A working hypothesis for what a brand is in today's media fractured and pulsating ecosystem
I've been thinking a lot about what a magazine brand can be within our current tech-mediated information ecosystem. In the paper days, a brand's identity was fairly simple. The brand was nearly synonymous with the magazine artifact. The artifact, which was a defined printed package of coherent content, served as a clear identity marker that drew a particular demographic. Those particular eyeballs, then, were sold to companies, who would buy pieces of the publication on which they could paste their advertisements.
But in a world where magazine are a lot more than their printed artifacts, what's a brand? I'll go through my evidence in a minute, but here's my current hypothesis.
Brands are probabilistic now. The primary power of a brand is to increase the probability that someone clicks on, upvotes, or links to a story associated with your brand. It is not calculated primarily on a per issue basis as in the past. Instead, it's a kind of implicit regression based on all the stories a publication has produced.
This isn't a completely foreign idea. In the past, a brand's strength would have been measured by how likely people were to buy or subscribe to a magazine. Today's probabilistic brand, though, is less coherent and much broader than before.