With 9 million photographs and 3,000 more added daily, LIFE.com features the largest collection of professional and archival photography available online. The website provides visitors with a visual cascade of news, celebrity, travel and classic photography just as its print predecessor, LIFE magazine, did for 70 years before going Web only in 2009.
“We like to think of our Web site as the destination to explore your world in pictures,” LIFE.com’s Jeff Burak says. “Photography lovers, LIFE fans and anyone who wants to see their world are drawn to LIFE.com.”
As the site’s business development director, Burak is constantly on the look out for new and different ways to create revenue streams using the famous LIFE photos. He learned about HP’s MagCloud print-on-demand magazine service during a business meeting over a year ago with HP staff members. The idea of creating special print issues certainly wasn’t new to LIFE.com staffers, but the ability to do it quickly, easily and with no upfront costs was.
“Not having to forecast and buy paper, not having to schedule press time, not having to facilitate fulfillment — those are three big benefits that caught our attention right away,” Burak says. “Now we can simply upload our artwork and MagCloud will print and mail the issues to readers as they order them.
“We love the idea of a print magazine — it’s how we started and it remains a great medium by which to bring attention to unique content or to emphasize a topic,” Burak adds. “It’s also a great way to provide our readers with a more intimate experience because they can have something to tangibly view and reflect upon.”
For their first issue, Burak and LIFE.com editors reproduced one of LIFE’s most popular issues, the definitive special edition documenting the legendary Woodstock concert. Originally released 40 years ago, the issue contains more than 100 photos of the performances and festival revelers. The magazine is now available again for $9.60 on both MagCloud’s and LIFE.com’s Web sites.
“Our editors love the simplicity and capabilities of using a MagCloud template and filling in with captions,” Burak says. “It’s like having a production department in a box. It allows us to create special issues and get them to our readers and fans in just days.”
That’s exactly what happened when LIFE.com was granted exclusive access to Avatar director James Cameron and actors Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana and Sigourney Weaver during a European premiere building up to the film’s Hollywood premiere. It, too, is available for purchase on MagCloud’s and LIFE.com’s sites, $4.95.
“Our photographer was invited to follow the cast on a Tuesday and Wednesday, gathering special intimate moments that fans rarely see,” Burak says. “Our editor went through all the images on Thursday, we laid out the magazine on Friday and uploaded it to MagCloud on Saturday. It was in everyone’s hands at the premiere three days later.”
Burak is so pleased with MagCloud that he’s launched 75 more special issues. Subjects in the works include Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Pablo Picasso and Jackie Kennedy — with each issue featuring rare and never-before-seen photographs.
“We’re picking topics from our photo galleries that attract the most traffic on our website,” Burak says. “People have passion points that guide their navigation on the Web and in print. We know from our traffic that people continue to have a passion for Marilyn Monroe. By publishing special issues like the one on Monroe, we’re giving people the opportunity to express those passions. They want to collect anything with Marilyn Monroe on it.”
As special issues become available, the staff promotes them by positioning links and promotions adjacent to the LIFE.com photo galleries from which the issues are created. The issues are also promoted via LIFE.com’s Facebook Fan page and other social media outlets. LIFE.com’s various promotional efforts all lead visitors directly to MagCloud’s website where they can order their favorite issue and have it mailed directly to them. MagCloud handles all the order processing, printing and shipping, freeing LIFE.com to focus on editorial and content rather than production and distribution.
“We’re thrilled to be able to provide consumers with special print issues on their favorite topics,” Burak says. “MagCloud allows us to deliver unique and relevant content for those with niche interests.”
And that, Burak believes, will eventually attract advertisers who will want to be included in the special issues. “Thanks to MagCloud, we have an additional platform, offering our advertisers and our readers print and Web content. What we have is unique, and that makes us a destination for people with an interest that we’re covering.”
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