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FLIBS 2011: What’s the future of marine media?

FORT LAUDERDALE — What does today's boating consumer want in a magazine, and are the industry's publications meeting those needs?

Those were the issues discussed at a joint session of the Marine Marketers of America and Boating Writers International at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Panelists included Andrew Clurman, president and chief operating officer of Active Interest Media, which includes Soundings Trade Only; Jim Rhodes, president of Rhodes Communications; Tim Cole, executive vice president of Belvoir Publications; and Zuzana Prochazka, president of BWI. The panel was moderated by Michael Sciulla.

The Internet has no doubt changed the way people receive and consume information, Sciulla noted, but does that mean they no longer want a print magazine?

With online readership surpassing print readership in many cases, “it’s clearly time to adapt,” he said.

However, Cole noted, readers today want print in addition to digital, access to archives, updated websites, interesting videos and more.

“They want it all and they want it now and they want it free,” he said.

He urged writers and editors to remember that we’re in the information business and, no matter how it’s delivered, readers want reliable information.

“They can tell good information from bad information,” Clurman said, adding that although it may be confusing to figure out the best format from which to deliver news, “it’s not in decline.”

Prochazka, a freelancer who also runs her own website where she writes reviews, said it’s important to deliver fair and balanced information. Readers can tell if a writer is catering to an advertiser when talking about a new product.

Clurman agreed, “Good content begets engaged readers.” Content can’t be solely driven by advertisers.

“I think readers can spot advertorial when they see it,” noted Rhodes, adding that a magazine could lose a reader’s loyalty if it is perceived as “selling” its editorial pages to advertisers.

Prochazka said that on her site she makes clear the difference between ads and editorial.

“Transparency builds integrity,” she said.

In addition to the panel discussion, the MMA presented its annual Neptune Award winners.

Click here for the full list of winners.

— Beth Rosenberg

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