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At Your Service

By Callie Enlow

Service journalism is all about convenience and interactivity—a perfect recipe for web content. A 2006 report by The Bivings Group, an internet communications company, confirms that “easily digestible content, often in the form of polls and ‘how to’ lists, makes magazine websites attractive to internet users.” In response, magazines from National Geographic Traveler to Elle have increasingly shifted their service content from print to the web.

But does the internet serve every service niche equally? Which attract readers online and which keep them coming back to print? To answer these questions, we surveyed 86 of the savviest media consumers we could find: Columbia J-School students, who also happen to be part of the young, web-loving demographic most targeted by advertisers.

While it’s no surprise that online listings were the clear favorite in most service categories, our survey found that print still attracted the hearts of the lovelorn and the eyes of amateur designers. Meanwhile, globetrotters and hypochondriacs were most likely to turn to the web. And one innovative website dominates when it comes to recipes: CondeNet’s Epicurious.com, which provides recipe archives from Conde Nast’s various titles, but maintains its own separate brand. A tantalizing taste, perhaps, of the future of magazines on the web?


Our respondents could choose to comment about which particular magazines or web sites they looked to for information related to each question. Some highlights below:

1. Pitchfork.com may dominate as these crazy kids’ choice for music reviews, but seven out of 38 respondents were still sentimental for granddaddy Rolling Stone.

2. Epicurious.com was the website cited most frequently across the entire survey. And among print magazines, Conde Nast’s various cooking titles combined took home the blue ribbon for best recipes.

3. It’s hard to take your laptop to the gym! Many manly readers flexed to Men’s Health, while fit females were split between Self and Shape.

4. Both the print and online versions of Time Out New York and New York magazine beckoned to readers looking for local action.

5. The survey’s most surprising revelation? Nearly a quarter of respondents said they got their design ideas from the Ikea catalogue. Classy.

6. Not many people copped to reading love advice columns, which may explain why almost 60 percent of Americans aged 18-34 said they had recently experienced a breakup, according to a survey by eNation. Those who did look for love advice got it from Cosmo’s steamy pages. And one respondent wrote (at 4:15 a.m.) that they got their advice from ”mostly porn.” What a catch!

7. Only one respondent in our survey’s particular demographic name-dropped a travel magazine when asked how he/she planned his/her vacations. Makes sense: most escapist escape mags are geared toward people with enough money, and vacation days, to take a break.

8. Webmd.com was almost as universally popular for medical information as Epicurious.com was for cooking. Interestingly, Webmd.com has their own print magazine as well, launched in spring 2005.



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