing Web site, medillmediaexperiences.com) will enrich your own experience
as you move into a cross-media future rich in relationships between and
among content creators and empowered audiences.
1. Retrieved from http://www.thearf.org/assets/research-arf-initiatives-defining-
2. We use media brand to refer to a wide class of journalistic enterprises, including
but not restricted to Web sites, magazines, newspapers, and TV news programs.
3. This figure is adapted from Calder,B., & Malthouse, E. (2008). Engagement and
advertising effectiveness. In B. Calder (Ed.), Kellogg on media and advertising
(pp. 1–36). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. That chapter provides further discussion and
references on engagement and experiences and their effects on usage, affect, and
reactions to ads. Also see Calder, B., & Malthouse, E. (2005). Managing media
and advertising change with interactive marketing. Journal of Advertising
4. Merahn, S. (2009). Modern Medicine 2009: product management road map.Used
5. Merahn, S. (2009). Modern Medicine 2009: product management road map.Used
6. Retrieved from http://www.espncms.com/index.aspx?id=166
7. Nesbitt, M., & Lavine, J. (2005, April). Reinventing the newspaper for young
adults: A joint project of the Readership Institute and Star Tribune. Retrieved
from http://www.readership.org/experience/startrib_overview.pdf. Steve Duke
first noted this study in Chapter 14.
8. For example, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAs6TDLuKgQ
9. Retrieved from http://www.nytstore.com/
10. For further discussion, see Hennig-Thurau, T., Malthouse, E., Friege, C.,
Gensler, S., Lobschat, L., Rangaswamy, A., & Skiera, B. (forthcoming). The
impact of new media on customer relationships. Journal of Service Research.
18 MALTHOUSE &PECK
Also see Deighton, J., & Kornfeld, L. (2009). Interactivity’s unanticipated con-
sequences for marketers and marketing. Journal of Interactive Marketing,23(1),
11. This summary of uses and gratifications is taken from McQuail, D. (1983). Mass
communication theory,anintroduction.London: Sage Publications, pp. 82–83.
12. Several “feel bad” experiences have negative correlations with usage and inhibit
readership or viewership. See Peer, L., Malthouse, E., Nesbitt, M., & Calder, B.
(2007). Negativity, hype, and all the same experiences in the local TV news expe-
rience: How to win viewers by focusing on engagement. Media Management
Center technical report. Retrieved from http://www.mediamanagementcenter.
org/localTV/localTV.pdf. See also the Wasting My Time and Unappealing
Stories experiences in the Center’s newspaper study (2004), and Malthouse, E.,
et al. (2007). Also see Malthouse, E., et al. (2007). This magazine irritates me and
it disappoints me, from the Center’s magazine study.
13. Although concepts must inevitably evolve over time, the organization should
avoid changing its core because too many changes will confuse people about its
14. Malthouse, E., Calder, B, & Tamhane, A. (2007). The effects of media context
experiences on advertising effectiveness. Journal of Advertising,36(3), 7–18.
Malthouse, E., & Calder, B. (2009). Leveraging media-advertisement experiential
congruence. Advertising Research, 259–270. De Pelsmacker, P., & Dens, N.
(Eds.). (2009). Message, medium, and context.Antwerpen: Garant Publishers.
Calder, B., Malthouse, E., & Schaedel, U. (2009). Engagement with online media
and advertising effectiveness. Journal of Interactive Marketing,23(4), 321–331.
Wang, J., & Calder. B. (2006). Media transportation and advertising. Journal of
Consumer Research,33,151–162. Mersey,R., Malthouse, E., & Calder, B. (2010).
Engagement with online media. Journal of Media Business Studies,7(2), 37–56.
Malthouse, E., & Calder,B. (2010). Media placement versus advertising execu-
tion. International Journal of Market Research,52(2), 217-230. Calder, B., &
Malthouse, E. (2004). Qualitative media measures: Newspaper experiences.
International Journal of Media Management,6(1&2), 124–131.